Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Feeling a little Mediterranean

I go through these mini-phases. Two weeks eating nothing but Japanese food. A pasta-heavy month. A week full of salsa and guacamole. A lot of tofu in a little time. A series of soups.

Sometimes it's just a matter of what I've been shopping for, and what's in the refrigerator at any given moment. Sometimes, though, I get the feeling that my body is telling me that it wants something. Maybe that's what's been going on this week.

Actually, I remember that I was craving falafel last weekend. It didn't work out; the place I went to was closed, and I ate something entirely different. But when I was going home hungry late Thursday night, I got an urge for hummus. So I grabbed some preservative-free ready-to-eat hummus, pita, and a cucumber at the Wallingford QFC, and went home and ate a light late-night meal.

Friday night, when talking about dinner with a colleague of mine, I suggested a couple of restaurant choices, one of which was Vios Cafe, probably Seattle's best Greek restaurant. I brought another friend along, too. So I had two nights in a row of pita... but wait, there was more! I still had to use up my hummus and pita from the supermarket, so Saturday's lunch was familiar.

You'd think that'd be enough, but with two more pita to go, I realized today that the hummus wouldn't be the end of things.

After having a semi-Cajun lunch at the Pike Place Market, and indulging on little donuts not long after, I thought it would be nice to have a simple dinner tonight. I went to the gym to work off some of the damage, and bought some big marinated gigandes beans and grilled marinated artichokes to take home.

I roasted a red pepper, made a little cucumber salad, and brought out some pickled peperoncini from the refrigerator. Even though the pita are store-bought, I used the restaurant trick of refreshing the bread by grilling the pita a bit, which made them soft and fluffy again. Then I brushed the pita with really good olive oil, which just makes them indulgent.

I still have some of the gigandes and the grilled artichokes, but now that I've finished up the pita, I think I've satisfied any lingering cravings for flatbread. Maybe tomorrow I'll make a little farro.

Savory chickpea and kale pie

Savory chickpea and kale pie

I keep craving savory pies. This never seems to translate into me making a savory pie. I never go out for savory pies, except the occasional piroshky in the Pike Place Market.

Somehow, I finally overcame inertia and made this nice, if somewhat flawed pie, and on a weeknight to boot.

The pies would have benefited from Hiromi's superior crust-making skills, but I managed to throw together a passable short crust in about an hour. The filling consists of some canned tomatoes, chickpeas, and some salt-rubbed kale, along with garlic, and some onions sauteed in garam masala, mustard seeds, and turmeric. I think some chilies went in there but it's not incredibly spicy; it's just a nice moderately complex flavor.

I also added a bit of mozzarella to the pies before folding them. That's a great cheese for this purpose, because it adds a lot of texture, doesn't compete with the flavor too much, and doesn't overload the pies with so much fat that the butter and cheese combination becomes overwhelming.

It's rather difficult to resist the temptation to overstuff these. However, it's a bad idea to put too much filling in there, because it becomes rather hard to seal the pies, and then all sorts of leaks want to happen. Yeah, I fought the leaks, and sometimes the leaks won.

I served a couple of small pies with a little broccolini sauteed with garlic, tossed with parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes, topped with a fried egg. But let's just say I was too hungry to stop for a picture...

Back to my roots again

During the summer, save for the occasional roasted potato, and maybe the carrots in mirepoix, I tend to mostly ignore roots and tubers. But in the fall and wintertime, when it’s a bit cooler, I occasionally get the urge to just load up on them.

Roots and green beans

Roasted vegetables are the ultimate winter comfort food, and only take a few minutes to prepare; they just need to be cut up and quickly seasoned, tossed in a hot oven, and flipped once or twice during cooking. This time, I roasted white-fleshed sweet potato, a golden beet, a small yukon potato with rosemary, and a carrot, all seasoned with a bit of salt and rubbed with olive oil.

Served with some some fresh skinny green beans sauteed with shallots, and accompanied with some garlic and rosemary seasoned cannelini puree, it’s not really high drama cuisine, but it warms me up on a cold night.

Things quietly enjoyed over the last few weeks

I’ve tended toward silence in the last few months. My apologies for that; I’ve explained most of the reasons for that in recent posts… Beyond the usual, for a few weeks, Hiromi was in town, so I preferred not to spend all my time in front of a laptop (though both of us have a habit of doing that from time to time…)

Since I’ve not been particularly photographically-inclined, and I’ve surely been neither eloquent nor remotely verbose of late, I’m just going to make a list of things I’ve enjoyed in the last four weeks. Somehow after 8 weeks of relatively austere eating habits I practically overindulged by comparison.

  • A number of nice meals Hiromi and I cooked at home.
  • Impressive cocktails, holographic lighting and nice nibbles at the bar of Vessel. I should have stolen Hiromi’s Vessel 75, topped with a maple foam.
  • A birthday party rougly in the German tradition. That means one that I hosted myself and cooked for other people to celebrate my birthday (though really it was a much broader, less thematic party… for me a birthday is just another excuse to eat). I took the cooking a bit far by spending so much time in the kitchen (though I got out more often than average) and Hiromi was left with most of the hostessing obligations, but I have fun in different ways than most people.
  • A nice late lunch at Seattle Ethiopian restaurant Meskel.
  • Some overly-garlicked but otherwise tasty sundried tomato savory cream puffs. I brought most of them to a Christmas Eve party at my aunt’s home way out in Sultan, which, by the way, is a lot further away than I remembered. I saw my sister for the first time in a few years, and somehow didn’t immediately recognize her. I’m a bad brother.
  • We had a nice leisurely Christmas afternoon when Hiromi and I helped out with Christmas Day dinner at grandma’s house by preparing green beans and garlic with cream, mashed potatoes, the gravy (not vegetarian, but I know my sauces), and some Laugen rolls.
  • Nibbles and wine at Harvest Vine.
  • Hiromi’s apple pie.
  • A lazy New Year’s Eve watching the Space Needle fireworks from my window and on a 7–second television delay, just after eating Toshi-Koshi Soba (buckwheat noodles served for the New Year’s transition, roughly).
  • A surprisingly well-done late lunch at Tamarind Tree. If you haven’t been, go here.
  • Hiromi’s New Year’s day party featuring osechi (Japanese new year’s foods), for which she was fully occupied in the kitchen for two and a half days before the event and a fair amount of time on the day.
  • Another respectable dinner (slightly marred by the lack of cell-phone enhanced seating that I previously depended on) at La Carta de Oaxaca, followed by quirky, and mostly clever cocktails at the newly-reimagined Copper Gate in Ballard. A Scandinavian lounge. Who’d a thought?
  • Dickensian-themed cocktails and small, simple, satisfying plates at Dan Braun’s Oliver’s Twist in Phinney. If you ever are in the neighborhood and want to give it a try, give me a call.
  • A pleasant, simple lunch at Le Pichet (with some slight compromises to my vegetarian habits).
  • An unforgettable dinner at Lampreia, where my usually reasonably-educated palate was regularly surprised and maybe occasionally slightly embarrassed.

Seattle goes ice skating

Last night I tried to wait until traffic calmed down before leaving my day job… It was a long day, thanks to a series of small technical and non-technical complications playing against an urgent issue, and my own inexperience with the mysteries of the team’s build system.

It got longer, though, when snow started coming down. I kept the traffic flow maps handy on a background window after hearing that snow was accumulating even on the freeway. After things settled down a bit, I left, but it was slow going.

I believe it took a bit more than 20 minutes to make it the half block distance between the garage and the road, thanks to ice on the road and confused people.

The freeway itself had cleared up by then; I went to pick up a colleague who was stranded after some bus mishaps, and headed across the bridge without any particular obstacles. I-5 slowed down around 65th, and I pulled off to bypass the traffic in favor of surface streets heading to Northgate. Unfortunately, one of the hills near Maple Leaf was backed up like mad… I think it took an hour to get down a hill that would normally be a 5–10 minute burden. I finally started heading home, which took another 30 minutes thanks to an icy 125th St. and Aurora Ave.

I got home around 9:45, after leaving work at 7:20. It was rather ugly.

Waking up to KUOW in the morning I heard that people were being told to stay home if at all possible, that most of the roads were actually in worse shape thanks to the overnight freeze, and that even when the freeways were clear the surface roads in Redmond and northern parts of Seattle would be risky.

I checked my survival gig email account and learned that the offices were closed, and asked a few other colleagues if they braved driving the Eastside today, and the answers were all negative.

So I dedicated the day to doing work for my own business, although at a rather sluggish pace. There’s only a seven block commute to that office. It turns out, though, that FedEx Ground services were suspended for the day, so my packages didn’t go anywhere.

Notable accumulations of ice and snow are such rare occurrences on roads in Seattle that nobody quite knows how to deal with such natural disasters as two or three inches of snow.

Gussied up Thanksgiving leftovers

I usually end up with too much gnocchi when I make them; it’s not easy to, for example, bake less than a quarter of a squash or less than two potatoes.

My excess butternut squash gnocchi from Thursday went straight into the freezer, but I felt compelled to dig right back into them on Saturday night. And although I love the squash-enriched cream sauce I usually make to accompany them, I wanted to do something a tiny bit different.

Butternut-gnocchi-tartufo-butter

I wanted to make further use of my truffles in something other than an egg dish. I was a bit worried that the truffle might overwhelm the squash flavor, but it turned out to work well in moderation. I just put a bit of shaved truffle in sizzling butter, added a tiny bit of preserved lemon, and adjusted seasoning a bit after adding some pasta water to the butter-truffle sauce.

Instead of using a cheese like parmesan, I shaved over the pasta a bit of an interesting aged goat cheese that has an almost fruity quality that contrasted nicely with its nutty flavor. I carelessly tossed the label, but I hope I can track it down again when I crave it next…

Last reminders of summer

My absence of late is thanks primarily to excessive exhaustion… My new old commute has been draining. In fact, the traffic between Redmond and Seattle seems decidedly more painful than it was a couple years back…

But 2004 was a painful year in the digital economy, and I know some substantial hiring has gone on in the Eastside since then.

At the end of the day, I have rarely had much energy to take photos of dinner or write about the growth of YuzuMura.com. I have a few photos that were stashed on my camera’s memory card, but they’re all reminders of the peak of summer.

Tomato

These were some heirloom tomatoes we bought from Sosio’s in the Pike Place Market… one day we got an incredible deal on seconds, and I made 4 quarts (a shy 4 liters) of really dangerously sweet and flavorful tomato sauce with minimal handling… just basil, garlic, a little wine, olive oil…

But we also made some insalata caprese…

Insalata caprese

And a spread particularly suited for a potato rosemary focaccia, made with cannelini beans, garlic, and olive oil, topped with some tiny heirloom tomatoes.

Cannelini-mini-heirloom-tomato

Hiromi’s parents actually came to visit for a couple of weeks recently. Her father professes a distaste for tomatoes, but I suspect this is due to the flavorlessness of Japanese supermarket tomatoes (which pretty much match the flavorlessness of US supermarket tomatoes); he reliably took several helpings of almost any tomato dish I served.

We only have another week or two left to get decent tomatoes in Seattle, but we’re lucky, as the season is pretty much over in the rest of the country…

We interrupt this silence...

My laptop died another, more unfixable death a few weeks ago, and this has made me a bit sluggish posting recently.

I caved in and replaced it with a Dell, after agonizing about whether to buy a cheapo replacement or something suitable for longer-term use. I decided to get something more long-term, because even though I think I’d get a good deal on a Windows Vista-ready laptop if I buy something cheap now and something average later, I just can’t stomach the idea of discarding a laptop after less than a year if I can help it.

I chose Dell mostly because of the good deal ex-Microsoft employees get through an alumni program… I was tempted to buy a Mac, but ones with suitably large storage and comparable processors were at least $500 more, and quite outside of my price range.

After an unfortunately unsuitable stint as an agency temp in MSN, which turned out to be a substantial mismatch between what was pitched to me and what I was actually needed for, I found something else more interesting in the SQL Server team, which is going reasonably well so far. I’m actually kind of hoping that, at some point in the future, I’ll find a web development role or internationalization-focused coding assignment, but for the moment, I’m spending a lot of time digging into test automation code and refactoring it into something hopefully saner. (For my non-geek visitors, refactoring refers to a series of small, isolated changes that over time improve the design of the system).

Sometimes a little homemade falafel does the trick

My little falafel adventure

My falafel

From 1994–1996, Imbiss falafel was one of my staple starving student lunches in the city of Marburg, Germany. Most of the Turkish restaurants in Marburg served falafel on wedge of a large round dough which they called pide, but has more in common with focaccia than the standard pita. The usual cost for such a lunch was about DM4 (give or take 50 Pfennig), or about $3, making it one of the most inexpensive lunch options in town.

I don’t know why I never make falafel at home; perhaps the relatively ready availability at various quick-service Mediterranean restaurants around Seattle is a bit of a distraction. But I can usually hope for no better than uncharismatic, flabby pita when I go to such an inexpensive place, although there are some notable exceptions when I am willing to spend a bit more for a full-service meal, such as at Mediterranean Kitchen (Bellevue, Seattle).

But at home I have the power to escape the travesty of stale or flavorless pita bread; I can make my own, and serve them just seconds after they leave the oven. It’s surprisingly easy to make good pita, as the more familiar variety requires only a quick knead and is a fairly moist, easy-to-handle dough. Rolling the dough out evenly is the most difficult thing, but is a surmountable challenge.

Falafel, too, sometimes suffer from the flaw of premature frying, to save some effort on the part of a harried staff far more concerned with pushing out orders than getting the best possible flavor. Unfortunately, falafel set aside for an hour or so and microwaved tend to be displeasingly dry. It is, alas, a fairly common strategy, but again, home cooking comes to the rescue. I soak dry chickpeas and fava beans for a few hours, chop them in a blender, add onion, various seasonings, and salt, then shape into small balls and fry.

In this case, since I was making dinner and not eating on the run, I served the falafel more like a salad, and used the pita as a utensil. I made a little yogurt sauce with a little garlic and salt, which should actually probably be served with the cucumber, but which mysteriously snuck onto the falafel itself, in addition to coating the salad.

Not a disappearing act, and grilled donut peaches

Sorry for the long delay between postings. I suffered another laptop disaster, as the graphics controller or monitor seems to have given up the ghost. I should have known that the flaky hard drive of a month or two ago was only the beginning, but I was a tad too optimistic.

Repair would likely cost as much as a comparable replacement, since that machine is now approaching 3 years old. Accordingly, I’ve decided to delay purchase of a replacement for a bit, since I have a machine at my commercial space and I can occasionally make off with Hiromi’s laptop as needed.

I’ve also been fairly busy working on unrelated things, and catching up on some necessary reading.

We have been cooking, and we’ve made more use of the nifty shichirin. We bought some white-fleshed donut peaches at Sosio’s and grilled them for dessert. Donut peaches are more interesting for their shape than their flavor, and they tend to be less sweet than comparably seasonably appropriate peaches. But grilling them a bit creates a very nice caramelization, and provides the illusion of a sweeter taste. When eaten with a little lightly sweetened mascarpone with a few drops of good vanilla extract, magical things happen.

Peach-sumibiyaki

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