Saturday, May 31, 2008

The local goods...

Homemade Dungeness Crab Ravioli topped with a Raw Artichoke Salad
Slow Roasted Copper River Salmon with an Italian Salsa Verde
Faro with Wild Mushrooms and Herbs

My friend Gregory was one of a select group of Vespa food riders in NYC with the responsibility of traversing the tri-state area in search of good grub, for the betterment of all mankind. As one of the elite few willing to wrap themselves in Glad trash bags and endure the pelting rain for a trek to Di Fara’s Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn, I hold Gregory in especially high esteem (and the pizza was totally worth it). This man knows where to find good food! And so, I am thrilled that he has since transplanted himself to Seattle, offered to show me where to procure the best ingredients and has generously offered up his girlfriends kitchen to cook in and both of their gullets to test any experiments I wish to carry out, the sign of a true friend! Although, somewhat regrettably, our food trek this time is on four-wheels instead of two. I say only “somewhat regrettably” because with so much rain here in Seattle, having to wrap myself in a trash bag and ride would just make the weather seem all the more dreary...

We head to the Wild Salmon Seafood Market at Fisherman’s Terminal. Set against the backdrop of the Shilshol Bay Marina (Salmon Bay, near Ballard), it is the quintessential Seattle fish market (pleasantly devoid of the touristed masses and jackal mating calls of Pike Market). Fresh salmon, halibut, crabs and razor clams are tucked snuggly in ice beds (visions of butter sauce dance in their heads). The obvious jumps out at us, Copper River Salmon, the first of the season!

“What should we do with it?”, Gregory says

“I dunno, what do you think? Ohhhh, razor clams! Should we get some of those?”

“Mmmm, how about some scallops or something?”

“how about some Dungeness crab?”

“what should we do with it?”

“I dunno. What do you think?”

“How about some raviolis?”

“With a fresh artichoke salad!”

“Slow roast the salmon, to keep it moist?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never slow roasted fish before. I usually blast it on high heat and leave the center rare. Wouldn’t slow roasting dry it out?”, a look of disapproval sweeps across Gregory’s face. Damn, no one has ever questioned my methods before!

Too late to hit the Ballard Farmers Market, we head to PCC, the local organic grocery store, where we pick up artichokes, watercress, faro, mushrooms and then it’s back to Hopes house to completely destroy her kitchen…

Gregory and I have been having an ongoing conversation for several months now about the ins and outs of pasta making. So, under a little guidance from me, he busts out his pasta roller and we make a batch of dough together. I don’t really follow a recipe, but rather wing it – a mound of flour with a well in the middle, equal amounts of whole eggs and egg yolks, a little splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. I let him do all the kneading – it’s all about knowing how to delegate! Gregory says his dough is usually too sticky or stiff and that this is the best dough he’s made so far. After rolling it out, he cuts the pasta into circles with a wine glass and pulls out a container of pasta scraps from the freezer. “What are you doing there, Gregory?”, I watch as he methodically tares his pasta scraps into little pieces and layers them with a sprinkle of flour into his freezer container. “Scrapatelli”, he calls it. He saves all his pasta scraps then when he has a good amount going, he cooks them up and eats them! Brilliant! I always just chuck my scraps in the bin, but this is great! They may be odd shapes and whatnot, but it sure beats the hell out of that dried, boxed crap from the grocery store. I think the crew will be enjoying some Scrapatelli when I’m making fresh pasta for the bosses!

Gregory sets the oven to 225 and puts the salmon to roasts for about 40 minutes while he stuffs the raviolis with the Dungeness crab, lemon zest and chives. I’ve been reading so much about eating artichokes raw lately but I’ve never tried them raw, before now. So, I trim the leaves down to the heart, scoop out the furry center, thinly sliced the artichokes and then put the slices in a simple vinaigrette of lemon juice, garlic, salt and olive oil.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, a venerable feast appears on the table and we sit to eat. The salmon is really moist and I will definitely be slow roasting my fish from here on out. The artichoke salad is crisp and nutty and totally worth every ounce of labor. As with any good dinner party, over several bottles wine, we solve all the worlds’ political problems and social ills, and then slip blissfully into a food coma. Life is good.

FOLLOW-UP: The next night, I cooked some Wild Alaskan Halibut (one piece, weighing 3 1/5 lbs, and fairly thick) for the crew and slow roasted it at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for almost an hour. It turned out perfectly cooked and really moist inside, by far, the best way to cook such a finicky fish! I served it topped with diced tomatoes, preserved lemon, basil, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was gone in 5 minutes… I will definitely be slow roasting my fish from here on out!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Food Porn

With a weekend free from yacht obligations, I decide to explore the Seattle food scene. First stop: Uwajimaya – the massive urban mecca in downtown Seattle (directly behind Safeco Field) paying homage to the large Asian population of the Pacific Northwest. This emporium of Asian culinary delights takes up an entire city block and houses a food court, Hong Kong style bakery, book store and cook shop and in true Japanese fashion everything is clean and meticulously organized.

The profusion of foreign ingredients is like a sedative to my soul. I cross my arms over the hand rest of the shopping cart, rest my head in the crook of my elbow and for well over an hour, I slowly razor-back my way up and down every isle – just taking it all in - shelves of ingredients spanning the Asian continent from Thailand to India, China and Japan.

I pass the Great Wall of Miso:

Shiny glass jars of Umeboshi plums and every type of pickle imaginable and in a panorama of color:

Shelves of fresh noodles:

An abundance of sea creatures swimming in a sea of ice – oysters, razor clams, snapper, mahi-mahi and the first copper river salmon of the season:

The South Africans will be fighting over these:

Swim, Harold, Swim - the ocean is just ahead!

The produce too is just as spectacular; a basketball court size area with mountains of quince, wild ramps, Japanese parsley, fresh shiso leaves, kefir lime leaves, taro leaves (the same veggie I fell in love with in the Caribbean, only there it is known as “callaloo”), melons and pumpkins in every shape, size and color. This is surely the definition of food-porn!

I know that if I give into my urge to buy all sorts of mystery ingredients, I could easily slide down the slippery slope where too much of a good things is sometimes just too much. So, I leave empty handed but for a pack of dark chocolate poki sticks, or rather, half a pack of dark chocolate poki sticks. This is definitely a first…

At the crew house everyone is sitting around talking about having a barbeque. Perfect, I know where to shop! And within a few minutes of arriving home, I’ve got four people in the car with me and we’re on the highway heading back to Uwajimaya…

Progress Report

The hull is primed and ready for her first coat!

This is the galley - looking forward. The far wall will be the pastry station and to the right of that will be a built-in, automatic Miele espresso/cappuccino/coffee station. Me thinks I'll be getting quite a lot of use out of that!

There will be a double prep-sink where the wall curves on the left and there will be planter boxes for herbs where those two large windows are.

Looking Aft is my 5-burner Diva induction cooktop, two electric Miele convection ovens and a Miele steam oven (above the counter, right of the convection ovens). I opted not to have a microwave in the galley, although there is one in the crew mess, should I need one. I just find that I rarely ever use them... Above the peninsula will be a shelf with a strip of infrared warming lights. There will be a large prep sink at the end of the peninsula. Port-side (looking right), are two upright freezers and just behind that back wall is the walk-in.

Despite how large the galley may look, there is extremely limited space for my pots and pans! I had a heart-attack the first time I saw all of the cabinets in place and actually went through and opened everything up. Every cabinet on the yacht has been outfitted with slide-out drawers (all of which are much more shallow than I had anticipated) complete with safety latches that take up about 2 1/2 inches of space on each side of the drawer, adding up to a total sacrifice of 5 inches in every cupboard/cabinet/drawer - that's a lot of space to be giving up! We have a wager going how long the drawers will last before me and stewardesses rip them out in frustration...

However, cookie-bribery has once again gotten me out of a jam. With a batch each of macadamia-white chocolate cookies and chocolate chip cookies, I was able to halt the installation of some shelving and redesign it to accommodate my oversized pots and pans.

p.s. On a totally non-boat-related thought - the photo file system for iPhoto on the Mac absolutely SUCKS! Uploading photos to a blog is such a pain the ass...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Standards and Documentation on Proper Cookie Stowage

As received by the Galley from the Engineering Department:

Regulation 30a
Operational limitations
Summary: All SOLAS I Yachts are to carry an approved document listing all operational limitations of Biscuits or “Cookies” on the vessel. The document is to include explanations of the reasons for the limitations, ramifications (including dangers) of cross contamination.

1. This regulation applies to all passenger ships to which chapter I applies.

2. A list of all limitations on the integration of biscuits, including exemptions (Jaffa cakes are deemed acceptable for inclusion in this ruling) from any of these regulations, restrictions in operating areas, weather restrictions, sea state restrictions, restrictions in permissible loads, trim, wafers and any other limitations, whether imposed by the Administration or established during the design or the building stages, shall be compiled before the yacht ship is put in service. The list, together with any necessary explanations, shall be documented in a form acceptable to the Administration, which shall be kept on board readily available to the master. The list shall be kept updated. If the language used is not English or American, the list shall be provided in one of the two languages. It is worth noting that Biscuit separation is a serious matter and needs to be dealt with accordingly, flagrant abuse of the cookie jar or lack of respect for jaffa cakes cannot and will not be ignored. The society in which we live is bound by laws and it is those laws that separate us from and allow us to rise above the evolutionary quagmire that is the uncivilized masses, or America if you prefer.

Guidance Notes

1. Reg. 30a applies to all Yachts engaged on international voyages, Charters or just ‘bumming about’. ("SOLAS I passenger ships").

2. Replaces SOLAS V/74 Regulation 23.

3. All UK-registered SOLAS I Yachts are required to carry a document listing the Operational Limitations which is to be appended to the Vessels safe Biscuit Stowage Log. Hereafter to be referred to as the Biscuit Stowage Log. This should not be confused with, and is no way affiliated to the Chocolate Log. (outlined in Reg 32c-IV). Said document shall include details of any exemptions from the requirements of SOLAS V, operating restrictions (Jaffas, wafers or biscuits of a dubious ‘foreign’ nature), restrictions on filling or storing conditions and any other operational limitations imposed during the ship's construction or by the MCA. If the ship has no operational limitations the document needs to be endorsed accordingly.

4. A Biscuit examples together with guidance notes on their integration to the ‘Cookie Jar’ are contained in Annex 23.

Annex 23.

1. Biscuit – NATO standard – round – Smooth.
This is the ideal type of biscuit for inclusion in the cookie jar, of medium density with good Tea Absorption potential.

2. Biscuit – NATO standard – round – Crumbly
This type of biscuit is deemed acceptable for inclusion however it should be noted that crumbage (biscuit detritus build up) should for health and safety reasons (CoSWP 1994 Act2) be removed frequently

3. Biscuit – Bourbon or Custard Creams
These are classified as ‘Working class’ biscuits and therefore not suitable for a Yacht of this standing. Please be aware, certain unscrupulous types may try to pass these of as High Quality by replacing the word ‘cream’ with ‘crème’, do not be taken in by such skullduggery and report the offender immediately so that they may be beaten and institutionalized. These biscuits may be employed as rations/payment for the services of a “working class” laborer, if it is necessary. They should however remain stored ‘below stairs’

4. Wafers, Garibaldi, Oreos and other pretenders
No. No. No. These are foreign muck and have no place in a cultured English Biscuit Barrel (it’s bad enough one has to employ the term ‘Cookie Jar’ – to humor the colonials)

5. Jaffa cakes
The clue here is in the title. These highly esteemed tea companions have a soft underbelly that if allowed to interact with type 1 or 2 biscuits (see above) become dry and unappealing, turning a good thing into a bad thing – they are not to be, under any circumstance, included in the cookie jar. They are however, allowed to be afforded separate accommodation in a suitable jar or tube commensurate with their status as a ‘biscuit of distinction’

6. Biscuit – Ginger or ‘Ginger snap’
A vile, insidious biscuit whose sole purpose on this earth seems to be to taint other biscuits with its all permeating, biscuit bastardizing aroma. A long time favorite of Idi Amin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, Mussolini, George Bush and a Mr. Mugabe.

They don't call me Cookie for nothing!

The sidewalk is a mosaic of pink and white cherry blossoms, bright colored tulips reach for the sky and the sun warms the earth after a long, long winter. Four weeks in anything below 85 degrees Fahrenheit constitutes a long, long winter, right? The sun is finally shining here in Seattle, and it couldn't come any sooner as I’ve been sticking my head under the food warmer at Taco Bell to meet my daily requirements of UV’s, and that is getting kind of messy.

Like an ant colony, the workers scurry around the yacht as the rush is on to get it in the water – and the rest of us pray for no further delays. With the installation date quickly approaching, it feels as if we are almost in the homestretch and the yacht is looking less like the inside of a factory and more like a mega-yacht as cabinetry is put in place, paneled walls are installed and floors are laid.

I walk through the galley with Hobbit. The cabinetry and appliances are all installed, it is finally looking like a real galley! We walk-in to the walk-in and with the compressors and fans in, it just doesn’t seem quite as large as it did – but who am I to complain? I have a walk-in! We discuss the plans for the shelving and take measurements and notes. A shelving builder from a restaurant supply company will be coming next week to help me hash-out and design the final details for the inside of the walk-in. As I stand with the Captain in the galley, the audio-video guy appears. I press him on whether there will be an iPod hook-up in the galley, to which he replies no. No time like the present to earn my nickname, so I bribe him with a batch of thick and chewy butterscotch-chocolate-chip cookies and macadamia-white-chocolate-chip cookies, and he dutifully promises that I’ll have an iPod dock in the galley.

Cookie’s Macadamia-White-Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup roasted & salted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips and nuts. Scoop out dough onto lined cookie sheets. I like to use the OXO Good Grips medium size cookie scoop (1 1/2 tablespoons) for scooping out a decent, medium size cookie (the little “scoop-ejector” wheel mechanism on the OXO doesn’t seem to break as easily as other brands do). The OXO small cookie dough scoop also works well for bite size cookies. I fit 12 cookies per baking sheet, using the medium scoop – and I get about 2 dozens cookies per batch. Bake cookies 12 – 14 minutes, turning once after 6 minutes. I tend to under-bake rather than over-bake, because I like a soft, chewy cookie.

Variations: Replace White Chocolate and Macadamias with 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup butterscotch chips for butter scotch cookies. For chocolate-white-chocolate chip cookies replace 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder and 2 cups white chocolate chips.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

La Petite Mort

La Petite Mort – The exact French translation means “the small death”. According to Wikipedea, the French term is a reference to sexual orgasm and has generally been interpreted to describe the post-orgasmic fainting spells or unconsciousness some lovers experience. The entry concludes that studies using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) give some support to the experience of a small death: “to some degree, the present results seem to be in accordance with this notion, because female orgasm is associated with decreased blood flow in the orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is crucial for behavioral control.”

This is what happens to me every time another box of kitchen equipment arrives for the galley (about 3 times a day!). This isn’t to say that I have an orgasm every time I see a box labeled Cuisinart or Kitchen-Aid. But rather, my “small death” is more akin to cardiac arrest due to decreased blood flow to the heart associated with the fact that I have NO CLUE where I am going to put everything!

Nothing is in the yacht just yet, of course. Our “install” date is July 7. That’s when the installation of the furniture, artwork, etc. begins – and when I’ll be able to bring my equipment aboard and actually start organizing the galley. In the meantime, I need to test all my new equipment back at the crew house. But even the shelves I’ve set up there are beginning to sag from their load!

With Mrs. X so passionate about food, and Mr. X really wanting to make the crew happy (“whatever keeps Cookie sweet” is, apparently, the going motto for me), I’ve pretty much been met with zero resistance when it comes to purchasing lots of really cool, fun and spendy kitchen gadgets and appliances.

So, I’m probably one of the few people in the world that considers appliances “fun” but the VitaMix Vita-Prep, the Ferrari of kitchen blenders, is just that. Its high-octane, 357 horsepower engine makes silky-smooth, creamy purees out of almost any fruit or vegetable. The variable speed dial, with 10 different speeds, makes whipping up large batches vinaigrettes, smoothies and even hot soups a breeze because you don’t have to worry about things splattering or burning out the engine. The Breville Indoor BBQ/Grill/Panini Press, with 1500 watts of power and massive grill space, allows me to make 6 grilled cheese sandwiches at one time - a definite necessity! And, the 20-cup Cuisinart food processor and the Kitchen-Aid mixer with the pasta roller/cutter and food grinder attachments should keep me entertained for a little while. While the professional meat slicer will make quick work of the leg of proscutto that I’ll be hanging in the walk-in when we head down to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, because Heaven knows I won’t be able to find a good proscutto down there! However, the real crowning jewel is the PacoJet ice-cream maker. At $3,500.00 it is on the pricey side – but compared to $35,000,000.00 price tag (I’m estimating here) of, say a GulfStream or LearJet – the PacoJet is a relative bargain. And, you can create an infinite array of “spun-to-order”, creamy, light sorbets and ice cream. Can a LearJet do that? I don’t think so.

Now this is what I call "manual" stimulation:

Hey, there's nothing to be ashamed of for using mechanical aids, sometimes a girl needs a little extra help!

Our captain LOVES making Belgian Waffles for the crew on our new All-Clad Belgain Waffle Maker!

After sampling several recipes, we decided the Yeasted Waffles recipe from CooksIllustrated is the very best. So, that's where this recipe is stolen from (thanks CooksIllustrated!).

Yeasted Waffles
Prep time: Make batter 12 to 24 hours in advance.

*Best served with maple syrup or Lyle's golden syrup, fresh whipped cream, berries and canned peaches!

Seven 7-inch round or four 9-inch square waffles

1 3/4 cups whole milk , or low-fat milk, or skim milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 8 pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool milk/butter mixture until warm to touch. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in large bowl to combine. Gradually whisk warm milk/butter mixture into flour mixture; continue to whisk until batter is smooth. In small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until combined, then add egg mixture to batter and whisk until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

2. Following manufacturer’s instructions, heat waffle iron; remove waffle batter from refrigerator when waffle iron is hot (batter will be foamy and doubled in size). Whisk batter to recombine (batter will deflate). Bake waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions (use about 1⁄2 cup for 7-inch round iron and about 1 cup for 9-inch square iron). Serve waffles immediately or hold in low temperature oven (see above note).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Ship of Fools

The crew are gathered around the table in the dining room and we talk about what we think the surprise could be. There are strict orders; only the captain can go to the airport to retrieve Madame and Monsieur X. What could they be up to? A plot is brewing, I can smell it… Four crew members have not yet met the X’s – what sort of surprise are they in for?

“Ahoy mates!”, the front door flies open and in come our owners bedecked in full pirate regalia. Mrs. X in a corseted dress, long, stringy hair, dagger in hand and white contacts in her eyes and Mr. X, like Jack Sparrow himself with his velvet cape, gold earring and leather pirate boots. Everyone greets each other not with the polite handshakes, formal salutations and restrained smiles as with most yacht owners – but instead with warm hugs, kisses and laughs – reminding me more of long lost friends getting reacquainted, rather than employers and employees meeting for the first time.

Of course, we had our own surprise in store for them too!

The entire crew and the owners together at last, a moment I’ve been anticipating for nearly 10 months and it is already better than I could’ve imagined. I can’t begin to think how Mrs. & Mr. X must be feeling; they’ve been waiting for four years!

Over a champagne toast, the X’s bust out some pirate booty and present the crew with custom made, sporting red jackets with the yachts logo and “MAIDEN VOYAGE 2008/ WORLD TOUR 2009” embroidered on them.

I slip into my jacket, look around at the happy faces of my teammates, our awesome captain and his wife who painstakingly sought us all out, the X’s who’s amazing vision this is and who have brought us together. Until now, this whole yachting-around-the-world-thing has been an abstract vision in my mind, like a dream, with only the fiberglass mold of the yacht sitting in airplane hanger to remind me that it is for real. But now, with each day that passes, that mental picture becomes clearer, the vision becomes more tangible. The reality becomes more real.

I trace the logo on my jacket with my fingers and read the words below silently to myself, “world tour, world tour, world tour”. Someone pinch me. “We’re going, kids. Get ready.”, Mr. X says. “There’s no backing out now, boss”, Hobbit replies, “once we hit Mexico you can’t decide that you want to go back up!”. The captain and the X’s lay out the itinerary - we’ll be departing Washington late summer or early fall and working our way south, wintering in Mexico and Costa Rica, the Galapagos and then French Polynesia, then, South Africa, the Indian Ocean and onward. Mr. X raises his glass, “… and I hope in three years time you’ll all look back and say that you’ve had the time of your life.”

I’m beside myself. And for the first time, I sense that something much greater is at work here, something bigger and more extraordinary than what my puny little brain could’ve conjured up...

I can only think to myself, the day this yacht is launched, the ship yard should just throw away the mold that the hull was cast from – because let me tell you, there will never, ever be another yacht like this.

Can someone pinch me, please? On second thought, don't, I don’t want to wake up…

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The way to their hearts...

Indian Lemon Rice
Ginger Steamed Winter Greens (Mustard, Tuscan Kale and Swiss Chard)
Garam Masala Rubbed Sockeye Salmon with Tomato Chutney
Double Dark Chocolate Brownies

If ever there is a way to win over the hearts, minds and stomachs of new crewmembers, no matter what their nationality - it is through the cooking of Indian food. For some reason, the mere mention of the words “curry” or "masala" or "buryani" sends crew into ardent little fits. And, as for smell, it’s as if their noses are acutely attuned to detect curry from all the way down the dock! Perhaps it is the common thread of British ancestry that runs through the majority of yacht crew – South Africans, Aussies, Kiwis, et al – that has created this parity. To the early explorers and settlers that were reared on British food, the discovery of Indian spices must’ve been like a venerable panorama of color and flavor on a canvas of mushy peas and brown gravy. Reason enough to leave friends and family and loved ones, risk life and limb, sail uncharted territory and fight off beastly savages (and I should know)! Those crazy Brits weren’t just trying to make some kind of big land-grab, they were raping and pillaging the larders of the countries they conquered because they were bored with their cuisine and their spice racks were bare; hence, the heavy Indian influence in post-colonial cuisine extending from shores of North America all the way to the cape of South Africa to this very day!

Fortunately, I too have some trace ancestry tied to jolly old England. And, consequently, an affinity towards Indian food – both in preparing and consuming. Thus, I am quite excited that my Amazon box has arrived with my copy of Suvir Saran’s “American Masala” Cookbook. Having spent some time in the kitchen at DEVI in New York City, and considering the great reviews I have read about the book, my hopes are high. The book starts out well; some nice recipes for chutneys, Indian pickles and spice blends. However, as I finger my way through the pages, it becomes a bit incongruous and lacking and can’t quite hold my already limited attention span. With a name like “American Masala”, I expect fusion recipes. Indian, Lebanese, American – it is all in there. And I’m all for it, but there are some really lackluster recipes for things like creamy potato salad and mac’n’cheese - with nothing particularly special about either recipe to make them stand out. With every cookbook on the shelves these days having the requisite gourmet mac’n’cheese recipe, why bother with one that’s so run-of-the-mill? That said, I’m bent on finding an Indian recipe worth trying while I ponder whether to return the book to Amazon or not.

There is an absolutely gorgeous gourmet market here in West Seattle called Metropolitan. It is exquisite; mountains of giant artichokes, bright, juicy lemons, organic apples, hills of tomatoes, dells of leafy greens and beans, fine wines and gourmet edibles. It is, by far, one of the best grocery stores I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m all about finding the best grocery stores. However, the work that goes into the beautifully displayed produce and isles of gourmet ingredients is reflected in the price and I have a budget to work within. So, I make my rounds between the Safeway, the PCC (a local health food store) and the Metropolitan - sussing out the prices on milk and veggies and fish and meat and seeing where I can splurge and where I can skimp and save – while still providing the crew with the goodies they so love. And on this day, salmon is on sale at Safeway. And, Metropolitan has Valhrona cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate pieces. I decide on a tomato chutney to go with Garam Masala rubbed Sockeye salmon, mixed winter greens steamed with ginger, Indian lemon rice and double dark chocolate brownies.

The crew arrives home from the boat yard, hungry and tired. Everyone’s been putting in long days preparing for the arrival of the interior designer and the owners – so, I really want to take care of them. They practically start to dance as they walk into the kitchen and smell the tomato chutney bubbling away on the stove. “Is that curry I smell?”, everyone asks. The strong aroma of curry spices drown out the smell of the chocolate brownies I just pulled from the oven – so dessert will be a real surprise! Hurriedly, they set the table and are practically waiting fork in hand as I set down platters of salmon, greens and rice and bowls of chutney. The chutney is delicious – spicy, tangy and thick – and is soon devoured. I notice the looks on their faces as they eat. The discrete smiles of the engineer and the boson are mere vails for the pleasure I can see in their eyes as they go for seconds. The stewardess and the first mate fight over the last piece of salmon and they thoroughly clean the bowls of greens and lemon rice. Everyone ooohhh’s and awww’s over the brownies. “We love you, Cookie!”, they cry as they pick up their dishes and begin cleaning up; 9 happy crewmembers (myself included) – a successful day. I’m still not sure American Masala is worth the $20-something I paid for it, but I can’t give up on Suvir Saran quite so quickly. I love DEVI too much and assisted him with a cooking demo in New York at which the food he made was amazing. So, I jump onto Amazon and order his book, “Indian Home Cooking”. Practically speaking, "Indian Home Cooking" could be a manuscript for keeping crew happily fed.

Tomato Chutney (Adapted from Suvir Saran’s American Masala):

1/4 cup canola oil
20 curry leaves, roughly torn - optional
4 teaspoons mustard seeds
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (I prefer Miur Glenn Organics)
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
1 8 oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder

Heat the oil with the curry leaves (if using), mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and chilies in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat until the cumin is browned, about 2 minutes. Add the turmeric and cook until the chilies darken, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add remaining ingredients and cook until chutney is thick and jammy, stirring often (about 30 minutes).

As well, here is a simple and yummy recipe for South Indian Lemon Rice which I first had on a yoga retreat in Thailand – and which I think if I had to choose one food to take with me on a deserted island, it would be this.

South Indian Lemon Rice

2 cups cooked rice
Juice of 2 small lemons
2 tablespoons ghee
A pinch of asafetida
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
12 curry leaves
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup cashews or peanuts
1/2 cup chopped coriander

Heat ghee in a nonstick pan and throw in the asafetida. Add the chili pepper flakes into the pan and fry for about thirty seconds.

Toss in the peanuts and mustard seeds. When you hear the mustard seeds crackle, throw in the curry leaves and stir in the turmeric powder. Stir-fry for another thirty seconds. Add the cooked rice. Toss the rice in the pan so that the spices mix evenly in the rice. Ensure that the rice is evenly yellow. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice and toss the rice again. As a finishing touch, garnish with chopped coriander

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