All the Spokane food-related stuff that I can't figure out how to wedge into my other blog.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brocoli Pastetta and Pasta con Brocoli

Here's a great way to use cauliflower for two dishes. Brocoli Pastetta is what's in the picture above. In American cuisine, we'd call these cauliflower fritters. You slice the cauliflower just so, par-boil it, then batter and fry it. Damn. So good. Because you can only use the nice slices for the Pastetta, you have a bunch of little cauliflower bits left over, that's what makes the Pasta con Brocoli, which is my favorite pasta dish.

Maria makes this combo about 2 or 3 times a year and I go crazy for it. In my mind they both seem like they would fall into the "comfort" food of Sicilian cuisine. So good.
I've made both dishes with her a few times and I can now lay out the recipe for both of them

Brocoli Pastetta
Yield: this recipe, made with two heads of cauliflower, makes a big pile -- great for appetizers for around a dozen folks or so.


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2.25 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large heads of cauliflower
  • canola oil for frying


  1. Make the batter first: mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Beat in the eggs and water, cover the bowl. Let the batter rest while you prepare the cauliflower.
  3. Core the cauliflower and separate into flowerettes. Save the nice, tender bits of green stem, cut out the core and eat it as you work. You'll use the green stem and small bits of cauliflower for the pasta.
  4. Slice the cauliflower so that the stem structure holds it together.

  5. Rinse the sliced cauliflower in cold water.
  6. Boil the cauliflower slices until just tender. They should just slide off the tip of knife when you stab them.
  7. Lift the slices out of the water (save this water) with a strained spoon or basket and shock them in ice water to stop them from cooking further.
  8. In a heavy pan (cast iron, or enameled cast iron is ideal), heat about an inch of oil until you can just see small wisps of clear smoke.
  9. Batter the slices of cauliflower and carefully slide into the oil; cook until golden. Watch the heat on your oil; after the first batch goes in and cools down the oil, it will heat up again and you can back off the heat a bit.
  10. Drain on paper towels or on a rack.
  11. Serve hot, room temp, or cold. And hide some for yourself; these go quick.

Pasta con Brocoli
Yield: this recipe, made from the remains of two heads of cauliflower, is good for a pound of penne pasta. That's a lot of pasta. Easily feeds 6 with salad, bread, etc.

Although the recipe below doesn't mention it, you can also throw in a handful currants and/or pine nuts when you add the cauliflower.


  • Left over bits of cauliflower from Brocoli Pastetta. My guess is that you'll have around 4 cups of bits.

  • The bowl on the left is what we had the last time we made this; the bowl on the right shows the slices for the Pastetta.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, medium, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • one tin of anchovy fillets
  • pinch of saffron (optional)
  • crushed red pepper
  • 1/2-3/4 cup grated parm
  • 1 pound of penne, cooked al dente

  1. In the same water you boiled the cauliflower slices in -- boil the bits. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot and turn it off and let the cauliflower steep in the hot water as you prepare the sauce. These bits get pretty soft.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a big sauce pan on medium-high. When the oil is hot, saute the onions until soft, but not browning.
  3. Add the sliced garlic and all but one fillet of the anchovies.
  4. Stir with a fork and crush the anchovies into the onions.
  5. Add the saffron if you've got it.
  6. Cook until mixed up and the anchovies have melted away into the onions and garlic; a couple minutes.
  7. While you wait, eat the remaining anchovy on a piece of crusty bread.
  8. Lift the cauliflower bits out of the water and into the saute pan; don't worry if there cauliflower bits are a bit wet; you want the water to help make the dish saucey.
  9. Add a pinch (or more if that's your deal) of red pepper flakes and saute until the cauliflower is all mixed in with the onions.
  10. Add a 1/2 cup or so of cauliflower water and reduce it down a bit. Maybe cook/high simmer for 3-4 minutes. In lean times, add a bit more water to stretch the dish out.
  11. Stir in grated parm and penne and heat through. Serve with crusty bread.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leek Potato Soup

This is an old Liza chestnut. It's standard by Leek Potato Soup standards. Liza whips out some version of this soup on a pretty regular basis. I like to eat it with Brother Bru Bru's African Hot Sauce and crusty bread.

Liza got this recipe from Eliot's Extraordinary Cookbook. But she's made it so many times that it's sort of become her own.

  • 2 leeks, cut lengthwise, cleaned, and chopped.
  • 2 TB butter
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Saute leeks with butter over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil.
  3. Add potatoes and salt and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Mash with potato masher.
  5. Add milk, season with pepper and more salt to taste.
  6. Serve.

You can vegan-ize this recipe by swapping out the butter with olive oil and the milk with soy milk. No one will ever know.

You can also add left over salmon or frozen corn or other interesting things too, ya know.

Chicken liver omelet

One of the first things my mom taught me to make was a chicken liver omelet. I've always been a freak for chicken liver.

Fun fact: Did you know there was a time in the late 70's when you could get a liver bolognese at the Spaghetti Factory? Can you imagine how great that would be today? There was also a Sundae Burger at the Onion at about the same time. I think it was #33. We didn't go out much when I was a kid, but when we did, I did it up.

Anyway. Mom taught me to make a chicken liver omelet when I was 4 years old. My parents had divorced and I lived with my sister and mom in a little 2-room house in Onion Creek, Washington. The house was quaint in that non-running water, non-electrified, out house kind of way. So mom taught me how to cook an omelet on a wood cook stove.

Liza prefers her yearly liver sans omelet

That was the beginning of my love of big thick steel for cooking. Nearly everything was cooked either in a cast iron pan or in the case of quesadillas, right on the stove top.

I love wood cook stoves. Very versatile: you have this big hot platform where you can boil water on one section, keep something warm on another, fry on another, all while baking in the oven. They rule and once you get to know them, they are very dial-in-able.

About 8 years ago, I got my dad to bring me an old chestnut for baking. Once we got it dialed in, the baking was great, but we also found it great for making jam and other outdoor cooking projects. If we had a bigger place, we'd still have a wood cook stove.

Anyway. Thanksgiving time is about the only time I have a liver omelet anymore. Liver isn't on the menu here much. If I were making this for guests, I'd make this a bit different. I'd cook it in a proper omelet pan to make sure I could easily turn the egg to cook it 'merican style without browning it.

I like a bit of wet to my omelet. In my experience, wet liver omelets don't go over so well with family and friends. But whatever -- this recipe makes it right -- for me and in the memory of my mom, who appreciated the same preparation: in a cast iron pan, cooked from the bottom till it browns a hair and folded onto the plate. With cheddar of course. Normally we'd use chicken liver, but this is with turkey liver.


  • A bit of liver. If you are using chicken liver, then 3 livers is about right. For turkey, maybe 2. Cut the turkey liver into chicken liver sized chunks (think fig size... for lack of a better example)

  • Onion or shallot, about a teaspoon minced. (optional, we didn't do this back in the day)

  • Butter. Canola oil.

  • Couple tablespoons of shredded cheddar

  • S&P

  • Two eggs, beaten with a splash of milk

That's too much liver for one omelet. Some of that is for Liza.


  1. Warm your cast iron pan on medium high heat.

  2. Season the room temp liver with a dash of salt and pepper.

  3. Add a hearty teaspoon of butter to the pan. Add a dash of canola oil to keep the butter in check.

  4. Fry the onion/shallot for a minute or two to soften.

  5. Add the liver to the hot pan. It should sear. Put a screen over the pan. Sometimes liver likes to blow up. Consider turning the heat down if there's a lot of noise and activity in the pan.

  6. Cook until the liver starts to bleed a bit. Good fresh liver from a source you trust can be cooked until it's just pink in the middle. Don't over cook it. It will cook a bit more in the omelet. Pull it off the heat and wipe out your pan. You may need to let the pan cool for a minute or two.

  7. Turn the heat down to medium.

  8. Put another hearty teaspoon of butter in the pan. It should sizzle, but not brown immediately. If it browns immediately, you're still too hot.

  9. Pour the egg in the pan and do the omelet thing where you push the egg towards the center to cook the liquid egg. Do this until the egg sets.

  10. Lay the liver down the middle of the omelet, sprinkle with cheddar, season a bit with s/p.

  11. Roll the omelet out onto a warm plate.

  12. Eat with toast.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kim's Korean Restaurant

As the weather turns colder, I find myself going to Kim's more often. I think Kim's may be my favorite restaurant in town. It's definitely right up there. Great food, good value, super nice owner-operators.

Korean cuisine is a meat lover's paradise. I like going here with lots of people to try a bite here and there of the meat dishes, but my favorite is the fish stew with tofu. There are clams, mussels, prawns, mini shrimp (whole), and sometimes a bit of fish cake in there. There are also veggies and big chunks of tofu. It comes to your table in a boiling cauldron of greatness. The idea is to eat it with spoonfuls of boiled rice.

It's a great winter dish with a bit of spice and works wonders for oncoming colds. It's $10.

Korean meals are rad since you get all the little dishes with the main course. I love them all the little dishes of food. Good stuff. And hot tea. All for $10! All up with tip and tax you're out the door for under $15.

Bike parking is good. The front of the shop is all window. Park against the window. Water comes to the table in a big jug, and you get hot tea. Goodness.

Introduce yourself to Chung, one of the owners, and she'll remember your name and your meal forever.

It's on Sharpe and Division. I'm tagging this as a "downtown" place, which pushes the boundaries of downtown into John-fantasy-definition. But it's not North. Maybe Gonzaga?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maria's Sicilian-style black olives

As promised, here's Maria's method for making black olives.

Order black "sun-dried Greek olives" from the Olive Pit. They don't have these listed on the site, so you have to call them to get them. They are black, salted, little non-pitted olives.

Maria gets about 10 pounds of them in the fall and freezes them in batches.

This method is for about 2 pounds of olives. You need olive oil and some oregano too.

The processing is simple:
  1. Cover the olives with water in a sauce pan. Bring the water to boil and simmer for a couple minutes. Dump the water out.
  2. Repeat step 1. This gets a lot of the salt out of the olives.

  3. Drain the olives well and pat dry.
  4. Put them on a sheet pan in a single layer and put in a 350F degree oven for about 5 minutes. Get all the surface water off them.

  5. Let them cool.

  6. Put them in a container and cover with olive oil.
  7. Add a bit of dried oregano. 1-2 tablespoons?

These will last forever if covered and left in a jar.

They are yummy. I like the green olives better, which I will also document here at some point. In the meantime, here's a picture my neighbor took a couple years ago of Maddie crushing green olives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Bacala is an Italian preparation of cod. My mother-in-law, Maria, grew up in Sicily in the 40's. Bacala was a Christmas night dish that was a special treat for her family, who ate very little meat. And since they were an hour away (by train) from the ocean, fish was also a rare treat.

Sauteing cauliflower, olives, onion

Traditionally, Maria's mother bought a salted cod to make Bacala. Sometimes Maria will splurge on salted cod at Cassanos and make this dish, but tonight, she made it from fresh cod, which is about 1/2 as expensive and less fussy.

Maria's olives

Served with crusty white bread and a salad, this recipe makes Bacala for four. This is an easy one-pot dish. Takes about 30 minutes all-up and is delicious and simple.

Maria's Bacala
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 2.5 cups of cauliflower - cut into little bite sized flowerettes
  • 1/2 cup black Sicilian olives. I'll post a recipe for these soon. According to Maria -- most of the ready-made version of Sicilian olives are no good. She orders them salt-cured from California, then processes them. In a pinch, go to Cassanos and get some of their black Sicilian olives.
  • 2 cups sugo. If no sugo, you can substitute one can crushed tomatoes.
  • 1.5 TBS chopped parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 lb cod - cut into 1 inch cubes. If you buy the salted version of this, then soak the cod in water for 3 days, changing out the water each day.


1. Saute chopped onions until they just begin to brown around edges. Add cauliflower and olives. Saute for a couple minutes on medium-high heat, stirring.

2. Add sugo or crushed tomatoes and a 1/2 cup of water. Cook until cauliflower is just soft -- a sharp knife easily pierces the cauliflower.

3. Add cod and parsley and salt (if you used salted cod -- you can probably omit the salt). Cover partially on medium-high heat until the fish "opens up."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Agedashi tofu

Ok. Get over the name. Yes, it's the dumbest name of all time for a restaurant. But forget about it, because is the best sushi place in Spokane.

Right off the bat I should explain my sushi snobbery. There's an American tendency to screw up good food from other countries. The jalapeno-popperization of sushi is a perfect example. I'm not into sushi that's been injected with cream cheese and/or deep fried.

That's not sushi to me. That's like calling deep-fried mozzarella sticks "Italian." Generally speaking, Spokane has a big old hard-on for injected, californiaized, and fried "sushi."

Salmon skin roll - aka "Alaska" roll will make sushi-poppers with the best of them, but unlike the majority of sushi places in town, has the basics (e.g., "normal" or "traditional" sushi) dialed in.

Right off the second bat I should mention that I'm no sushi connoisseur either. I just like fresh raw fish. It's really really easy to tell when fish is not fresh. Cause it smells like fish. I cut my sushi teeth at a place in Bellevue called Kiku's. I worked down the street from Kikus and went there at least a couple times a week for years. So that's the benchmark. Good or bad. I'd like to think it's good, since the great sushi and sashimi and Japanese "comfort food" that I had while visiting Japan was very familiar to the food at Kikus. So there!

So. I dig I dig the people that work there. And given that just about all of the front-house staff and sushi chefs have been there since the beginning, I think they must be doing something well. And I dig their fish. I've tried every sushi place in town, is my favorite.

Your basic salmon sushi. Hard to beat this.

I wish they had more traditional Japanese comfort food there (katsu curry, tonkatsu, etc), but they've got lots of fun appetizers and plenty of non-beef/chicken/pork options.

Some of my favorites:
- Alaska roll. Funny name for a salmon skin roll. It's done well, with nice crispy broiled skin and it's dirt cheap. I'm pretty sure it's just under $5.

- Agadashi tofu. Nicely fried tofu with dipping sauce. Under $5 also.

- Seaweed salad. Standard, but yummy. Also cheap.

- Oysters on the half shell are rad when they have them. Super clean, drizzled with a touch of rice wine vinegar and finished with a dab of rooster chili sauce. These guys really sparkle. When those aren't available, I go for the baked oysters.

- Aji sushi - also a special. Aji is mackerel with a light vinegar sauce. Served sahimi style. In my experience, this is a good touch stone to sushi places. If you order it, don't do the soy/wasabi deal -- it's ready to eat!

- Salmon sushi. Always fresh, yummy, and perfect.

- Maddie loves the kid chicken terriyaki plate: aside from the chicken, it has a potsticker, some tempura, rice, salad. It's around $7.

Sparkling oysters. Blurry picture.

I love a great spider roll when I'm out with friends and these guys have a passable spider roll, but it's no award winner.

All in all, is a favorite for this family.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Taste is a solid downtown joint.

Everything is high quality and fresh. When they first opened they had this great seed/nut/cheese loaf thing that rocked my world. But I never see it there anymore, so I usually go for the 3 salad combo plate. It comes with a nice little roll. It's $10. By the time you add a cookie, which requires a coffee, you're coming in around $15 before tip. It's counter service, so the grinch in me wants to short the tip, but the ex-food server in me always ponies up the 20%, so lunch ends up being nearly a $20 affair. So I don't land at Taste unless I can talk Liza into meeting me there for lunch... then she can have lunch and split the cookie with me. Everyone wins.

How's that for post-ride lovin?

Anyway, aside from lots of fresh, yummy, simple salads, there's lots of non-meat options here: there's an $8 egg salad sandwich that I'd like to try some day when I'm feeling flush. Note sandwiches come with salad (or maybe a soup?), so it's actually a damn good deal, considering the overall quality.

There is always a hard choice to make when it comes to baked goodies at Taste. I dig the kind of baked goods that they have there. Often places that feel like Taste feels, have cases full of fussy, expensive desserts that look really good but are just ok/average in the flavor department. Taste delivers. I have a hard time saying no to the butterscotch-oatmeal cookie. Good lord, with a cup of coffee, that shit delivers.

Speaking of coffee. Taste has a passable cup of drip -- not great, but no need to fall back to an Americano. They brew Doma. I think refills are a quarter. No self-serve, which can be annoying when there's a line stacked up at the register.

Bike parking: I lock up to the meter outside the front window and then sit at the window-facing counter to eat and gaze upon my bike's glory. There's a new rack just north, a couple doors down, if you don't feel a need to watch your bike.

Water solution: Ideal. In a jug with ice. Self-serve so that no ice gets in your bottle. Water solution is perfect in every way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vien Dong

I really like Vien Dong. I don't know if it's the best Vietnamese food around, but I work about a block away so I go there a lot.

I really like the family that runs the place. They're all sweet and they remember what I like to eat so that's always nice.

If you go in the winter, bring a hearty sweater, and maybe a knit cap. The heat barely works in there. If the table by the radior is open, grab it.

As for food, I used to get Number 36, which is a giant bowl of vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, shrimp, egg rolls, and all sorts of goodies on there. I think it's their most popular dish, and whenever I go to Vien Dong with a meat-eating 1st-timer, I suggest #36.

Another great meat dish here is the grilled pork sandwich. Be careful not to mistake it with the bbq sandwich, which is not in the same ballpark.


The last couple years, my favorite has been the T2, which is "Tofu broccoli with cashews." Good stuff. It's basically fried tofu and broccoli stir fry. It has green peppers and onions in it too. It's huge. Since it's so huge, I forgo the side of rice. I also get all high-maintenance by having them skip the cashews and adding a shit pile of heat.

For like $7, it's a screaming deal. But if you are looking for great fried tofu (where the tofu is dusted with corn starch, then fried crispy), then be prepared for not great fried tofu. But add lots of rooster sauce and you're good to go.

Two other gems to consider. In fact, as I type this, I'm thinking these gems would make a great summer meal.

First: the tofu spring rolls. Super yummy. Super cheap ($2.50!). And served with sweet hoisin sauce and peanuts. Add a bit of rooster sauce and you're solid. Ja!

Liza's model hand modeling how to dip a tofu spring roll.

Second: the Avocado shakes. Good stuff. But make sure you're in avocado season. If you are in avocado season, then they'll use fresh avocados. If you're not in avocado season, or they're out, then they'll use a powder version, which of course, is not nearly as good. But on a hot summer day, either one puts out.

Bike parking: there are fancy new bike racks you can use all over the neighborhood. My bike is usually in my office, so I don't have to worry about bike parking here. But before I had an office down the block, I'd lock my bike to the pole near the corner -- where you can see it if you sit in the right place. But you can also use a fancy new rack across the street and sit in a spot where you can see it.

Water solution: spotty. You'll get a full glass upon entering. If it's not busy, you may get a refill. Hot green tea is free for the asking, btw.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Neato Burrito

Neato is one of a small handful of places in the downtown region where I like to eat for quick and cheap good food.

Good bike parking: the restaurant is all window, so you can lean your bike on the window and gaze upon it as you dine. You can also lock to a railing which is in view.

The music usually annoys me, but I sometimes think that's kind of the point. The folks working the counter are typically good eggs: local kids in between life adventures.

Tim and Patty own this place and they're worthy of a post on their own at some point. Like many, I first met Tim when he was working the entire restaurant at Benidittos v2. He was a pain in the ass surly bastard but he was the second most efficient food server I'd ever witnessed. Over the years, I've gotten to know him just a tiny bit and I'm really impressed by his resourcefulness, work ethic, and general goodness as a father and local citizen type.

Anyway. I dig the tofu filling at Neato. The burrito is a perfect tofu application. The Neato tofu literally looks like puke, so it's a damn good thing that it comes wrapped in a burrito.

My standard Neato burrito: flour tortilla, brown rice, black beans, tofu, cheese, corn salsa, habanero salsa. Each bite gets a dash of Valencia hot sauce. I think it's about $7 for the burrito.

Water solution here is good: big-ass plastic cups with serve-your-self thing.

Tim and Patty always have interesting beer on tap, though I've been there a couple times when there was not an IPA, which I find distressing. They always waste at least one tap on some cheap-o hipster crap beer du jour. But that's their bread and butter, so you can't exactly fault them for that.

Just recently they've added a coffee/pastry morning thing. I've had one vegan chocolate cup cake that was off-the-charts great, but otherwise, I'm not prepared to comment.

Monday, November 1, 2010

First post

I do a lot of riding around. I carry on about it on my cycling blog. One of the greatest things about riding a lot is being able to eat a lot. I love food and I love the social aspect of eating with friends and family or even alone in spots that I like.

I've been lucky my whole life on the food front. My mom was an incredible cook. So was her mom. And my great-grandmother too. My mom passed on a love of cooking and eating to me that I'll always treasure.

My wife's mom, who grew up in pre-war Sicily, is a great cook. She lives with us and does some cooking and teaches me stuff.

Spokane is full of great little spots. We're no Seattle, San Francisco, or NYC when it comes to breadth and scope , but this region has a lot of people who are passionate about food. As I type this, I can think of a couple dozen people off the top of my head that are interested and interesting when it comes to food.

Like other NW cities, Spokane has a great appreciation for good beer and coffee. Both of which I count as weaknesses. I f'ing love beer. I f'ing love coffee.

I think the posts on this blog will fall into four categories: places, people, beer, cooking

This will likely take the form of a restaurant review. The Review, the Inlander, and a few blogs in town do some reviews, but they usually aren't too interesting to me. I prefer less animal products than most reviewers that write stuff here. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat hardly any meat and I take it easy on the dairy products. The reason behind this is mainly for how crappy I feel when I eat cow-pig-poultry products, but I do also struggle a bit with the ethical implications of eating animals.
So, my reviews will focus on what's the good "bikey" food items on the menu. And to me, "bikey" means relatively healthy, low/no meat and dairy, not fried, etc. Eg, something you can eat and then feel ok riding 20 or so miles on.

If you think about it, everyone is serious about food. I saw a guy named Paul, who is mostly homeless, picking apples off the Centennial trail the other day. Homeless dudes are serious about food. Maybe in a different way than I am, but who doesn't get excited about some kind of food?
Maybe I'll interview these serious food people. But probably not: I'll probably just take shots of them and offer up a quick story.

I feel fortunate to live within walking (stumbling?) distance of Benidittos. These guys always have at least 1 interesting beer on tap. I don't know what I'll say about beers, because I really don't know the lingo, but I can't see how this blog wouldn't have beer tags.

I used cook a lot more than I do now. If I could squeeze a bit more time out of my life, then it would go first to baking bread, then to general cooking. I'm working on the big squeeze plan and hopefully I'll have time to get back into more cooking soon.
The cooking posts will be recipes or discussions about specific cooking dishes. The cooking posts may also include events.

I'm really going to be disciplined about tagging the posts too. Really!

So that's the plan.