A Beautiful Fall Table

Thinking about Holiday entertaining?

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years?

Which party is your favorite to attend and give? What decisions can you make right now while times are calm? Choose your party and work on your guest list. Who do you really want there? How would you like to impress them? Browse now for décor ideas and purchase a few things you really like. Close your eyes and envision your space. How would you like it to look and feel?

Have you been to Seattle Costume and Display on Roosevelt Way? They have wonderful décor items that coordinate together. Pick out napkins, plates, and items to add to the things you love. They will be ready for you nice and early! Early decisions let you relax as a future host.

Start choosing your recipes. Test some new ones.The best way to get new exciting menu items is to take a class! And WE HAVE THE CLASS FOR YOU! However, there are only 12 spaces. You may want to decide now. JOIN US FOR: Little Bites of Delights on Thursday, November 16th 7-10 pm. Mitra has a gorgeous array of easy appetizers ready for you!

Envision the look of your table. Will you use flowers? Then remember that, if this is a sit down meal, flowers need to be low. I frequently choose a selection of my favorite, small vases and intermingle them with slender candleholders down the length of the table. This adds a warm enticing glow to your room.

Now that you are getting an early start, snoop through your cupboards and find Grandma’s glasses and special plates. Lovingly wash them ahead and set them aside covered by a clean towel. They will be ready and waiting to bring memories back!

I also make drawings of my table plans with sketches of lots of possibilities. This part of your event is great fun when you have time to organize ahead. When it’s time, enjoy it and fulfill your dreams!

Don’t you just love to impress and make people happy? Share yourself, who you are and what you love! They will be so pleased.

Copyright: 123rfaurinko / 123RF Stock Photo

Zucchini Bisque

Zucchini Bisque

1 medium onion quartered
4-6 Tablespoons butter or as needed
1 1/2 pounds slender zucchini
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1-2 Tablespoons finely shredded dill or basil leaves
salt to taste
freshly ground white pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Add the onion chunks to the food processor with the metal blade in place. Pulse until the onion is evenly chopped. Melt the butter in a 3 quart sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté gently until tender.

Change over to the shredding disk. Cut the zucchini into 3 inch lengths. Wedge the zucchini upright in the feed tube securely, but not too tightly. With a light pressure on the pusher shred the zucchini in batches.

Add the zucchini and chicken stock to the pan. Bring to the boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

With the metal blade in place puree the soup mixture in batches and transfer to a bowl. Do not fill the processor bowl more that 1/3 full at a time. The soup should not overflow.

Add the nutmeg, basil, salt and pepper. Stir in the cream. Correct the seasoning and serve hot, at room temperature or chilled. Makes about 6 cups.

 

Meet Louise Hasson!

Enjoy a Unique Experience In Seattle

We could tell you how great Bon Vivant is…

but we thought our students could do it better!

“Authentic!” “Meaningful!” “An Experience to last a lifetime!”

 

Convenient Evening Classes in Private Homes

“I work full time and the evening cooking classes make it possible for me to pursue my passion.” Susan

“I’m not very comfortable in crowds. The classes being in private homes made me feel right at ease. It was like cooking in the kitchen with grandma.” Elsie

 

Information You Can Use


“I’ve taken classes at some of the other schools in town but they were more about drinking and playing with food. At Bon Vivant, I learned skills that I use every day and I no longer dread going into the kitchen.” Laura

“I took the Cut & Cook class. This was a real good class for me and I believe for all students alike. I thought I had mastered a lot of the basics, but the techniques and demonstrations along with hands-on made for a superb class.” Joey

“The steak class was AMAZING. It’s 11:00 and we’re still chatting and munching. The food was great, the techniques useful – I’m really looking forward to using this at home. I think my dad even learned something, and we’ve been trying to convince him to stop overcooking steaks for YEARS.” Doug

 

Community


“As a developer at Microsoft, I don’t have a lot of time for a social life. The weekly series courses give me the opportunity to spend time with people who share my passion for great food. I don’t know what I’m going to do after I’ve taken them all” Mike

“You had significant influence on my family way back in the ’90’s on Mercer Island. My youngest son Brian (then a pre-schooler) is a Chef and co owner of several celebrated restaurants and is married to a Chef. Older sons Michale and Jack though not pro’s are creative home cooks. I have recently moved to and 18 acre parcel in Ellensburg which I hope to develop into a small farm producing grass fed beef and some specialty produce. I just wanted to share a bit and thank you for taking this “bored housewife” to a world I never imagined!” Barb

 

Confidence Building


“This was the most useful series I have ever taken! My confidence as a chef and my abilities to create different menus has transformed. My family is still begging me for all those recipes.”
Andrea

“Louise’s in depth knowledge of food and cooking techniques never ceases to amaze me. After each class I run home and tell my fellow foodies how much I’ve learned and cannot wait to try out the recipes at home. I’ve already signed up to make the unbelievably delicious Iced Lemon Souffle for my sister’s wedding shower.” Ashley

 

Memorable Occassions


Whether it’s a Saturday Saveur Magazine Event, a date night or a private event, we’ve got you covered!

“Thank you for a wonderful class. My husband and I loved the class and made our anniversary very memorable. The class structure is amazing.” Preeti

“I wanted to thank you again for organizing such a successful cooking class for our staff members. I only heard rave reviews from them! Everyone loved the class. When we plan our retreat next year, I hope we will be able to include Bon Vivant School of Cooking again!” Julia

 

Life Changing

“I hold you in such high esteem for all that you have given me. I really knew or cared about nothing as related to food preparation. However, after I met you bells and whistles went off and my life has never been/will never be as it was.” Eric

“I just wanted to let you know what a large part of my life Bon Vivant has been. The classes I’ve taken have expanded my knowledge of, approach to, and appreciation of food and cooking. I’ve met so many great people who are passionate about both teaching and learning more about the craft. I wanted to thank you and the school for many great memories.” Lucia

Apricot Jam

What do you like to do for your vacations?

We are here at Lake Chelan, the produce basket of Washington State.

And when I see great tomatoes, peaches, apricots and more being sold by the box, my save it for winter button begins to flash red. And the beach stops calling me for a while.

Seattle is a great place. But as hot as summer has been our growing season is nothing like east of the mountains in places like Yakima and Chelan where the roads are lined with farms and fruit trees galore and the tomatoes ripen for sure to a deep plush red.

As you travel over the mountains to Eastern Washington there are many produce stands to tempt you. And the first thing we bought from the other side was a 25 pound box of deep red Italian pear tomatoes. This created the inspiration for homemade tomato sauce for the freezer. And we happily spent 3-4 hours chopping tomatoes, onions, celery, garlic, fresh basil and oregano and cooking the sauce to create 12 containers for our secret stash.

And I was grateful and will be even more grateful this winter, when those delicious meals that call for a great tomato sauce will be half done before I start. Just pull that 3 cup container out of the freezer and you are on the way to spaghetti with homemade meat sauce, stuffed zucchini and much more.

We also bought 10 pounds of ripe, gorgeous Perfection Apricots and made the most beautiful jam possible from plush sweet fruit. So exiting! I pressure seal my jams and refrigerate them and they keep their bright orange color until every jar is used.

By the way, when you are in class ask for a spoonful of that jam. I am really proud of it! You will have to make your own tomato sauce, however. Send me a note and I will share my recipe with you.

Baby Zuchinni in the garden

Summer Cooking

Birth in the Garden

Luckily we planted only one zucchini plant in our garden. As of last week a beautiful baby zucchini has been born each day. And the quest for treating it as something useful and worthwhile has become a daily challenge in a very short time. While the tomatoes linger on the vine we have zucchini exuberance. I am clearly wishing it were a cucumber instead.

Though having zucchini as a daily vegetable will not endure, we are still enjoying having something fresh from the garden. If you are facing a similar fate then you will enjoy these brief variations on a zucchini sauté.

Tangy Zucchini

1-2 medium zucchini (fresh from the garden) sliced into diagonal ovals
olive oil as desired or a combination of butter and olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves minced
thin strips of lemon zest and some lemon juice (use a zester tool)
salt and pepper (light on the pepper)
chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano or thyme or a mixture

Gently sauté the zucchini ovals and garlic in the butter and olive oil until lightly golden and tender. Add lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt and a bit of fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle with your choice of herbs and serve.

Zucchini Mélange

olive oil as desired
1/2 medium Walla Walla Sweet onion sliced in half circles
 1-2  medium (fresh from the garden) zucchini cut down the length and sliced
 1/4  yellow pepper seeded and thinly sliced
 1/4  orange bell pepper seeded and thinly sliced
 salt as desired
 freshly shredded basil or your choice of herbs

Gently sauté the onion in olive oil until tender and lightly browned. Add the yellow and orange pepper slices and briskly sauté until tender. Add the zucchini. Cook until tender but still a bright green. Season with salt. Sprinkle with freshly shredded basil or your choice of herbs and serve.

Zucchini in Fresh Tomato Sauce

1/2  onion chopped
1 small stalk of celery minced
 1-2  garlic cloves minced
 a richly flavored olive oil as desired
 1  pound seeded freshly chopped tomatoes (Skin them if you wish.)
 1  bayleaf
 oregano and fresh basil to taste
salt as needed
 1-2  medium zucchini cut down the length in quarters and sliced thickly

The point here is to make a fresh tomato sauce with tomatoes from your garden or from your neighborhood farmer’s market.

Sauté the onion and celery until tender. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Be sort of generous with the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and oregano and simmer until lightly thickened to create your own fresh tomato sauce. Add the basil. Season with salt as desired. Add the zucchini and braise until tender and succulent. Enjoy!!

Copyright: alinamd / 123RF Stock Photo

Too Much Pepper?

Hold the Pepper?

I wonder if I would be happy with my cooking without black pepper.

I am sending you to an article that you may find controversial. It is titled “Why I haven’t cooked with black pepper for years.” I was intrigued when I ran into it. So I decided to look at this alternate point of view. In some ways I find myself agreeing with the premise. However, I rarely say “never” unless I really mean it. And I was left wondering if white pepper was included in this decision.

I like black pepper and white pepper and pepper in general. But when I am working with students I find myself counseling them to be less aggressive with black pepper. It is a dominating and assertive condiment. And I find that the less experienced a cook is, the more likely they are to really hit a dish with too many grates of pepper. It sort of makes you feel like a cook to grab that pepper mill and grind away happily, frequently followed by the commentary “ I like pepper.” Or I like “hot peppers.” “Or I like Sriracha sauce.” “ Or I like spicy food.”

In the world of fine cooking subtlety is a key word. How do the many ingredients in a dish speak to each other and cooperate to create a delicious message. It is part of the mystery of cooking when a certain spice or herb gently speaks to you as a cooperative part of the nuance of a well-prepared dish. A chef is rarely acclaimed for overwhelming flavors. It is sort of like creating a painting with all red paint. Not much mystery there to engage you.

A fine cook uses taste to evaluate their cooking. They are interested in how their creation communicates with the diner. Is it overwhelming or only speaking only with a “two note” message? Or does the dish continue to engage you as you move from bite to bite, with an element of subtlety or surprise?

I do not know about you, but I am more likely to reject a dish that is overwhelming or simply too bold.

This weekend my son and I tried a new restaurant in the neighborhood. There was a lot that I liked about what we were served. We ordered a side dish of Okra with Tomato Sauce. With my first bite I found the okra totally overwhelmed by a heavy tomato sauce. I was looking forward to the tender subtleties of okra (believe it or not) and I found this dish disappointing. It was simply out of balance.

Too much pepper can have the same result.

Ripe, Juicy Peaches

Summer Stone Fruit

Is it time to give up on early summer grocery store stone fruit?

How long will it take for us to give in to the fact that fruit should ripen without rotting and that we should not have to eat it rock hard and sour. “ How pretty they are sitting in the grocery store display all lined up and looking good. I start the summer season by buying only one peach, nectarine, apricot or plum and placing it on my kitchen counter. Surely, with that lovely blush of color this firm fruit should soften and melt in your mouth at first bite. The juices should drip down your chin. It should bring sweet joy and wonder instead of sour, hard disappointment.

Part of the problem is our urgent desire. The stores we love and trust encourage us. How they want to please us. And we are so anxious to start the season. And they are caught between seasons. We are tired of winter fruit. An apple or pear will no longer tantalize our palette. So as each summer fruit appears out of nowhere we are ready and willing to have it.

But the question becomes from where did it come? How far away? How soon was it pulled from the tree? How long has it travelled refrigerated and cold? Why is it here so early? Washington State is a great producer of tree fruits. Does the tree in your yard have mature ripe fruit right now? Not likely. Even your Aunt Em’s tree in Eastern Washington does not have ripe and ready tree fruits yet.

So this is where your neighborhood Farmer’s Market comes into play. They should want to sell you “ripe and ready” fruit. And if they do not have it, then it is not ready. This is also where a place like the Pike Place Market tells the story. If it is the right time it may not be in a mixed produce display. It will be on a stand that has only one thing “ripe peaches or nectarines or apricots that have just been picked at their peak.

I am sorry you have to wait for the real time. However, please don’t let your children accept crisp and sour fruit when it should be succulent, sweet, juicy and wonderful. We are not a very patient market consumer. When we want it, we want it now. (Hopefully without the tantrum.)

It is currently cherry, strawberry, raspberry time. Plunge deeply and deliciously into these fruits. But for tree fruits like peaches and apricots wait a while.

Be patient and the rewards will be great soon!

Strawberry Jam

Let’s Make Jam

Washington strawberries are so different than the berries in the stores the rest of the year.

They are dark red, almost black, tender, juicy and a combination of sweet and tart. Really they are perfect for homemade jam.

It would seem I am exceedingly engrossed in strawberries. But I did promise a Strawberry Jam recipe and I am trying to gather it all together.

I am a jam maker. My specialties are apricot, strawberry, an occasional raspberry and fig (since my son has a most marvelous 2 story fig tree in his back yard.) I am a staunch traditionalist. I can still see my mother lingering near the gas stove nursing a pot of jam. So I resist the alternate jams such as freezer jam. I actually make preserves or conserves to be technical. Jams that may still have whole pieces of fruit beautifully candied and translucent.

There is a sacrifice to that. You cannot candy a fruit and have it be the same color as raw fruit. It will be deep and dark and will best show its translucent color as it is spread across a slice of toast. Oh my, yum. I am resisting the toaster and the jam in the fridge at this very moment.

I make large pots of jam. That takes experience and valor. If you scorch a big pot of jam you are undone. So I frequently suggest and still love to make small pots of jam. It is easy to see the bottom of a 2 quart pot and rare to scorch this size batch. My favorite strawberry jams have been made from small batches from berries from my garden.

Click here to see:

Louise’s Small Batch Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Louise’s Small Batch Strawberry Jam

1 quart(4 cups) local fresh strawberries
4 cups sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice

Give your fruit a light rinse to remove any soil that clings. Use as little water as possible and drain thoroughly. Slice the large berries into halves or quarters. Keep small berries whole or halved. Pile them into a heaping 1 quart measuring cup. Measure 4 cups sugar and layer the fruit in a heavy 2-1/2 – 3 quart saucepan alternating layers of fruit and sugar. Start with the first cup of fruit first. (I know it is daring to use this much sugar but it is necessary and it makes a better jam!)

Heat the fruit and sugar gently on low to medium heat until the sugar melts and liquefies. Occasionally stir very gently with a wooden spoon. Gently bring this mixture to a boil stirring only often enough to be sure that the fruit is not sticking or scorching on the bottom of the pot.

As the mixture to the boils watch it as it will rise and form a foamy top. Lower the heat to medium or medium high keeping a low boil. With a metal spoon gently lift away the sticky whitish foam. This is the impurities of the sugar and should be removed. The jam should gently boil until slightly thickened with glossy candied fruit.

Deciding when jam is done is an art. You are told to put droplets of the jam liquid on a cold china plate. After it cools the droplet should not run away when the plate is tipped. And if you take the cold droplet between your fingers it should be sticky and a bit thickened. Experience will lead you in the best direction. Strawberry jam should have plump fruit that is translucent bound by a thickened liquid. Use your best judgment.

Once you decide to stop cooking the jam let it sit and cool briefly to plump up the fruit and balance the fruit with the liquid. Meanwhile wash the jam jars in hot water. Dip the jars in boiling water to sterilize them. Lift out with clean tongs. (You may also wash the jars in the dishwasher and use them when they are hot). Put the jar lids in water that has been brought to the boil but removed from the heat.

Cut the bottom off a paper or plastic cup and put it on the top of a ½ pint canning jar, Spoon the jam into the jar. The paper cup with keep the inner rim of the jar clean. Fill the jar but leave a 1/2 -3/4 inch space at the top. Clean any drips.

With tongs place the hot lid on the jar and screw the ring down until just set. Do not tighten the ring. You may then process the filled jars of jam to complete the seal.

To process the jars fill a deep large pan with water. Set the sealed jam jars in the water with at least 2 inches of water above. Bring the water to the boil and boil for about 15 minutes. Lift the jars from the water bath with a pair of tongs. Set them aside on a towel to cool. As the jars seal you will hear them click downward. This is your seal.

Store your jam on the shelf in a dark space or refrigerate them if you wish. Though it is not necessary I like to refrigerate my jams in my spare refrigerator. They hold their color better and last much longer than on the shelf.

Enjoy and share your jams with friends!