roasted garlic salad dressing 
In no other dish does the condiment take center stage as it does in salad.  With a billion varieties of dressings out there, it’s easy to be tempted by a bottle of Hidden Valley (or Annie’s, if you drive a Volkswagen).  But, most of that bottled junk is full of calories and fat so it will have a long shelf life.  This recipe is the base for most of the salad dressings I make.  It takes all of 90 seconds, and it beats the pantaloons of anything I’ve had from a store. 

Makes: 1/4 cup, enough for 2 dinner salads, or 4 side salads
Total kitchen time: 90 seconds

Shopping list:

  • 1/4 cup roasted garlic olive oil (homemade, or premade.  I’m currently loving my bottle from the Temecula Olive Oil Company, $17)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or cup and whisk with a fork until emulsified. 

Done!  What makes this dressing really shine is starting with a great olive oil.  Oh, and if you’re curious about the salad in the picture, it’s field greens, goat’s cheese, candied walnuts and dried cranberries.

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seared scallops  Just downstairs from the stunning, Restoration Hardware-esque lobby of the Arctic Club Hotel, Juno is a restaurant struggling to find an identity.  Formerly, it garnered mixed reviews from critics, but was praised for its creativity and use of local, seasonal ingredients.  However, the dining public and Juno never quite met eye-to-eye.

To be fair, I suppose that a hotel restaurant has a natural disadvantage.  When Aunt Gertrude and her three kids come to visit from Oklahoma City, they might count on the hotel menu to offer a burger and fries.  However, given the makeup of the late-20s-early-30s well-dressed bohemians who flock to the Polar Barn just one floor above, it’s in Juno’s interest to serve contemporary, well-executed food with the style and thoughtfulness that Seattlites have come to expect from a high-class downtown restaurant.  Unfortunately, this was not my experience.

When I called a few weeks ahead to make my reservation, I noticed that their menu wasn’t posted online.  The host informed me that the menu was being overhauled, but the new menu was forthcoming.  Restaurants everywhere have been taking a critical look at their menus as the economy has kept more diners at home in recent months, and I believe Juno was doing the same.  Even on the night of my dinner, the new menu wasn’t quite complete; the lunch menu was extended into the dinner hours, but the specials of the night were items that we were told had already been cemented on the new menu.  Unfortunately, that’s where things started to go down hill. 

I tasted two of the three soon-to-be menu additions (the third was a halibut).  First was a grilled New York strip steak served with fingerling potatoes.  That, to me, is the food equivalent of a musician releasing a Christmas Album.  You know it will make money, you know people want it because it’s familiar, but it isn’t very interesting and its certainly not art.  I would have hoped for unique twist on the dish, perhaps rosemary- or truffle-salted potatoes, but alas, the chef appeared to wave the white flag on this one.  Fair enough, maybe that’s just what the market demands.

Next was a quartet of pan-seared scallops served on roasted pears with asparagus (pictured at top).  Unfortunately, I can’t come up with any good excuses for this one.  Although the scallops were cooked well, they were accompanied by sauces that I can only describe as a powdered gravy mix, and a vaguely balsamic powdered gravy mix.  The roasted pear slices contributed almost no flavor to the dish, and the bland asparagus was equally superfluous.  I’m not sure if this dish is still in beta testing, but I can’t seem to figure out why all those things shared the same plate.

chevre cheesecakeThankfully, Dessert was much more up to snuff.  In particular, the almond-crusted goat cheese cheese cake was welcoming both to the eyes and to the palate. 

But, the real standouts of the evening were the drinks!  The cocktail menu, shared between the Polar Bar and Juno, is full of creative, tasty and downright sexy drinks.  Two of my favorites were the Polar Ice and the Hemmingway Mojito (the best Mojito I can remember drinking). 

Even though I was told those dishes are already headed for the full-time dinner menu, it’s totally possible that they might evolve to find some sort of identity along the way.  But, from my experience, Juno doesn’t seem to be striking a balance between fine dining and populist restauranteering.  I do hope the best for Juno – it is a beautiful space, and the dead, white, wealthy founders of the Arctic Club have very high standards.

JUNO on Urbanspoon

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DSC_0046 
My goal of having 6-pack abs for my honeymoon apparently won’t be met by reducing my intake of foie gras and pork belly alone.  In an effort to trick myself into eating healthier, I’ve been experimenting with other white meats.  Usually, I think turkey is pretty bland.  However, this recipe was so shockingly tasty that it made me forget I was even trying to cook “lite”.  The pungent flavors of the curry and orange marmalade transform plain turkey into a dish I would even serve for company.

Total kitchen time: 1.5 hours
Makes: 2 waists a little smaller

Shopping list:

  • 2 boneless skinless turkey breast halves
  • 1 tbsp. red curry powder
  • 2.5 Oz goat’s cheese (about 1/3 cup finely crumbled)
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 2 tsp. orange marmalade
  • 4 8” pieces of cooking twine
  • kosher salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F and place the top rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with foil or a non-slip baking mat.
  2. Working one at a time, place each turkey breast between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet, pound the breast until it is uniformly thick.  Be careful not to accidentally rip through the meat.  If you’ve had a long day, this step can be very therapeutic.
  3. Generously salt both sides of the breast.  Then, coat each side with curry powder.  Lay the breast flat-side down and top with 1/2 of the goat cheese, pressing the cheese into the meat to help it stick.  Then, top the goat’s cheese with half of the spinach.
  4. Roll the breast into a log, starting with the narrow end.  Tie the roulade (rolled meat) in two places using lengths of twine.  Repeat for the remaining turkey breast.
  5. Finally, rub the outside of each roulade with 1 tsp. of orange marmalade.  Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the roulade reads 160°F.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

I enjoyed this dish alongside an artichoke with my favorite choke-dip: light mayo and curry powder.  I suppose other healthy options might include a salad, fruit, or a doughnut.  Wait, doughnuts are healthy, right?

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