burger  I was thrilled to hear that a new burger place was opening its doors (and my mouth) in Ballard.  As a foodie, one of my favorite friendly debates is “Who makes the best burger in Seattle?”  Everyone has their preferences, from a $1.40 Dick’s cheeseburger to Spring Hill’s $17 1/2 lb. masterpiece, and all the meat sandwiches that fall between.  And although we may never agree on who flips the best beef, I’d like to add one more name into the conversation: The Counter.

I won’t go so far as to proclaim that The Counter makes the best burger in Seattle, but damned if they shouldn’t be on the ballot. 

Although I was dismayed to discover that The Counter is a chain (from California, no less!), I was very impressed with the Seattleishness of their menu and concept.  First, they start with 100% natural, hormone and antibiotic-free beef from Meyer Company Ranch.  This is exactly the right foundation for a burger joint: great beef.  It let’s you ask questions like, “Would you like your burger pink with a warm center?” instead of “Do you mind that we’re going to incinerate your dinner meat because we’re too cheap and/or careless to buy beef that’s safely edible?”  And, although being choosy about your cattle farm may still be ahead of its time, anyone can appreciate that quality beef just tastes better. 

Reading time: 3 min

honey-broiled spiced fig copy 
The first signs of Fall have arrived: the mornings are crisp and overcast, the slutty mannequins at the costume shop on Denny are dressed as pirates, and figs are plentiful and cheap.  Fresh figs are one of the most versatile Fall fruits around, and also one of the most delicious.  Baked, grilled, or, in this case, broiled, they’re kinda hard to screw up.  For this preparation, we’re glazing sliced figs with honey and spices – feel free to substitute whatever smells good to you (try Chinese Five Spice) – then broiling until the honey caramelizes.

Makes: 1 dozen sweet Fall treats
Total kitchen time: 15 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 12 fresh figs
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  1. Preheat your broiler and set the top rack as close to the heating element as possible. 
  2. Rinse the figs and pat dry.  Cut off stems (optional, but the stems aren’t edible).  Slice figs in half lengthwise, from stem to root.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl (measurements are approximate – do what looks/smells/tastes good to you).
  4. Lay the figs, cut side up, on a lined baking sheet.  Drizzle the cut side of the figs with honey.  Sprinkle over the spice mixture.
  5. Broil on the top rack until the honey bubbles and just begins to brown, about 10 minutes.  Note: watch the figs closely – cooking time will vary from oven to oven.  Alternately, you can place the figs cut side down on a hot grill for about 10 seconds.
  6. Remove from heat and serve. 

These broiled figs are dying to be slathered with mascarpone or tossed with green beans, goat cheese and bacon for a beautiful fall side dish.  Or, just eat them as-is for an afternoon snack or super-easy hors d’oeuvre!

Broiled Honey-Glazed Spiced Figs on Foodista

Reading time: 1 min

Starbucks VIA Colombia Braised Chicken

The coffee aisles of my local grocery stores have been growing in recent years.  But, for some reason, coffee has never really made into the mainstream as a cooking ingredient.  Perhaps that’s because ground coffee is too coarse to dissolve nicely into a sauce, and instant coffees are notorious for their crappiness.  Well, we may be turning a culinary corner with the introduction of Starbucks VIA Ready Brew – the first instant coffee from Starbucks, and a new staple-to-be of my spice rack.  For this recipe, I chose the Colombia roast, which is a medium-bodied coffee that adds a subtle but important rich background flavor to the braised chicken.  The sweet onions balance out the bitterness of the coffee and make this a wonderful and unique dish.

Makes: 2 Grande Servings
Total kitchen time: 75 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 single-serving packets Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 can white beans, drained
  • Olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a dutch oven over high heat.  (You can use a heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid).
  2. Coat the chicken breasts on all sides with a small amount of olive oil.  Add to the pot and sear each side until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side.  Remove the chicken and let rest.
  3. Add the cider vinegar and deglaze the bottom of the pan with a spoon (scrape up all the brown bits).
  4. Add the diced onion and reduce the heat to medium.  Sweat the onion over medium heat until softened and slightly browned, about 3 minutes. 
  5. Add the Starbucks VIA Ready Brew coffee and stir to coat the onions.  Then, add the water and brown sugar.  Stir to combine, and add salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer for about an hour, or until the chicken pulls apart easily with a fork. 
  7. Before plating, warm the white beans in a small skillet.  Plate a portion of beans into a shallow bowl, then add one chicken breast and top with onions.

I’m excited by the notion that coffee may appear more widely than as a pork rub or in baked goods.  I can’t think of any other ingredient that imparts as rich a flavor and aroma, except perhaps wine.  Hmm, coffee and wine sharing culinary characteristics?  This is gonna get really interesting…

Full disclosure: I got free stuff but that doesn’t pay for my opinion.

Starbucks Via Ready Brew Braised Chicken on Foodista

Reading time: 2 min