March 01, 2009

Seattle diary: delicious home cooked Indian dinner, Carmelita and contra dancing

After college our middle son spent a year doing internships in D.C. At the end of the year he decided to come home for a few months, save some money and figure out what to do next. Since he wasn't paying rent, he decided his contribution to the household would be to cook dinner. This was fantastic. Every night we'd come home to a delectable meal. Aaron is an exceptional cook — the kind who grinds his own spices in a mortar and pestle so they'll be fresh and exactly as he wants them to be. The day he announced he was leaving town, my husband and I looked at each other in panic and whimpered, "but what will we eat?" It wasn't that we didn't want him to move on with his life, or that we weren't capable of cooking, but we'd become accustomed to really good food magically appearing every night, and were panicked at the thought of this luxury coming to an end.

Recently, on our visit to Seattle, we had the pleasure of dining on Aaron's elegant cooking again, as he whipped up a simple but wonderful Indian-inspired meal of cauliflower-rice pilaf and kidney bean stew. These dishes were served with tamarind chutney and coriander chutney, both made by Aaron. Aaron found the pilaf recipe in the Seattle Times and it's a great recipe, easily veganized by using Earth Balance instead of butter. It's from "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala. Vij's is a restaurant in Vancouver. It's not a vegetarian restaurant, nor is the book vegetarian. Aaron says the kidney bean stew is very similar to Madhur Jaffrey's Punjabi kidney bean stew in "World Vegetarian."

Cauliflower pilaf

Tamarind chutney and cilantro chutney

Kidney bean stew

The Seattle trip was winding down. Our oldest son left after our dinner on Thursday evening for a teacher conference in Vancouver, and the rest of his family plus our middle son and his gf, Erica, were heading to Vancouver after work on Friday. So, after a Friday morning of childcare for Miss 1-year old, we were left behind in Seattle. We decided to splurge on a special vegan dinner at Carmelita, a charming and well-regarded upscale but light-hearted vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. Our waitress was just about the most cheerful person I've encountered in a long time.

We started with an antipasti plate containing muhumara (roasted red pepper dip), marinated olives, roasted garlic, chickpea salad, grilled flatbread, rosemary-white bean spread and spiced marcona almonds. It was huge, and we ate about half, leaving the rest for the airplane trip home the next day. The dips and spreads were so great — and the roasted garlic was an entire enormous head.

For our entrées I chose the artisanal polenta cake, apple/sweet potato hash, foraged mushroom sauce, fried parsnip, and my husband selected the farro tagine, spicy walnut pesto, braised squash and Swiss chard, pomegranate molasses. We were both more than pleased with our choices, though I thought the fried parsnip threads were a bit too fried.

I wish I could have taken photos of the gorgeous food but it was so dark in the room, I knew they wouldn't turn out with my little point and shoot. Just go there and see for yourself!

After dinner we went contra dancing at the Phinney Ridge Community Center where we had a chance to work off some of the calories we'd just consumed. Or, I should say, I worked off some of the calories. My husband botched his knee a few days before on a steepish walk at Carkeek Park, and he sat out most of the dances.

note: I learned something about carrying food in a cardboard container. Call me naive, but I popped the cardboard container from the restaurant into a plastic bag and took it to the airport. By the time I took it out for lunch, it had become a soggy, weeping mess. It was only quick action that prevented me from also becoming a soggy, weeping mess in the confines of my airplane seat! The food was still fantastic, but next time I'll repack it into something a bit more rigid, like plastic.


  1. It sounds like your son is a really fabulous cook. Gorgeous food! I am getting hungry just thinking about it :)

  2. He IS a fabulous cook and I'm hoping to share more meals with him and his partner when we move to Seattle!

  3. Looks delicious. All of it!


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