the croque monsieur

When you have friends like ours, you tend to eat pretty well.  We love to partner with the best chefs in Seattle to bring an intimate teaching experience to field trippers. We are so grateful to have Ben Campbell of Ben's Breads on our team. His passion for sourdough and for teaching are unsurpassed, and his breads are sublime. He was kind enough to share his recipe for one of his favorite ways to use leftover bread, the croque monsieur. Ben's recipe is finely honed after making hundreds in years past at Seattle's beloved Café Presse ... merci beaucoup Ben!

Croque Monsieur    makes 4 large sandwiches

  • 8 slices bread
  • ½ C Dijon mustard
  • 16 thin slices deli ham
  • 16 slices gruyere
  • 1 batch béchamel* (recipe below) *good idea to make in advance so the sauce has a chance to chill and is easier to spread, refrigerates and freezes well.

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (if making right away).

Slice loaf of bread lengthwise into 8 slices, squaring off smaller ends for breadcrumbs, croutons, or a light snack. Make 4 stacks of two slices of bread. On top of each stack, spread a generous amount of Dijon mustard, arrange two slices of gruyere, and then evenly arrange 4 slices of ham, building as much height as possible. Place the bottom slice of bread on top of the stack of meats and cheeses. Thickly coat each sandwich with the thick béchamel on the tops and sides. Arrange the rest of the cheese slices on top of each sandwich, ensuring that no crust is showing. If using later, wrap all the sandwiches on a small tray or plate and place in refrigeration for use within the next 2 days. If making immediately, arrange sandwiches on sheet tray and bake for 10-15 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown in places. Devour immediately.

Béchamel sauce

  • 1 qt milk
  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming. Add flour, stirring until combined. Cook on medium, constantly stirring, until a pale, sandy mixture is formed (1 - 2 minutes).  Add milk carefully, stirring constantly with whisk until incorporated.  Add bay leaf and cayenne and bring to a simmer.  Cook until sauce is thick (approximately 10 minutes).  Season to taste.  Transfer to shallow container and refrigerate until use.  Once chilled, the béchamel will be thick and spreadable.

bon appétit!

 

go green

When the daffodils bulbs start to push from the earth, it's a sure sign that spring is on the way.  Green thumbs rejoice at the arrival of seed catalogues, primroses and pansies at the local markets, and the promise of a new growing season.  It is also a season of abundant opportunities to learn more about gardening at class, on a tour, or by volunteering at a community garden.  Here are some of our favorites:

Garden tours: for those wanting to see beautiful landscaping up close:  the historic Dunn Gardens in Seattle's Broadview neighborhood offers tours and workshops, the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge is offering secret season walks on March 16th and 18th, and the beloved Heronswood Garden in Kingston will bring back their Friday open days on March 3rd along with popular plant sales in April and May.

Visit the newly reopened City People's Garden Store in the Madison Valley or Urban Feed and Garden on Beacon Hill and sign up for free workshops on seed starting, landscaping with edibles, and more.  

Early spring plant sales:  don't miss Seattle Tilth's spring edible plant sale on March 18th, this year taking place at Orca K8 school in the Columbia City neighborhood.  Looking for native plants?  Check out the Seward Park Audubon's sale on March 11th and 12th.  Not only are these plants easy to grow and care for, they are just the thing to invite birds and natural pollinators to your yard.

Volunteer opportunities:  Don't have a yard but still wish to garden?  Join a work party at the Beacon Food Forest or the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, or sign up for a pea patch garden of your own!

Read and marvel at the new book Plant: Exploring the Botanical World by Phaidon ... the extraordinary images will inspire.

Go green!

2017

A new year brings potential.  Potential for greatness, potential for adventure, potential for positive change.  What will you do in 2017?

Lately, I've been giving much thought to the power of learning something new.  A word that continues to pop up is "neuroplasticity".  Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to change and grow over the course of a lifetime.  For many decades, it was believed that as we aged our brains became "fixed", hence the phrase "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".  However, modern research shows just the opposite.  Our brains continue to develop over time, creating new neurons and connections. Every time we learn something new, connections are being made, there is an increase in blood flow and the internal structure of existing synapses can change.  A 2010 study in The Journal of Neuroscience found that after only two sessions of practicing a new task, the brain creates more gray matter.  Doing something over and over again doesn't just make the task easier, but it can actually change the brain's structure.

Whether you decide to play a musical instrument, learn a foreign language, master a skill, or simply try something you've never done before - may this year be full of growth and potential!  Happy New Year!