One of my nieces lives in Washington, just outside of Seattle, and I’ve been to visit her several times. I love Seattle with the ocean breeze blowing in off the coast, the view of Mt. Rainier off to the distance, the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of good book stores! I adore Pike Place Market and the hustle and bustle of the market place.
On one visit, we rode a ferryboat out to Whidbey Island and drove all around the island, stopping here and there along the way. Another time, we drove all the way to Mt. Rainier (a lot farther than it looks from Seattle); we hiked a ways up the mountain and had a picnic lunch along the way. I confess, I wasn’t able to hike as far as my brother or his daughter but it was fascinating to stop and find tiny wildflower blossoms growing under melting snow. Coming home, we stopped at several little produce stands in small towns, to buy apples and berries. On another visit, my sister Susie and I gathered brilliant red and orange and yellow leaves and decorated my niece’s apartment with them.
I’ve heard that it rains a lot in Washington, but the weather has been gorgeous every time I’ve been there.
Washington has so much to offer, it should come as no surprise to you that “BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHINGTON COOKBOOK” from Quail Ridge Press has a lot to offer, too!
Like I do so often when I have a new “Best of..” cookbook to read, I turned to the Catalog of Contributing Cookbooks to check out the titles, mark with post-its the titles I think I will want to order, and just to see what kind of regional cookbooks went into this latest Best cookbook. Why do I do this? I think it gives me a bit of sense about the cookbook I am about to read and I check to see which books I might already have (such as Carlean Johnson’s Six Ingredients or Less cookbooks).
Then I return to the beginning of the book and start to read.
“When you think of Washington food,” say editors Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, “perhaps you envision delicious juicy apples. And with good reason—more than half of all apples grown in the United States for fresh eating come from the seemingly endless acres of orchards, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Washington…”
However, they explain, “Washington is also known for its cherries, plums, grapes, huckleberries and blackberries, to name but a few of its wonderful fruit resources. The diversity of the land and climate contributes greatly to the many natural ingredients that bring a unique blend of flavors to the dinner table…”
“To the east of the Cascades,” they continue, “lie the apple orchards along the rolling fields of wheat and barley; bountiful crops such as potatoes, corn, hops, mint, peaches and apricots; and livestock, including hogs, cattle and sheep. Here, too, you’ll find a booming wine industry. Farther west to the coast, seafood and fish abound”.
Recipes in “BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHINGTON COOKBOOK” abound, too. Beverages and Appetizers features such yummy treats as Jeannie’s Famous Margaritas (I have to try this!) and Spicy Crab Dip with Corn Chips, and Sandy’s Smoked Salmon Spread (another Sandy—but it sounds wonderful!), Apricot Almond Brie (only four ingredients), and Butternut Pot Stickers with Raspberry Szechuan Sauce.
As you might expect from a Washington State cookbook, there are apple recipes such as Apple Blackberry Crisp and Apple Bread, Apple Strudel and Apple Crisp Muffins, Sautéed Apples and Pork and Apples with Granola and Cider Cream. However, don’t overlook the recipes using Blackberries, such as Blackberry Pizza, or raspberries, such as Raspberry Muffins, or the wealth of Huckleberry recipes such as Huckleberry Dump Cake or Huckleberry Pork Chops!
You may want to try French Toast Decadence, or 24 Hour Wine & Cheese Omelet or Tortilla Torta, Baked Potato Soup, or Northwest Cioppino. Or, perhaps, the Best Avocado Caesar Salad or Taco Macaroni Salad? How about Seafood Lasagna (made with shrimp, crab meat and scallops!) or Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Cream Cheese, Crab, Mushrooms and Sherry!
Washington is famous for its salmon (and many Native Americans hold an annual ceremony for the first catch of the season) so, as you might expect, you will find recipes for Herb Baked Salmon and Baked Dijon Salmon, Salmon Cakes (made with fresh, not canned salmon) that you serve with Tarragon Mayonnaise and Pineapple Salsa, and a recipe for Baked Salmon a la Paul Heald (compliments of artist Paul Heald). However, don’t overlook the other seafood recipes, such as Sturgeon Szechwan or Orange Broiled Shark, Asian Crab Cakes or Stuffed Olympic Oysters.
You can satisfy your sweet tooth with recipes such as Cranberry-Swirl Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Fudge Pie, Japanese Fruitcake, or Butterscotch Heavenly Delight…or any one of a host of recipes for cookies and candies, cakes, pies and other desserts.
Inevitably, when I am writing a review about one of the “Best of the Best…” series, I work up such an appetite that I have to stop typing and mosey out to the kitchen to try one of the recipes.
Coincidentally, I had all of the ingredients on hand for Morning Mix-Up so guess what we’re having for breakfast? And this just makes me wonder—how do Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley keep their girlish figures?
Like all “Best of the Best” cookbooks in this series, “BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHINGTON COOKBOOK” is generously sprinkled with photographs, facts and features to provide you with a better understanding of this evergreen, ever-so-spectacular state.
“BEST OF THE BEST FROM WASHNGTON COOKBOOK” does not appear to be available directly from Quail Ridge Press—it was published almost a decade ago. However, Amazon.com has copies starting at 22 cents or new for $8.99. Your best bet might be Alibris.com which has copies available for 99c. When I saw a copy available for twenty-two cents I fought off the temptation to buy it even though I already HAVE this cookbook. (Before you think I am crazy, duplicate copies of cookbooks I think are spectacular – make great birthday or Christmas presents for my cooking-minded friends & relatives.
Originally reviewed by Sandra Lee Smith January 2003, re-reviewed July, 2012