World Chefs: Thompson dishes up Washington state from Seattle to Spokane

NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - When food writer Jess Thompson

moved to Seattle, Washington, she expected to find the

adventuresome cooking for which the city is famous. But she

admits to being pleasantly surprised by the rich diversity of

the rest of the state.

The 150 recipes in her book "Dishing Up Washington" attempt

to capture the authentic regional flavors of the entire state,

from Seattle to Spokane, Yakima to Walla Walla.

"It is a total food heaven," said Thompson, cookbook author,

recipe developer and food blogger. "I knew it would be delicious

but I'm not sure I knew how much would be available here and how

constantly I would be bombarded with really great food."

Thompson spoke to Reuters about discovering the distinctive

foods of Washington and the state's climate and locavore

tradition.

Q: Is this your first cookbook?

A: "This is my fourth cookbook; three in my name, one that I

ghostwrote."

Q: Did you write the recipes for this book?

A: "The book is a little bit unique because it is about 60

percent recipes that I've written inspired by the state's

ingredients and about 40 percent recipes by chefs, farmers and

artisans from all over the state."

Q: What was your purpose with this book?

A: "I wanted to show not just best restaurants but

ingredients that drive those restaurants -- what it's like to

run a potato farm and the simple potato soup the farmer's mother

makes, which is super warming, super delicious but not

high-falutin chef-y approach that I think many Seattle chefs

might have taken ... I wanted to show the guy who grows saffron

on the Olympic peninsula, and the tomato grower in northeastern

Washington. She doesn't have a restaurant but she's important to

the state because she grows these really fantastic tomatoes."

Q: How would you characterize the cuisine of Washington

State?

A: "It's adventuresome coastal cooking that depends heavily

on local ingredients."

Q: Which ingredients are typical of the state?

A: "Stone fruits like peaches and cherries are huge here;

tree fruits like apples and pears; fish and shellfish, mainly

crab, oysters, mussels, and salmon. Then there's really great

dairy and cheese, mostly from the northwestern part of the

state. The state is also well known for larger crops like

grapes, wheat and beef."

Q: How does Seattle's famously rainy climate affect the

cuisine?

A: "The state is sort of divided by the Cascade Mountains

into two distinct climates: the wet half towards the west and

the drier half towards the east ... (But) there's a giant

misconception about the rain here. Boston gets more rain than

Seattle, but Seattle gets it almost every day of the week in

winter. From a food perspective this is a very good climate for

growing. Drought is not really an issue here. On the eastern

side drought is an issue but many areas there get more than 300

days of sunshine in a year, so the growing season is very long

and the conditions are great."

Q: What accounts for the strong locavore tradition?

A: "Because it's available. Farmers' markets near me are

open the year round. In February maybe I can't buy cherries but

I can buy great kale, radicchio and hazelnuts. I think it's such

a vibrant community because the weather allows us to get food

year round. The food world doesn't shut down from November to

April here."

Q: Who is your book aimed at?

A: "I wanted to make it approachable for people cooking

anywhere. The chef recipes are a little more complicated and

difficult. The recipes that I've written are much simpler ...

This book also an edible tour guide to the state. People tell me

they're using it as a travel guide, keeping it in their car as a

way of deciding what restaurants to go to in Seattle and the

state."

Northwest Crab Chowder

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

4 stalks celery, cut into quarter-inch slices

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 7 medium), cut into

half-inch chunks

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 (15-ounce) can fish broth

1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice

1.5 pounds Dungeness crabmeat, chopped

6 servings

1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add

the onions, celery, and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste, and

cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften, about

5 minutes. Add the potatoes, milk, cream, fish broth and clam

juice. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook until the potatoes

are soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Transfer about 2 cups of the vegetables to a food

processor or a blender, blend until smooth, and return to the

pot. Stir in the crabmeat, cook for 5 minutes longer, and salt

and pepper to taste. Serve piping hot.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Doina Chiacu)

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