Sunday, February 28, 2010

"You're Gonna Love My Nuts!"

First it was Carl Sagan singing, now it's the Slap Chop guy rapping. Gotta love that auto-tune!

Thanks to Lucy Burningham for tweeting it!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Report from the Field: The Santa Fe Trail

Thank goodness I have friends who get out of town once in awhile and inspire me to dream about road trips to faraway places. My pal Laurie recently ventured solo to Santa Fe and not only brought back tales of a charming city filled with wonderful food, but some photos and samples to make it a much fuller experience!

The Santa Fe visitor experience is well documented, and for good reason. They’ve got it going on. World class art, extraordinary light and interesting food. And unlike much of the art, the food is very affordable.

Here are few gastronomic highlights from my recent mid-winter jaunt to the Land of Enchantment:

Café Pasqual's: A popular spot known for it’s tasty Mexican/New Mexican cuisine and funky, relaxed, atmosphere. I opted for the chicken mole enchiladas (left). According to my server, the sweet-yet-savory Oaxacan-style mole contained over 100 ingredients. (And yes, it was just as good as the moles I had in Oaxaca.) There was also a flavorful lime and cilantro rice, which was delightful in its own right. Café Pasqual's, 121 Don Gaspar. Phone 505-983-9340.

The Plaza Café: Another local favorite, located … you guessed it …right in the main plaza. I had the chile relleno omelet (right). I’m no food writer, but I’ll take my best shot at describing this as an episode of The Dating Game: Mr. Fluffy Frenchie Omelet chooses local hottie, Miss Perfectly Roasted Green Chile. Sparks fly, they bond and together they ride off into the northern New Mexico sunset. The Plaza Café, 54 Lincoln Ave. Phone 505-982-1664.

Tomasita's: My friend from Albuquerque insisted I try the sopapillas (think the beignet of New Mexico) with red chile sauce and honey. (Sounds weird, but it’s delicious.) And the margaritas…yikes! Pony up for the “Silver Coin”—fancy tequila plus Cointreau that's well worth the $11. But imbibers beware! Tequila is even more dangerous at 7,000 feet. Tomasita's, 500 S Guadalupe St. Phone 505-983-5721.

And, last but not least, the quirky yet charming Kakawa Chocolate House where one can find incredible exotic drinking chocolate based on historic recipes from Pre-Columbian Meso America, 17th century Europe and Colonial Mexico.

I took home some of their 1775 Marie Antoinette Chocolate Elixir, which I prepared with both with regular milk and the recommended almond milk. I vote for the almond milk—it really brings out the chocolate’s complex flavors. The cute chocolate ingots (right) make great gifts, too, and are available online. [Laurie brought some back for me and they are indeed as incredible as she describes. And unusual, to boot! - KAB] Kakawa Chocolate House, 1050 E Paseo de Peralta. Phone 505-982-0388.

That’s all I have to report from the field. However, I have one parting suggestion: if you’re going to go in hard for the chiles, I recommend bringing some Pepto Bismol tablets—just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Member of the Press

Want to know what's really going on in Portland? Then get out of downtown and, in the name of all that is holy, eschew the Pearl District. Head out into the neighborhoods and walk the streets around Alberta, Multnomah, Montavilla, Hawthorne, Mississippi or Division to get a curbside view of where real Portlanders eat, shop and live.

The corner of 26th and Clinton, just south of Division and east of a hot little restaurant row near 21st (Vindalho, Nuestra Cocina, Bar Avignon), has been a microcosm of eastside life for at least a quarter century. The Clinton St. Theater on the corner has been showing the Rocky Horror picture show every Saturday night since 1978 and rolls out a roster of indie releases and classics. The retro-cool darkness of Dots Cafe, the homey pizzas and pastas of SubRosa and the brews at Clinton Street Brewing will give you some of the flavor of the corner, but for an all-day metric on street activity you can't beat The Press Club.

Open every day, neighbors gather for their cup o' joe and gossip in the morning, then wander home to let the lunch crowd take over for crepes and sandwiches named after literary types (an Ellison or a Palaniuk, anyone?). At night it turns into a DJ inferno-cum-movie house with alternating evenings of music and classic movies fueled by wine, beer and house cocktails.

The crepes, gorgeously folded envelopes that I'd love to find in my mailbox any day, are more than decent, though don't rise to the imaginative levels found at some local carts. But the quiet sense of being in a real place with real people makes this member of the fourth estate a special spot to spend an hour or two.

Details: The Press Club, 2621 SE Clinton St. Phone 503-233-5656.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Making Squid Sing: An Easy Intro

Squid is a creature I like to order in restaurants, but have never cooked, so this recipe from contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood looked like an easy one to start with. Like Ivy Manning's recipe below, it also uses lacinato kale, one of my favorite greens of all time, and pretty much guarantees I'll like it!

Cleaned squid is fairly cheap (about $5 per pound at New Seasons), but most people can only imagine it deep fried. I like it that way, too, but at home I prefer a longer, slower braising technique. A classic dish from the Tuscan coast around Livorno, inzimino usually includes a quick cooking green like chard, but I think the heartier flavor of cavalo nero (aka lacinato kale) makes it better. This dish doesn’t look like much when it’s done, but it tastes great.

Calamari all’Inzimino

For one bunch of cavalo nero, use about a pound of cleaned squid, an even mix of tubes and tentacles. Leave the tentacles intact, but slice the tubes into rings about a half inch wide.

Chop half an onion, a few garlic cloves and a couple of celery stalks. Cook for a few minutes with a pinch of sea salt in olive oil, then add a bunch of cavalo nero that you cut in a chiffonade (trim the bottom inch off the bundle of leaves, stack 5 or 6 together, roll lengthwise into a tight cylinder, and slice thinly, about a quarter inch; repeat). Add a healthy glug of red wine (roughly a cup), the squid and about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste thinned with a half cup or so of water. [Several recipes I looked at also throw in a cup or so of chickpeas. - KAB]

A nice pinch of red pepper flakes is optional, but really good. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Serve over toasted bread with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. [Polenta (top photo) is also a great accompaniment! - KAB]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Starring Twice-Baked Irish Potatoes (& My Kitchen)

What could I say when my neighbor, cookbook author and writer Ivy Manning, asked to use my kitchen for a video she was making with Rebecca Gerendasy of Cooking Up a Story? Especially when the recipe involved fresh lacinato kale, my new favorite green, picked that morning from Dancing Roots Farm? Let's just say she didn't have to ask twice.

Photo Op: Standing Tall

Eggs from Clare's girls at Big Table Farm.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A la Cart: Garden State Branches Out

Self-satisfied? Maybe even a little smug? No, not the happy mug above, though he does look pretty dang pleased, doesn't he?

It was just a couple of days ago that I caught a glimpse of my reflection and there was definitely a Cheshire-cat grin crossing my face. Not because spring is busting out all over, at least judging by the buds on the daphne in the garden, but because my neighborhood is getting more and more awesome by the day.

The Garden State meatball hero.

Sunday was a particular bellwether because it heralded the opening of the second location of Garden State, Kevin Sandri's temple to the street food of Sicily that has been the toast of the Sellwood neighborhood for the last couple of years. You see, the ever-alert Mr. Sandri heard that there was an opening at Mississippi Marketplace, the brand new cart pod surrounding German beer palace Prost!, and he jumped on it.

The bright'n'shiny new cart!

So his fantastic arancini and the heavenly meatball hero that I've had to drive aaaaaall the way to Sellwood to enjoy is a mere few minutes' stroll away. And he's discovered that he can post his menu on the side of the cart and make changes with the swipe of a Windex-soaked rag. How cool is that?

Oh, and for his Sellwood fans, who have been bereft since his original location there had to be closed (seems like there's an outbreak of crazy-landlord-itis going around), have only to wait a little longer for him to reopen at a location just a hundred or so feet south. (I'll keep you posted!)

Until then, I'll plan on seeing you at his new cart on a regular basis. I'll be the one wearing the big grin!

Details: Garden State at Mississippi Marketplace, 4237 N Mississippi Ave.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eat Something Sexy

Chef and contributor Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans gives us a primer on the truffle.

It’s customary to give your love a box of chocolate truffles to express your feelings, but if you really want to woo her, offer a heart-shaped box of fungus instead. I’m referring, of course, to that elusive and most coveted of mushrooms, the truffle.

A most enigmatic foodstuff, truffles are a source of mystery and lore. They boldly give forth a scent that has lured both man and pig for centuries—a unique, ethereal odor of deep woods and musk that to some is overly-pungent or even repulsive, but there is no denying our fascination with them.

Until quite recently, it was impossible to cultivate truffles with much success. Despite recent revelations in the inoculation process (filbert trees can be inoculated with truffle spores that may then produce truffle “crops”), most truffles in Oregon are still hunted by skilled foragers who search them out, with or without the aid of dogs, in the damp winter orchards and forests of the state. Their prize for hours spent digging in the dirt is the crown jewel of the mushroom world.

Truffle risotto.

Working with Springwater Farm at several farmers' markets, I've come to recognize two distinct sets of shoppers—those in the know about truffles and those that are curious but have no idea what to do with these peculiar savory-scented black and white orbs (that's KAB, excited but puzzled, in the top photo). So I offer you a very basic truffle tutorial:

First: yes, truffles are a luxury, but a more affordable one. Don’t be put off entirely by their price tag. They are lightweight, and each is powerfully perfumed. A little goes a long way. Look for truffles that are dry and have a pleasing scent. A wet truffle is a sign that it is about to go to the dark side, as has a very unpleasant, fetid odor. Truffles do grow underground, so a little earth can be expected. Just shy away from specimens that are caked with dirt – you don’t want to pay a premium for soil.

Second: protect your investment. Use them when they are at their peak. Don’t wait. Remember that dark side I mentioned? Well, they tend to head fast into it once they’ve ripened. If you aren’t ready to use them when they are ready to be used, just chop them up and add them to an amount of softened butter and season with salt. You can then put the truffle butter in the freezer where it will keep for several months.

Roger Konka of Springwater Farm as the truffle fairy.

OK, you’ve found your source, they are ripe and ready, now what the heck do you do with these things? Essentially, they are a finishing ingredient. Shave them over a mushroom risotto or add a lump of truffle butter to good quality fettuccine, then shave a little truffle over the top. Stir chopped truffle into scrambled eggs. Truffles marry well with root vegetables, too. Toss very thin slices of truffle with hot cooked potato and butter or olive oil (or roasted roots such as rutabaga or parsnips), or stir chopped truffle into a cream of sunchoke or celery root soup.

Truffled popcorn is pretty decadent—toss hot popped corn with truffle butter and truffle salt (the salt is made by Norma Cravens when truffles are in season and is available at Springwater Farm). I’ve included a couple of my favorite simple truffle recipes below. Keep in mind that the most common faux pas with these earthy gems is to overheat them. Truffles, though pungent, are delicate beings. Their scent is accentuated by gentle warming, but is quickly destroyed by intense heat.

Chef Kathryn can offer advice and chop at the same time.

Still have truffle questions? I offer sage culinary advice this winter at the Urban Farm Stand on NE 30th and Emerson, one block south of Killingsworth, Saturdays through March 13th from 10 am to 3 pm, and at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sundays at the Springwater Farm booth, where, incidentally, you can find amazing truffles.

Truffled Shirred Egg with Soft Herbs

A shirred egg is a gently baked egg. Truffles and soft herbs make this ordinary egg extraordinary. Serve with a slice of good quality rustic country bread, such as ciabatta.

Butter or truffle butter to coat the baking dish
1 egg
Truffle salt or kosher salt
Truffle (black or white)
A few soft herbs (small leaves of parsley, chervil, tarragon, and small sticks of chive)

Preheat an oven to 350°.

Coat a very small baking dish with butter (the dish should just accommodate the cracked egg). Crack the egg into the dish and season with truffle salt. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the egg is just set (check after 5 minutes, keeping in mind that the egg will take a bit of time to begin cooking, but will then move along quite quickly). Shave a generous amount of truffle over the egg, decorate with herbs and sprinkle with truffle salt.

Truffle Bruschetta
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich

2 thick slices rustic bread (such as ciabatta)
A black or white truffle
1/2 of an anchovy fillet (optional)
Enough butter to blend into the truffle (about 2 Tbsp.), room temperature
Truffle salt or kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lay the bread slices flat on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 4 minutes or so, turn the slices over and toast on the other side for about 4 minutes until they are light gold. Cool on a wire rack.

Brush the truffle clean with a kitchen towel or vegetable brush. With a sharp vegetable peeler, a mandoline or a truffle slicer, shave off about a dozen slices of truffles onto a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Finely chop or grate the rest of the truffle (the fine holes of a box grater work well). Put the butter and anchovy in a mini-food processor and pulse until smooth. Fold in the grated truffle and season with truffle salt.

Spread the butter onto the toasted bread. Garnish with the truffle slices and serve immediately.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quest for Food

Talk about a classic story line. A hapless nobody is innocently minding her own business, stumbles over something in her path, picks it up and ends up on a crazy quest to solve a mystery, usually experiencing some kind of personal transformation in the process. It's kind of like that when I have a great dish in a restaurant and want to recreate it at home. I just can't rest until I get it right, and I'll start checking cookbooks, googling recipes, asking friends.

For awhile now I've been working to perfect a mushroom ragu like the one I used to have at a little Italian café on NE Broadway called Paparazzi. The café is long gone and the owners have since moved on to other projects, but I can't seem to get that ragu out of my head.

A year or so ago I thought I had it, but then forgot to write down the recipe and had to start over. Recently I had a pound or so of mixed mushrooms from Springwater Farm and, instead of making a richer, heavier ragu, I decided to try a white wine version and combine it with pappardelle noodles.

What I ended up with was a light and delicious dish that will sing with the spring vegetables coming into the markets. I'm waiting for the personal transformation part to kick in, but at least it'll tide me over until I get that ragu recipe nailed down.

Wild Mushrooms with Pasta and White Wine Sauce

8 oz. dried pappardelle pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 lb. mushrooms, preferably a mix of kinds, sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or tarragon
1 1/2 tsp. dried aleppo peppers or 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. grated parmesan

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat olive oil in skillet and add garlic. Sauté briefly, making sure it doesn't brown. Quickly add mushrooms and sauté until they begin to wilt. Add dried herbs and peppers and sauté briefly, then add white wine, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Add pasta to pot of boiling water, cook till al dente and drain. Put in serving bowl and top with mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with a little parmesan, reserving the rest of the cheese for sprinkling at the table.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blogging for Food

As a fourth generation Oregonian, I can attest to the fact that people in Oregon work hard. They almost define themselves by their work ethic, by how many generations have been fishers, cattle ranchers, business people. They believe in the intrinsic reward that comes from work.

Hardy people, they're not used to asking for help. Which is why this recession has hit them so hard. Families who are used to being self-sufficient, even during tough times, are losing not only their jobs, but their homes and, worse, their self-respect. It's not easy to look into your children's eyes and see that they're hungry.

Which is where the Oregon Food Bank comes in. They operate a statewide network of 20 regional food banks and 915 agencies and programs serving Oregon and Clark County, Washington. They operate four regional food banks serving the Portland metro area, Washington County, southeast Oregon and Tillamook County that distribute food to more than 340 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs helping low-income individuals in Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah, Washington, Harney, Malheur and Tillamook counties.

In other words, your neighbors and mine, in big cities and small towns all over the state.

Blog for Food is a campaign started last year by Tami Parr of the Pacific Northwest Cheese Blog to fill in during a slow time in the food bank's fundraising year (Feb. 15-Mar. 15, 2010). Dozens of bloggers across the state are asking readers to click to donate whatever they can to help relieve hunger in Oregon. And so we can track your donations and report on how it's going, we're asking that you enter "Blog for Food" in the "Tribute Gift: In honor of:" space on the donation form.

I know that readers of this blog love food, and most probably make good, local food a priority in their budgets. Please consider helping those fellow Oregonians who may not have that luxury. Thanks (in advance) for your help!

Moon Dance

A little dance of love for your Valentine's Day.

Illustration by Chester Gould, creator of the immortal Dick Tracy and many other classic comic book characters. Thanks, KK!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Livin' in the Blurbs: Trees, Farmers & Cheese!

Describing itself as a new "entrepreneurial non-profit organization," Grow Portland is dedicated to the expansion of urban agriculture in the Portland area. During the month of February it is offering five different 90-minute workshops on planting fruit trees. The cost is $40 and includes a fruit tree from their list, with additional trees available for $25 each. The class alone is $20. For more information call David Beller at 503-477-2333.
  • Feb. 20: Classes at 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm at Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, 2500 SE Tacoma St.
  • Feb. 27: Class at 2 pm at Portland Fruit Tree Project, 1912 NE Killingsworth St. A portion of sales will go the Fruit Tree Project.
  • Feb. 28: Classes at 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm at Grow Portland Garden School, 4065 N Mississippi.
* * *

Over the last several months, the folks at Friends of Family Farmers have traveled the state talking to farmers and ranchers about what they need to raise crops and livestock in a responsible and sustainable manner. On February 28th, each of the communities they have visited will send delegates to a meeting at the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis to start building a road map for shaping future food and farming policy in Oregon. They're asking for donations to help with gas and hotel expenses for delegates to this important meeting and, if you're so inclined, you can donate on their website.

* * *

It's time once again for that cheesiest of events, the Oregon Cheese Guild's sixth annual Oregon Cheese Festival on Mar. 20th at Rogue Creamery in Central Point. It will feature a farmers' market-style event that will give festival-goers a chance to meet with some of Oregon and Northern California's premier artisan cheesemakers as well as other artisan producers of meat, chocolate, baked goods and wine. Plus you can purchase edible souvenirs to take home, give as gifts or to savor all by yourself.

Details: Sixth Annual Oregon Cheese Guild Oregon Cheese Festival. Sat., Mar. 20, 10 am-5 pm; $10 admission includes tastings and demonstrations; $5 wine tasting fee includes commemorative glass. Rogue Creamery, 311 N Front St., Central Point.

Truffle Haiku

An ode to a truffle? Too long. A sonnet, perhaps? Or maybe a quatrain would be closer. Better yet…haiku. Seventeen syllables, three lines, unrhymed.

With February heralding the beginning of truffle season, my friends at Springwater Farm decided the proper way to celebrate this subterranean fungal fruit was to hold a haiku contest. Winners were announced yesterday, and now's your chance to vote for the People's Choice Award among the entries.

So scan, analyze or just close your eyes and point at the screen to pick your favorite. Leave a name, the number of your choice in the Comments below, with a reason for your choice if you like. The haiku with the most votes will win a prize for the writer, and winner will be drawn (and a prize awarded) from those who voted for it. Both will be announced at noon on Feb. 20, one week from today, so pick your winner now and check back on Saturday!

1: (Restaurant Haiku)
Holy crap! What's that?!
Walk-in smells overwhelming
Truffles must be here

Your aroma draws me
Beneath tall oak trees
I dig to find you

Small soft clods of soil,
White in the middle, surprise!
Added to dinner.

Truffle jewels bloom
Hidden beneath sturdy Firs
Ruffled morsels' musk

5: (What Happened to The Truffle Pig)
The snout in loam, digs,
nostril-cringe, quiver and bite!
"So we ate the pig."

Earthy redolence
In a bubble-gum shaped ball
Makes my senses sing!

Looks like a pebble
Found hugging a tree root
But worth more than gold.

What amazing luck!
I have found priceless black pearls
Treasures on my tongue.

You said you weren't sure
Then I fed you some truffles
All those years ago

I see overnight
a mushroom grew as quickly
as my love for you

from earth, death decay
spring forth black orbs buttery
give life to my pan

I love mushrooms lots
Into the pot they get tossed
Butter, truffles-yum!

Who can resist you?
Dark, musky, nutty truffle

You might mistake it
For an ordinary stone
Black truffle jewel

I am so sorry
I ate the last black truffle
it was rich, perfect

Alternate dimension
Where truffles taste like they smell
Shampoo like candy

15: (Disappointment Haiku)
Found it while digging
Thought it could be a truffle
But it was a rock

Despite not having
upturned nose nor pot belly
I love those truffles

Out hunting truffles
Didn’t find a gosh-darn thing
Just a nature walk

18: (The Naming Haiku)
shiitake, morel
chanterelle, lobster, yellowfoot
truffles: my favorite

If I stole truffles
You could say I was not nice
But still a fun guy

No matter the smell
funky fresh like ripened feet
tasting of heaven

Your cooking is bad.
Abismal in fact. Even
truffles won’t save you

Savory truffles
So delicious in my mouth
Truffle pig happy

The pig smells like hay
The rain comes and goes away
With truffles to gain

Water-gilled rain-eater
Wearer of the dirt hat and compost cap
Umbrella babies eaten

Not quite wet-sock like
Truffles are better than that
Dirty swamp muck. Sweet.

Mushrooms grow through grass
we hunt for truffles and love
Mushrooms are my love

Black truffles are great!
But I wonder where are the
Philosopher’s stones?

Mushrooms come from ground
Shiitake, morels, weird shapes
Cure my fever, shroom

Would a truffle by
Any other name smell as
Sweet? Sweet love fungus.

Earthy yummy taste
Truffles in food great to eat
oil or salt or plain

Since I completely forgot about doing the drawing last weekend (and I beg your forgiveness), I had Dave draw a name from a hat. The winner of the packet of Springwater Farm's Oregon truffle salt is…wait for it…Margaret, who chose the People's Choice winner, Haiku #7! Please e-mail me your address and I'll get it in the mail. Thanks everyone for entering!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The "L" Word

I have a friend whose son, now in his 20s, will not eat leftovers. He calls them "old food," as in "I don't like old food."

I, on the other hand, have always loved leftovers, though growing up in a family of five (parents, myself, two younger brothers) there wasn't a whole lot left over after dinner, especially when those boys became adolescents. Not that they were grabbing food out of my mouth, mind you, but because I did some of the cooking I made sure to make things they felt were a little questionable. Like straying from their strict "meat and potatoes" regimen and using vegetables and spices, thus assuring myself of plenty to eat plus leftovers. Diabolical, no?

So when I was stuck for something to make for dinner recently, I did what I always do: open the refrigerator door and scan the shelves and bins, looking for inspiration. Kind of like Lynn Rosetto Casper of The Splendid Table does with her "Stump the Cook" segment, where she has to come up with a dish made from five ingredients given to her by a caller.

The five ingredients I found? Chorizo sausage leftover from pizza-making, leftover duck and part of a pork chop from a terrific birthday dinner at Alba Osteria, rice and smoked chicken stock. All I had to do was add some saffron, onions and garlic and I had the makings of a fine paella.

What five ingredients have you used lately to make an inspired dinner? Leave your solutions to this age-old conundrum by clicking on the Comments button below!

Photo of salametto piccante from Fra Mani Handcrafted Salumi. Great product, btw!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More on the Bike Ride

As mentioned below, Ali and Evan Jepson-Dohrmann are a wonderful young couple running their restaurant, The Little Red Bike Cafe, with passion, commitment and love, the kind of people who are doing the right things for the right reasons. They are completely committed to making a living in the neighborhood they live in, and North Portland has reaped the benefits of their presence.

They've also been committed to sharing the experience of starting a business together on their blog, complete with the ups and downs, baring both the heartache and the high points, in an honest and forthright way. (And Evan, I hope you do write that book!) At times it's been painful to read, much less live through, but (cue the "Chariots of Fire" music) they've persevered and overcome and learned lessons.

In their most recent post, they admit that the cafe is at a crossroads, in a situation that is not one they chose. It involves a lease, a landlord and a business, and may require that the cafe moves from the neighborhood they love. And rather than listen to me blather on, read the post for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

Good luck, you two, and know that we're pulling for you! And we know, like cats, you'll land on your feet. No question.

Photo of Evan's hands by Ali of The Little Red Bike Cafe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cruising In to the Bike

It wasn't like we didn't have food in the house. There are always eggs. Or cheese and bread for sandwiches, or rice stir-fried with whatever's left in the vegetable drawer.

But my friends Ali and Evan at the Little Red Bike Cafe had been teasing me for a couple of weeks on their Twitter feed with mouthwatering descriptions of their new dinner menu. So it seemed an opportune time to make a run over there and give it a try.

We pulled up to the tiny café and found it full of happy diners, and Evan told us we could hang out at the window seats and wait a few minutes for a sit-down table. We parked ourselves on the comfortable-enough chairs at the counter, and I ordered a Bloody Mary while Dave got a bottle of Full Sail's Session brew.

Almost everything these two offer is made in-house and sourced as locally as possible, and the love is evident. The Bloody Mary mix is fresh and juicy and, since we're all adults here and know that with Bloody Marys it's all about the condiments, packed with their house pickles that appear as garnishes on most of the plates as well.

Black bean tostadas with house pickles.

And the food is as hearty as it is heart-warming. For instance, my lamb meatloaf was two big slabs of mouthwatering ground lamb, full of comfort and flavor, leaning against a pile of smashed potatoes and a spoonful each of stewed garbanzos and wilted greens, making this a plate to write home about.

Dave's black bean tostadas were just like the ones we'd had in Mazatlan, with slices of perfectly ripe avocado, crunchy greens, zingy beans and…you guessed it…some house-pickled onions. With a side of more of those ubiquitous (and delicious) pickled carrots, cabbage and root veggies.

The Situation isn't normal. But it is delicious!

Mr. B chose The Situation, a meatball sandwich that breaks all the rules by including not only lushly seasoned meatballs and sauce, but bacon, a fried egg and goat cheese inside a ciabatta roll. Luckily he was up to the challenge (he does have a metabolism, unlike his father and I) and even had room for the remainder of my meatloaf. Lucky guy.

Oh, and by the way, we stayed at those window seats even when a table opened up. With a view of the street action outside as well as the kitchen inside, it seemed the perfect spot to share the love.

Details: Little Red Bike Cafe, 4823 North Lombard St. Phone 503-289-0120.

In the "Wouldn't You Know It" department, I finally got the post above done only to find out that on the same day it posted, Ali and Evan decided to put dinner service on hold for the remainder of February (for a complete explanation, read this post on their blog). But despair not! If this has piqued your interest, you can still find them putting out some of the best breakfast and lunch goods Monday through Saturday, 8 am till 2 pm, with a Sunday brunch from 9 am till 2 pm. Dinners should resume in March, and rest assured I'll keep you apprised!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Thoughts On: The Birth of an Orchard

An occasional feature here at GoodStuffNW is "Thoughts On" various topics by Yamhill farmer Chrissie Zaerpoor of Kookoolan Farms. This essay talks about how a farm evolves and changes over time and circumstance.

Our orchard was born out of a storm. The great snowstorm of December 2008 crushed our 30 foot by 100 foot greenhouses under the weight of more than a foot of heavy wet snow. Because it was the second greenhouse we'd lost to winter storms, we decided that Mother Nature must be trying to tell us something. So rather than rebuild the greenhouse, we decided to put in fruit trees, and to put in a gray water recycling system. Without the failure of the greenhouse, we wouldn't have an orchard.

Our orchard was born out of the decision to give up our dairy goats. In late autumn 2008, we decided to focus our raw dairy only on cows' milk and no longer on goats' milk. Some of it was due to the incompatibility of goats with cows, and goats with meat chickens, and some of it was due to our absolute inability to plant crops of any kind due to the presence of the goats, who seem to exist purely for the purpose of continually challenging fences and continually eating trees, flowers, bushes, lettuces, and vegetables of all kinds. Without quitting goats, we wouldn't have an orchard.

Our orchard was born out of the decision to raise fewer Cornish Cross hybrid meat chickens and more heritage breed meat chickens, and to reduce the overall number of meat chickens we produce every year. In 2008 we had too many animals and not enough plants growing on our land, resulting in too much soil fertility (i.e., too much manure) and not enough crops to absorb it. We needed to plant trees and vegetables to keep our land in balance with its animals.

As the trees grow, they will provide shade on the pasture they share with the chickens. Chickens strongly prefer shady pasture over full sun, and they feel more secure having cover overhead to protect them from hawks and owls and other sky-borne predators. The trees will also provide some windfall fruits, which will add vitamins and sugars to the chickens' diet. By eating the windfall fruits, the chickens also protect the trees by acting as fungicides, eating the fruits before they rot, and preventing fruit funguses from taking over the trees. By eating the windfall fruit they also gobble up tree fruit pests that spend their larval stage in the ground, interrupting the pests' life cycle and preventing large-scale infestation.

The chickens benefit from the higher protein in their diet and the presence of the bugs encourages the chickens in their natural behavior of "scratching," which cultivates and aerates the soil, further benefiting the trees. The chickens eat the weeds and mow the grass, reducing the need for tractors and equipment in the orchard, and evenly spreading their own manure all over the orchard, which means that we don't have to come into the orchard on tractors to bring in any additional fertilizers.

We planted 120 fruit trees in spring 2009. About one third of these tree seedlings were pomegranates; the other two-thirds were a wide variety of mostly heirloom variety fruits, including apples (both eating apples and cider apples), pears, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, figs, mulberries, pawpaw, olives and many others. After a couple more years, the orchard will contribute fruit to our CSA vegetable subscription program, as well as providing a bountiful source of fermentable fruits for our new winery and meadery. We're also looking forward a few years from now to having fruitwood prunings to use for smoking our own bacon, poultry, and cheeses.

One of the things we are most proud of on our little farm is that we recycle and compost virtually all wastes produced on our farm. All of our animal manures and solid wastes are composted, and the compost is used in our CSA garden. We have never bought any fertilizer or compost. And we are thrilled with our gray water recycling program, which takes our used process water from slaughterhouse, milking parlor, and winery and pumps it up to be recycled as fertilizer for our orchard, arborvitae perimeter trees and pasture.

Monday, February 08, 2010

In Season NW: First Appearance

You gotta give credit to the first person to gather and then figure out how to eat stinging nettles. Granted, they must have looked appetizing, the bright green leaves and fleshy stems poking up out of the cold ground on those ancient early spring days. But one unprotected encounter with them, as with any vicious beast, would be enough to kill anyone's appetite for subsequent meetings.

Stinging nettles.

Last year was the first time I'd tried cooking with them, and the Spring Leek and Nettle Tart I made as an appetizer was a big hit. Then recently my friend Hank Shaw wrote about his quest to conquer this challenging herb, and inspired me to go at it again.

The unrolled, flattened roast.

It didn't hurt that Dave had indicated his desire to smoke some pork in the near future, and I'd bought a couple of bags of nettles from the Urban Farm Market the day before. So a quick trip to the store for my current favorite budget cut, a boneless pork leg roast, had us prepping a nettle pesto stuffing for it to go on the grill that very night. (See also my recipe for Stuffed Pork Leg Roast with Kale and Pine Nuts.)

Stuffed, rolled and tied (just like the rodeo).

A side dish of papardelle with wild mushrooms and this was one early spring dinner that was thankfully painless and, at the same time, very hard to beat.

Pork Leg Roast with Nettle Pesto Stuffing

For the pesto:
2 c. nettles (remember to wear heavy gloves when handling the fresh herb)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 c. fine bread crumbs
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. parmesan, finely grated
Salt to taste

For the roast:
3-lb. pork leg roast
Butcher's twine

Bring a medium-sized pot of salted water to boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Wearing heavy gloves to prevent nettles from stinging, add them to the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, then, using tongs or slotted spoon, remove them from the pot and plunge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and fix the color.

Remove nettles from the ice water with tongs and drain in a colander. Remove any large stems (you should be able to handle them with bare hands at this point), keeping the tender stalks and leaves. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and twist it tightly to remove all the water.

Put nettles, garlic, pine nuts and bread crumbs in bowl of food processor. With processor running, drizzle in olive oil and process till smooth, adding more olive oil if needed. Put nettle mixture into medium mixing bowl and add parmesan, stirring to combine. Add salt to taste.

Clip strings tying pork roast and unroll. If it's not an even thickness, use a sharp knife to make shallow cuts so it unrolls completely and becomes one even slab (see photo above). Reserving 1/4 c. of pesto, spread the nettle pesto over the interior surface of meat. Reroll and tie tightly with butcher's twine. Rub reserved pesto on outside of roast.

Grill over indirect heat until internal temperature reaches 125-130° (approx. 1 hour), then remove to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. (Other recipes call for an internal temperature of 155°, but we find that the meat tends to be overcooked and dry at that temperature.) You can also roast this in the oven at 350° for 1 1/2 hrs. or so until it reaches the same internal temperature.

Market in the Making

"And up from the ground came a bubblin' crude…"
- Theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies

Like when Jed Clampett was shootin' at some food, Roger Konka and Norma Cravens saw an empty lot just off a nascent restaurant row on Northeast Killingsworth and what bubbled up before their eyes was a spot where they could sell their bounty of wild and cultivated mushrooms. A weed-covered emptiness, the lot was owned by a friend of Roger's. Of course, it didn't hurt that it was right across the street from Beast, perennially named one of Portland's best restaurants, and just down the block from Yakuza Lounge, Fats pub, Autentica, DOC and funky breakfast spot Cup and Saucer.

An instant hit, it didn't hurt that chef (and GSNW contributor) Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans (left) was dishing out samples of her crazy cream of mushroom soup, along with a rotating cast that included her bean stews, polenta with lamb and a heavenly apple crisp. (Try walking by that without stopping on a chilly Saturday. I dare you.)

Then, within a week they were joined by Hood River's Draper Girls, selling not only their signature fruit, but fresh-pressed cider, dried beans, pork and lamb. And just last week Nancy Chandlers' hugely popular Alsea Acre Goat Cheese joined them with her nearly impossible-to-resist herbed cheese spreads.

Apparently other vendors are clamoring to join them, so this little market may be going viral. I'll keep you posted on what bubbles up next.

Details: Urban Farm Market. Saturdays, 10 am-3 pm. NE 30th and Emerson, 1 block south of Killingsworth.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Asian Inflection

In an alternate universe, my comfort food of choice would be kimchi, made the way my mother learned it from her mother and aged the way it had been for generations in big clay urns on the roof of our house. Or maybe the tastes I crave would be fish sauce-tinged, burning with the heat of the little hot peppers my father grew in his garden outside our front door, the seeds brought from his mother's garden in her village in the mountains.

This particular fantasy assumes that there would be culinary skills passed down to me from my (imaginary) mother or grandmother, recipes peculiar to her village or region. But, alas, my white bread mid-century upbringing brought with it a knowledge of potato-chip crusted tuna casserole and pot roast rather than Bun Tom Thit Nurong. Sigh.

Browning the meat in the spices.

So I, like Blanche DuBois, am left to the kindness of strangers when I need my Asian fix, in this case the estimable skills of Mark Bittman, himself the child of Jewish parents who has moved beyond the borders of that cuisine to adopt those of other cultures. His coconut braised beef, for example, first published in 2005 and then again just a week or so ago, is a brilliant adaptation for braised chuck roast with a Thai twist. Its inclusion of chiles, lime zest, coconut milk, garlic and ginger is as near as I've come to the real thing, made from ingredients I usually have available.

Maybe it's time to sign up for that cooking class in Vietnam. What do you think?

Coconut Braised Beef
Adapted from Mark Bittman, The New York Times' The Minimalist

2 hot dried red chilies
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2" piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbps. chili powder (I used 1 dried aci sivri pepper)
1/4-1/2 tsp. fish sauce
Juice and zest of 2 limes, or 2 Tbsp. rice or other mild vinegar
2 Tbsp. canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 lbs. beef, preferably chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 c. coconut milk (or 1 can, about 1 1/2 cups, plus 1/2 cup water)
Salt to taste

Put chiles, garlic, ginger, chili powder, fish sauce, lime juice and zest in bowl of a food processor, and process until everything is minced, or mince by hand and combine.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet that can later be covered. Add spice paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and covered with sauce.

Pour in coconut milk, and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer, stirring only occasionally (but making sure mixture is simmering very slowly, with just a few bubbles at a time breaking the surface) until meat is extremely tender, at least an hour and possibly closer to 2.

Uncover and cook until sauce is very thick and caramel-colored, stirring frequently so it does not brown. Season to taste with salt, and serve with white rice.

Farm Bulletin: Year of the Rutabaga

In this installment of the Farm Bulletin, contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm shares a recipe for this ubiquitous winter vegetable. Find them both at the twice-a-month Sunday Hillsdale Farmers' Market.

This has been the year of the rutabaga. The white rutabaga is delicious raw as well as cooked. Our friend Katherine Deumling of Cook With What You Have provided us with the following recipe.

Winter Slaw

This “slaw” was a true “cook with what you have” invention the day of class upon discovering that there was no chard or collard greens at the farmers’ market (for the above-mentioned recipes). There were beautiful cabbages, rutabagas and carrots. Quantities are definitely approximations and please feel free to substitute other veggies or omit certain ones. Turnips instead of rutabagas, etc.

For the slaw:
1/2 small to medium green cabbage (red would be fine too)
2 medium carrots
1/2 very large rutabaga or several small ones
2-3 greens onions (scallions), thinly sliced
Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1–2 tsp. Ground cumin
Pinch of chili flakes
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Thinly slice the cabbage, grate the carrots and rutabaga and put in large salad bowl. Add scallions and cilantro. Mix all dressing ingredients well and pour over vegetables. Mix well. Let rest for 20 minutes to 1 hour to soften the vegetables and let flavors meld. Adjust seasoning.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Coffee Joint

Buying a cup of coffee in this town is getting complicated. Not in a split-shot-grande-vanilla-no-foam-latte way, but the "Do you want your espresso pulled with the Kenya Gatomboya by Stumptown or the Nueva Granada El Salvador by Barefoot?" kind of complicated.

Barista was opened by Albina Press founder Billy Wilson as a place for Portlanders who are passionate about their brew to experience the best coffees the country has to offer. To that end, he carries coffees from his mentor Duane Sorenson's Stumptown, and other nationally noted roasters like Intelligentsia, Ecco, Verve, Metropolis and Barefoot.

You can get your vanilla latte, sure, but you can also get a cup made in a French press maker or, for $8 to $10, made in halogen-heated vacuum pots (right), requiring a very mad scientist's laboratory process that will appeal to equipment geeks.

The folks who frequent this temple to small-batch specialty caffeine delivery systems tend to speak in hushed tones as they consult with the barista who is making (I almost want to say consecrating) their coffee, then go to sit at the scattered tables in the lobby of the office building it occupies or, in nice weather, on the loading dock outside.

The tone is serious, yes, but that's the way these guys feel about their craft. And I've got to give them props, since their attention to the quality definitely shines through.

Details: Barista, 539 NW 13th Ave. between Glisan and Hoyt.

Thanks to those who noticed my reference to "Alberta Press" instead of "Albina Press." Editing your own copy? Hard!

Looks Like Spring

Oh, to be a chicken and know that spring is on the way!

My friend Clare at Big Table Farm told me that her chickens were laying more eggs now that spring was on the way and they were finding plenty of bugs and other crawly things to eat in their pasture. And because those happy chickens were laying lots of eggs, she had plenty to spare…would I like some?

Who am I to turn down these delicious and gorgeous treasures? She sent a couple dozen into town with her friend Michael from Storyteller Wine, and said there will be lots more next week. Looks like it's time to make a soufflé!

To find out more about how much work Clare puts into her chickens (and thus their eggs), read this post about the chickens, and check out her blog about farm life in Oregon.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What Are You Waiting For?

So…what are you waiting for?

Thanks to Michel for finding this.

Don't Call It Vegan

There's something about the term "vegan" that really rubs people the wrong way. It has a certain holier-than-thou tone to it, as if all other foods, the ones most of us eat, have been declared unclean.

Even worse, the foods deemed worthy of consumption have a reputation for being dull and flavorless. Think tofu, brown rice or rutabagas. Then there are the foods that try to mimic cheese or bacon or turkey and fall pathetically short. Which makes the vegetarian diets of yore look positively lush by comparison.

But you don't have to take a lemons-into-lemonade, turn-that-frown-upside-down attitude to switch your thinking around to what you can have instead of what you can't. Think of the intense flavors we love: heat, spice, sweet. All perfectly fit a vegan diet. Then there are the fats: olive oil, sesame oil and nuts spring to mind. And the great flavors of legumes, fresh greens, squash, garlic, mushrooms. Makes you think, right?

So when I saw the following recipe in John Ash's book From the Earth to the Table,it looked like a tasty new pasta recipe using pesto, cauliflower, pasta and beans. Not some wacky vegan food-like substance. Try it sometime when you're craving a flavor-packed, hearty dinner. You'll be surprised when you don't feel like you've done without.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Parsley Pesto
Adapted from John Ash's From the Earth to the Table

For the pesto:
4 c. packed fresh parsley leaves
4-5 cloves garlic, fresh or roasted
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, fresh or toasted
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt to taste

For the pasta:
1 med. cauliflower
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. rigatoni, penne or other pasta
3/4 c. kalamata olives
1 c. cannellini, borlotti or other beans, cooked
Mint sprigs for garnish

Put parsley, garlic and pine nuts in bowl of food processor. While processing, drizzle in olive oil until smooth. Empty processor into medium-sized bowl and add rest of ingredients. Combine.

Preheat oven to 350°. Break cauliflower into 1" pieces and place in large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Empty into 9" by 12" roasting pan and place in oven for 30-40 minutes until nicely browned.

While cauliflower is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When cauliflower is almost done, put pasta on to cook until just al dente. Drain and put in large serving bowl, adding pesto, roasted cauliflower, olives and beans. Mix. Serve garnished with chopped mint leaves.

* You can also add 1/4 c. parmesan to the pesto, and served grated parmesan at the table for sprinkling.