Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween Indeed!

Some people, honestly. Luring me to their home the night before Halloween with a menu of "Corpse Revivers, Monkey Glands, Satan's Whiskers or some other appropriately named cocktail," when I arrived the dining room table was covered in newspaper and topped with a dozen pumpkins and squashes of varying sizes. Various implements of destruction were also on display, including power tools. Before I could skedaddle the heck out of there, though, a Monkey Gland was shoved into my hand. I left several hours later, two pumpkins to my credit. Thanks, K & D!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scary Halloween Cocktail

"One Corpse Reviver recipe was entered by name in a little British tome titled 'Drinks of All Kinds' in 1895, and by Prohibition there were perhaps four or five examples of them. Of my favorite, the #2, Savoy barman Harry Craddock cautioned, 'Four taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.' Personally, I can't imagine drinking these in the morning, but then, no one has asked."

Originally formulated as a hangover cure, Haigh writes that Corpse Revivers were a class of drink rather than a single recipe. (Think "hair of the dog.")

Bright and citrusy, with the edges smoothed by Cointreau and Lillet (one of my favorite bath time-with-ice-and-a-twist liqueurs), this is a simple pre-dinner cocktail to make, and would easily adapt to pitcher proportions for a party.

For Halloween batches, a maraschino cherry is the perfect drop of blood in the bottom of the glass, but for everyday drinking we prefer amarena cherries for their more complex, and less artificial, flavor.

Corpse Reviver #2

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1-3 drops (not dashes) absinthe or pastis (Pernod, Herbsaint and Ricard all will work)

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Drop a stemless cherry into the bottom of the glass.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cook It Forward

Like a lot of us, most days contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood doesn't have scads of time to spend cooking an elaborate dinner. Rather than reaching for convenience foods, though, he takes a little time on the weekends to "cook it forward," that is, to make up a big batch of staples for the week ahead.

Beans, Rice, Greens, Eggs

Much as I like to cook, I don’t have time to spend an hour or more every evening making good food. But when I do, I make enough to keep the refrigerator stocked with some basic leftovers. I cook a pot of beans at least once a week, make more rice than we’ll need for a single meal, and buy hearty greens like collards or cavalo nero in multiples of two. Nights I need a quick dinner, I combine them and top with a fried egg. The runny yolk mixes with the cooking liquid from the beans and greens, and the rice soaks it all up. It’s one of my favorite things to eat.

I cook the Haricot Farms Rojo Chiquito beans in the oven, and I don’t soak them first. In an oven-proof pot with a lid combine the beans with about three times as much water, a healthy pinch of sea salt, and at least a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Cook at 250° until tender, usually about 3 hours, sometimes longer. Check occasionally and add more water to keep the beans covered. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Make a big batch of Kokuho Rose brown rice (at least a couple of cups of uncooked rice) using the admittingly complicated soak, cook, rest, fluff, and rest technique. Measure the water (1 3/4 cup for each cup of rice), and let the rice soak in it for 20 minutes. Cook in your rice cooker or on the stovetop, and when the cooker switches to warm mode, pull the plug (stovetop: cook on very low for 30 minutes, check to see if the water’s cooked off, turn off heat when rice is dry). Let the rice rest with the lid on for 20 minutes, fluff it with a fork or your rice paddle, cover it back up and let rest for another 5-10 minutes. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Chop an onion and cook in extra virgin olive oil with a little salt for a few minutes. Chiffonade a couple of bunches of collards or cavalo nero (roll several leaves together into a tight cylinder, slice about half inch, repeat for rest of leaves). Add to onions with about a half cup of water. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 30-40 minutes. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

A few days later, put a big scoop of rice in a bowl, top with some beans and greens. Heat in the microwave (microwave haters can warm their leftovers on the stovetop or in the oven). Fry an egg in extra virgin olive oil; slide it out of the skillet into the rice, beans, and greens. Drizzle with a little more oil, sprinkle with flor de sal, splash on some Crystal if you want, and serve with a piece of toast.

You can find Jim peddling his plethora of grains, beans, Italian olive oils and salts at the Portland Farmers Market in the PSU Park Blocks downtown the next few Saturdays (9/25, 10/23, 11/20 and 12/18). He's at his Activspace warehouse store most Mondays from 5-7 pm. Address is 833 SE Main, number 122.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Halloween is all about walking up to strangers' houses and begging them for goodies. And we send out children from toddlers to teens to do it. But as adults many of us are terrified to walk into a strangers' house even if it means there's going to be an evening of awesome music ahead.

If you've heard about "house concerts," where someone hosts a concert in their home for a minimal charge with most of the proceeds going to the musician(s), but you're not sure you can get into that kid-on-Halloween mental state, I've got the perfect gateway concert. My friend Bob Smith and his gracious wife Chris are hosting Nashville musician and former Portlander Craig Carothers at their lovely Mt. Tabor home. Craig will be presenting an evening of songs, satire and general merriment and, having seen Craig at their home before, I can guarantee you'll have a great time. If you're feeling social, you'll also meet a bunch of really nice folks.

You might just find it as much of a rush as that Halloween candy used to be.

Details: Tabor Neighbor House Concerts presents Craig Carothers. Sat., Nov. 13; Door 7 pm, music 7:30 pm; $15, reservation required via e-mail.

Bittman's Bite

As much as I love staying at home, tapping away on my laptop on the kitchen counter, padding around to warm up some coffee in the microwave, tripping over a Corgi or two on the way there, I sometimes find it instructional to get out of the house once in awhile. Not by attending a class, mind you, but by putting myself in an unfamiliar situation to see what happens.

Like going with a friend who's a dog breeder into the backstage "Best in Show" world of professional dog shows. Or spending a couple of days helping sort grapes at a winery. Or, like last night, attending a book reading/talk at Powell's downtown. Of course, the person doing the talking was Mark Bittman, columnist for the New York Times Dining section, author of several cookbooks and at least one book, Food Matters,about our broken food system.

He presented himself exactly the way he comes across in his writing and his videos—laid back, plainspoken yet thoughtful and funny in an off-the-cuff sort of way. His topic these days is that broken food system and, in his opinion, that people have forgotten how to cook. That in the post-war 50s our food system was taken over by industrialized agriculture, which promoted the idea of modern convenience foods, making "old-fashioned" cooking with simple ingredients look like way more work than it should be.

Part of his solution to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes is to start teaching people how to cook again, using simple ingredients readily available, what he termed "a new CCC—Civilian Cooking Corps." And while he said that some of the changes need to be made on a national level, involving dislodging entrenched interests, he feels many changes can be made on a local level in our own communities.

Granted, none of what he said was new or startling. But the fact that a journalist at his level is championing the cause of good food and health is a positive sign, one that made me glad I ventured outside of my comfort zone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Livin' in the Blurbs: Holidays and the Harvest Season

Though it's hard to believe, Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and to me that means it's time to think about what's going to be served at my holiday table. And because we're at the height of harvest time at most area farmers' markets, that means an opportunity to pick up the squash and brussels sprouts I'll be needing for the occasion. The Beaverton Farmers' Market will be open for the next three Saturdays, with a special Halloween Market on Oct. 30, with a children's activity tent and the promise of more pumpkins than you've likely ever seen in one place. A Harvest Market will mark the end of the season on Saturday, Nov. 20, with your best chance to get the freshest produce from local farmers and holiday trimmings to set the stage. Check your local market's website to find out what it has planned for the holidays!

* * *

And speaking of the good things that will grace your table and fill your family's bellies, Chrissie at Kookoolan Farms has alerted me that she has just sealed a deal for 50 additional Bronze heritage breed and White Broadbreasted turkeys for the holidays. "All of our turkeys have been truly free-ranged," Chrissie said. "The heritage turkeys are genetically similar to wild turkeys and actually roost up in the trees.  The broad-breasted turkeys are not able to fly, but have plenty of grass pasture to roam around on and enjoy." So if you're interested, e-mail quickly to reserve your bird, because they'll be going fast.

Details: Turkeys from Kookoolan Farms. $25 deposit required; e-mail or call 503-730-7535. Pickup is either at the Hillsdale Farmer's Market on Sun., Nov. 21, or at the farm store in Yamhill on Mon. or Tues., Nov. 22 or 23.

* * *

As the larger metropolitan area, Portland hogs most of the food limelight, sucking the lion's share of the attention that should be shared with our neighbor to the north. Vancouver and environs are quickly stepping up to the plate, though, with several new restaurants, some great farmers' markets and a plethora of CSAs popping up in the last year. You can both support and enjoy the fruits of all this activity at the Seasonal Feast, a celebration of Urban Abundance's first harvest of Vancouver's Urban Orchard, on Nov. 12. Sponsored by Slow Food Southwest WA, Urban Abundance and LOCALS, the three-course dinner is only $25. So make your reservation and find out what's going on right next door.

Details: Seasonal Feast, a three-course dinner celebrating Urban Abundance. Fri., Nov. 12; seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 pm; $25, reservations required. Dinner at Paper Tiger, 703 Grand Blvd., Vancouver. Phone 360-771-1296 for information and reservations.

Grape Harvest: Working the Line

The French call it vendange, and if you've been anywhere near Oregon's wine country in the last couple of weeks, the number of trucks clogging the two-lane highways, their beds filled with bins of grapes headed to the wineries, will tell you it's harvest time in the Willamette Valley.

Brian and Clare giving the grapes the hairy eyeball.

The weather, as everywhere in the Northwest, has been unpredictable and tending toward disastrous, with cool temperatures in the summer months leading up to what looked like an early, and very rainy, fall. Which would have spelled calamity for Oregon's wine industry, since the fruit wouldn't have had a chance to develop the flavor that time and sunlight bring. Luckily, though, the sun came back for a few wonderful weeks of Indian summer, warming the grapes enough for a decent and, some might optimistically say, even a possibly promising vintage.

Bird damage has been particularly bad this year.

My friends Clare and Brian of Big Table Farm in Gaston buy their grapes from six different vineyards, using the facilities at Coelho Winery, where Brian is the winemaker, to make wines under the Big Table label. The first part of making the wine involves sorting the grapes, culling out clusters that are moldy, that have dried, raisin-like clumps or, particularly this year, "bird damage" or clusters that lost their sweetest grapes to flocks of birds.

Clare and St. Lester.

Brian, like most winemakers, practically lives at the winery during the harvest for the several weeks it takes to bring in and begin making the wine. Many wineries hire people to help sort the grapes, but when you're operating on a shoestring like Big Table does, friends and volunteers often fill those slots.

Clare loving on her grapes.

So for two days last week I (gladly) played harvest slave, driving from Portland down to Amity, a trip of a little over an hour, to help sort through the grapes that will make up the bulk of Big Table Farm's 2011 vintage. Thursday was a fairly easy day, with only a few bins of fruit to cull, which was lucky for me since I had no idea what I was doing.

Raking grapes onto the sorting belt.

Mostly it involved standing next to a conveyor belt as Brian used a forklift to load a bin of fruit onto a machine that would tip it enough for Clare to rake it onto the belt (not too little, not too much). With the fruit passing by way too fast for my undiscerning eye, I would try to pick out the obviously damaged fruit and hope that the others (Brian, Clare and their friend, Lester) would get the rest.

Gorgeous pinot grapes from Cattrall Brothers vineyard.

Friday looked like it was going to be a killer day, with fruit from three vineyards to go through, so I volunteered to come back and help, making a grand total of four of us working through what turned out to be 5 1/2 tons of grapes (that's 11,000 pounds, folks). Another friend, Sarah, joined us in the afternoon to lend a welcome hand, but it was still a mind-boggling amount when we added it up at the end of the day.

Clare cleaning…

One thing I learned was that, in addition to picking and sorting the grapes and making the wine, a lot of time is spent cleaning the equipment between lots and at the beginning and end of the day. Sometimes it involves simply hosing off the belts and machinery with power sprayers, but then other times also means cleaning them with three different solutions: TSP, citric acid to neutralize the TSP and then a final cleaning with iodine and a rinse with water.

…and cleaning some more.

In the middle of the day we broke for lunch, traditionally a large meal for the whole crew, so about twelve of us…our crew and the Coelho team…gathered around a table in the yard for a meal of French dip sandwiches made from grilled tri-tip, fresh French bread and a delicious jus, along with corn on the cob from Big Table. A bottle or two of Coelho rosé was opened and consumed, but only enough to grease the skids for the long afternoon of sorting that lay ahead.

We finished the gorgeous pinot noir grapes from the Cattrall Brothers vineyard, their deep blue, dusky fruit almost perfect and needing very little culling (top photo).  Then we dove into the grapes from a new vineyard for Big Table, albeit one of the oldest pinot vineyards in Oregon, planted in the 60s, neglected in recent decades and recently rejuvenated. It took quite a bit more work to sort, but the grapes had a deep, full and intriguing flavor. They will definitely take some delicate handling, but it'll be fascinating to taste what the wine will be like under Brian's care in future vintages.

Pinot gris in solid form.

Next up were the pinot gris grapes from the same vineyard, perfect pinkish clusters that glowed in the afternoon light and were, again, very easy to sort. As we were finishing, another load of pinot grapes arrived, but would be held for the next day's sorting. After cleaning the equipment, I was glad to fold my tired self into Chili and head for home and a shower with a newfound respect for the work that goes into that glass of wine I so casually consume in the evening.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Boulevardier

You gotta love a place like Bar Avignon, and people like owners Randy Goodman and Nancy Hunt, whose tag line is "Drinking is fun!" No equivocating, no apologies, just a simple statement of fact. Because we're all adults here and we know about drinking responsibly and behaving like civilized human beings.

And I am in complete accord with them concerning the agreeable, possibly even medicinal, properties of the consumption of moderate quantities of alcohol. One beverage in particular, the Manhattan, has been added to our house cocktail list. It's primary ingredient, bourbon, was on my "I gotta have more of that" list, with its caramel color and smell and smooth, honey-like feel going down. So when our neighbor made a batch one night, substituting an insidiously addictive amarena cherry for the usual maraschino, I was hooked.

Then Dave, in perusing "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails"by Ted Haigh, ran across a recipe for the Boulevardier, which had itself first appeared in print in 1927's classic "Barflies and Cocktails"by Harry McElhone. Basically, as I see it, a Manhattan with Campari or, as Haigh says, a Negroni with bourbon, Haigh writes "it was the signature drink of Erskine Gwynne, expatriate writer, socialite, and nephew of railroad tycoon Alfred Vanderbuilt." It was from Gwynne, according to Haigh, that the cocktail likely got it's name, which translates roughly as "man about town."

The Boulevardier
From "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails"by Ted Haigh

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Haigh recommends trying Carpano Antica)

Stir long and well with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry. (We highly recommend Italian amarena cherries, available at many specialty food stores.)

Speak Your Mind

Special occasions in most families mean celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. But around here we also include elections. In the past we'd go out to breakfast after casting ballots at our neighborhood precinct, being greeted (and sometimes grilled) by a panel of elderly neighbors who would patiently show new voters the ropes and check signatures in the holy precinct book.

In this day of mail-in ballots, we sit down around the dining room table and pull out the voters' guide, spending a few minutes bubbling in our choices, looking up (and arguing about) the various issues and discussing which candidate has the worst photo. As a reward for all of this hard work participating in our democratic system, we toast our wisdom with a celebratory cocktail or a nice glass of red.

If you or your family have a voting tradition, please share it in the comments below. But above all be sure to vote and get your ballot in by Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Falling into Winter

Playing in the leaves while we're trying to rake them isn't the most helpful activity, but who can resist a Corgi's exuberance in the moment? (Walker did eventually settle down long enough to catch this.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

In his cookbook "Vegan Soul Kitchen,"author Bryant Terry not only featured some kick-ass recipes, but also accompanied each one with a music suggestion. In the same way, contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood was inspired recently by the music of his beloved New Orleans.

Local winter squash are plentiful these days, another reminder that what we called summer this year is definitely over. While I love the sweetness of delicatas, and the obscure heirloom varieties have their charms, plain old butternut remains my favorite. The smooth skin comes off nicely with a swivel peeler, the seeds are fewer and easy to get at, and they offer more edible flesh per pound than most other winter squash.

I usually make zucca agrodule, an Italian style sweet and sour technique that’s easy and delicious. But I’d been listening to the Rebirth Brass Band (left) and was feeling New Orleans, so I experimented a little. The results were good, even better with some red beans and rice alongside.

Cajun Butternut Squash

Chop an onion and start cooking it in extra virgin olive oil. Add a couple of stalks of diced celery and a diced green pepper. If you like a little heat, add a diced jalapeno, too. Toss in a little salt and cook for abut 10 minutes.

While that’s cooking, peel, seed and cube a butternut squash. You want pieces about a half inch square, but don’t worry about perfection. I peel the squash, split it lengthwise, scoop put the seeds, then lay it cut side down and slice. Stack a few slices at a time and cut them into roughly square chunks.

Add the squash to pan and sprinkle with a generous dose of your favorite Cajun spice blend (or make one with roughly equal parts of black pepper and paprika, about half as much thyme, and chili powder to your heat tolerance). Cook this for 15 minutes over medium heat, then pour in some Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar (maybe 1/4 cup). Cover, reduce the heat, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Monday, October 18, 2010


"The farm is more than just land to us. It represents a type of 'sacred ground.' Nurturing this ground through natural and responsible farming practices is second nature to us." - Tim Vincent

I couldn't resist posting this photo of the cranberry harvest at Vincent Family Cranberries in Bandon, Oregon. You've probably seen their dried cranberries and cranberry juices at local markets recently, the result of a big risk taken by this third-generation family business.

Tim's grandfather and grandmother pressing juice in the 1950s.

Low prices for fresh cranberries, caused by the commoditization of the market over the last few years, had driven many of Oregon's small cranberry farmers out of business. Not willing to give up without a fight, Tim Vincent decided to risk everything on producing his own dried berries and juices, selling them first at local farmers' markets, refining their juice drink flavors with guidance from customer feedback.

Will it work? Time will tell, but Tim and his family are convinced that their homegrown, sustainable approach will resonate with customers. Made with just cranberry juice, water and raw organic agave from Glory Bee Foods in Eugene, the juices are bottled in Dundee. Even the labels were part of their considerations, and they ended up printing them on paper from sustainably harvested bamboo.

With that kind of dedication and attention to detail, I think they'll do just fine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

End of a Summer Affair

I think it's finally played itself out and, frankly, it came just in time. Tomato season, delayed as it was, had built up the kind of frustration normally only seen on series TV. Remember Diane and Sam on Cheers? How about Niles and Daphne on Frasier? And, it goes without saying, Next Gen's Picard and Riker. Talk about heat!

But, as with all torrid affairs, the tidal wave of passionate paroxysms passed, leaving piles of fruit still needing attention, if only to rid the kitchen of the fruit flies attracted by the heat of the moment. Even with the freezer filled up with sauce, and some cherry tomatoes dried in the oven, there was a pile of slicers on the counter that were getting dangerously close to composting before my eyes.

That's when I saw a recipe for a tomato cobbler on Mark Bittman's website. (I swear I'm not stalking him. Really.) And, in a sign from the deity if ever there was one, it turned out that the recipe called for exactly the number of tomatoes I had and all of the other ingredients were in the pantry, so no trip to the store was required.

Basically the same concept as a chicken pot pie only using tomatoes, it's a brilliant idea and one that would lend itself to a multitude of fillings and variations on the crust. Which is a nice way to remember a summer romance, don't you think?

Tomato Cobbler
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarianby Mark Bittman

For the filling:
3 lbs. tomatoes (8-10 med.), roughly chopped (a combination of colors is gorgeous)
1 c. sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crust:

1-1 1/2 c. flour, plus more for rolling out dough

1 c. cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, frozen, cut into large pieces
1 egg, beaten

3/4 c. buttermilk or milk
1 c. sharp cheddar, grated, optional
1 c. corn kernels, optional

Preheat the oven to 375˚.

Put the tomatoes and sundried tomatoes (if using) in a 9" by 12" baking dish and sprinkle with the cornstarch and some salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Put the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter or margarine and pulse a few times until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs. Add the egg and buttermilk and pulse a few times more, until the mixture comes together in a ball. If the mixture doesn’t come together, add a spoonful or two of flour. If the mixture is too dry, add a few drops of buttermilk.

Turn out dough onto floured board. Mix in cheese and corn (if using) by hand, flattening and shaping into the approximate size of the baking dish. Place on top of tomatoes. You can also drop spoonfuls of the batter on top and smooth a bit with a knife. Bake 45-50 minutes, until golden on top and bubbly underneath. Cool to just barely warm or room temperature. To serve, scoop servings out with a large spoon.

Great Gifting: Classic Design

You no doubt already know about the powerful and sometimes whimsical work of Charles and Ray Eames (above), the husband-wife team who did so much to promote the ethic of humanistic modernism in the middle of the 20th Century. Known for their groundbreaking work in furniture design, architecture, industrial design and photographic arts, they were at the epicenter of the post-war changes that were taking place in this country.

Among the first to take a multidisciplinary approach to design, they created more than one hundred short films between 1950 and 1962. A curated selection of 35 of their most famous films have been collected in a six-volume set, including the amazing Powers of Ten. To quote one review: "Thought provoking, inspirational, beautiful and poetic, the films featured in this collection reveal their full creative vision." Having seen many of them myself, I can heartily agree. Available at Canoe, a design store downtown (or by ordering online at their website), this is a great gift for the design or film buff in your house.

Also at Canoe is another Eames classic, their House of Cards. Created in 1952, each card has a different image of what the designers called the "good stuff," that is, "familiar and nostalgic images from the animal, mineral, and vegetable kingdoms." With six slots in each card, they can be stacked in an infinite variety of ways to create structures that are sometimes startling and always thought-provoking. It's available in two sizes, the smaller one being a perfect stocking stuffer.

Details: Canoe, 1136 SW Alder. Phone 503-889-8545.

Check out the other gift suggestions in the series: Book by Book, Class Acts, Not Dead Yet! (food magazines you'll love) and Giving From the Heart.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Livin' in the Blurbs: Dedication to a Cause

One of the things that gives me hope, and sometimes makes me shake my head in disbelief, is the dedication that some people have to making their city a healthier, more equitable place to live. Some of those people can be found at Zenger Farm, a working urban farm in southeast Portland that serves as an educational center and model for a sustainable, environmentally responsible food system. They are holding their 3rd Annual Farm to Table Fundraiser on October 22, with a four-course, chef-prepared dinner of food from their farm along with locally made wine and microbrews. I can't imagine a better way to start making a change in our food system, and have a great meal to boot!

Details: 3rd Annual Farm to Table Fundraiser. Fri., Oct. 22, 6 pm; $100 ticket, available online. Dinner held at University of Portland's University Commons, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Phone 503-282-4245 for information.

* * *

And talk about dedication: Harry MacCormack of Sunbow Farm in Corvallis has started the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project to, get this, "rebuild the local food system by increasing the quantity and diversity of food crops that are grown in the valley, evaluating deficiencies in the food system infrastructure, building buyer/seller relationships for locally grown food, incorporating the culture of community into the fabric of the food system, and compiling resources on organic and sustainable agricultural practices specific to this region." Whew! The first step in this herculean task is the First Annual Willamette Valley Fill-Your-Pantry Market, where you can buy staples directly from local farmers and fishers. Not just making meals for your family, but making change as well? Sign me up!

Details: First Annual Willamette Valley Fill-Your-Pantry Market. Sat., Oct. 23, 2-5 pm. A2R Farms, 7205 Cutler Lane, Corvallis. Download a pdf of a product list and information on bulk orders.

* * *

I've written about Sophie Rahman's dedication to educating people about the regional cooking of India, and she's offering a set of new classes that sound amazing.
  • Indian Breads: Naans and Rotis. Nov. 10. Learn to make these classic staples and the condiments that accompany them.
  • Portuguese Goa. Dec. 8. The western Indian state whose Hindu origins are melded with 400 years of Portuguese colonialism.
  • Tagore's India: East Bengal. Dec. 15. Tagore, a Calcutta-born  writer, playwright, song-writer, poet, philosopher and educator, was deeply influenced by the sights, sounds and tastes of this region.
Details: Masala NW Classes with Sophie Rahman. All classes 6-9 pm; $50, registration required. Classes include refreshments, snacks and samples of each dish. 4356 NE Flanders St. 503-233-1966.

Evolution of a Recipe

Great cooks are always tinkering with their recipes, and Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood is no exception. This one for brussels sprouts is genius and will have even the most skeptical eater asking for seconds.

I usually cook brussels sprouts one of two ways. If I’m in a hurry, they get shredded, cooked in olive oil with some onion or shallot for about 15 minutes, then finished with a splash of Katz Orleans method vinegar (typically Gravenstein apple cider, but sometimes one of the others). This is delicious.

The dish I learned from Jason French and David Padberg (from their days at clarklewis) takes longer. I split the sprouts into halves or quarters, cook them with a chopped onion for about 40 minutes so they’re browned nicely, then mix in a generous amount of whole grain mustard. It’s incredibly good, too.

More recently I tried combining these techniques and was very happy with the results. So I’m adding a third approach to the lineup.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mustard

Slice the brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, then cut into coarse shreds. Cook a diced shallot for a couple of minutes in extra virgin olive oil, then add the shredded sprouts. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, add a splash of Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar and about a quarter cup (a few healthy dollops) of good mustard (I used Dulcet’s Creole mustard; like all of the Dulcet products, it’s really good). Cook for a few more minutes, then serve hot.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Have Your Cake

I like my ruts. It's comforting to know my surroundings so well I almost don't have to think, so familiar that I could find my way blindfolded on the well-worn path, my fingers skimming the walls on either side.

It's like that when friends are coming over for dinner, requiring some sort of dessert to be served. The rest of the menu can go in any number of directions, but the wrap-up to the meal is pretty much predictable. That's not to say that it lacks excitement or its own kind of wonderfulness, since a good…you guessed it…fruit crisp or cobbler can reflect the season perfectly. Rhubarb in spring, berries in early summer, peaches later on. Then apples in the fall and winter alternating with the huckleberries and other fruit I (hopefully) managed to squirrel away in the freezer.

But sometimes the sheer familiarity of it makes me restless, like being cooped up in the house for too long. That's when I pull out some books, or leaf through old recipes looking for something, anything, that will be different. And, with a little luck, provide a tasty coda to the evening.

This cake recipe, written on an old index card in what looks like my handwriting from high school (no, no hearts dotting the i's), was one I copied from my mother's collection and that she made when I was growing up. She'd bake it in an aluminum sheet pan (with a cool sliding top should you want to take it on a picnic), then make a frosting by creaming together powdered sugar and butter with pineapple bits and coconut folded in. But I decided to bake it in a bundt pan with no frosting, the better to have it for breakfast the next morning.

Pineapple Carrot Cake

1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. carrots, grated
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 c. crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c. grated coconut

Preheat oven to 350°.

In large mixing bowl, combine oil, sugar and eggs and mix well. Add flour, cinnamon, soda, nutmeg and salt and stir well. Add carrots, nuts, pineapple and coconut. Pour into greased and floured 9" by 12" cake pan or bundt pan. For sheet cake bake 45 min., for bundt cake bake 80 min. or until skewer inserted into center comes out clean.

Powers of Ten

On 10-10-10 it seemed appropriate to share that groundbreaking and breathtaking film by my favorite design couple, Charles and Ray Eames. Here's to the powers of ten!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saucy Lady

Talk about gift horses.

When Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm called to ask if I would like a few of the very last of their end-of-season Asti paste tomatoes, I said, "Well, yeah!" After all, the last batch, which I roasted on the Weber, produced a smoky, rich, brick-red sauce that is sitting, bagged and waiting, in the freezer for the time when Dave gets a yen to make pizza on the grill.

Walker, checking out the goods.

Little did I suspect that by "just a few" she meant a big heavy duty cardboard box containing, oh, about  30 pounds-worth delivered by the angel herself on her way to drop off a little produce with one Mr. Greg Higgins. So with the box sitting on my counter and fruit flies buzzing greedily around, I fired up the oven, got out my two largest roasting pans and got to work.


For those of you who know that I adore my tomatoes smoked on the Weber (charcoal, of course), the reason I chose the oven method was two-fold: first, I have lots of the smoky goodness already (see above), and second, I wanted to be able to leave them roasting away without worrying about adding coals or turning the grill. And 30 pounds at four pounds a batch and two hours each was more math than I wanted to do.


So, unlike my last oven-roasting session, I simply chopped the tomatoes into big hunks, set them skin-side down in the roasting pans and slid them into a 300° oven until they started caramelizing, which took about two to two-and-a-half hours. No onions, no garlic, no oil, just tomatoes. Then I scooped them out into a bowl, let them cool a bit and pulled the skins off by hand (a sieve or food mill would be another option if you don't want skins or seeds).

Mind you, it took all day and four of those double-roasting pan batches to do them all, but do them all I did. Then Dave got out the KitchenAid mixer with its handy-dandy grinder and produced a fine grind that is, even as I write, simmering away on the stove to reduce to a fine sauce, soon to join its brothers-in-bags in the deep freeze. Can't wait!