Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Damascene Moment

Like Paul of Tarsus on his fateful journey to Damascus, there I was, just walking the dog on our usual route up the hill, throwing in a set of stairs to get some cardio. Unlike Paul, I had my feet on solid ground so wasn't knocked off my horse and blinded when the revelation hit. And, truth be told, my bombshell was of a more pedestrian variety.

The clouds had parted, the rays from the sun shone down and it was revealed to me what we were going to have for dinner. Yes, dinner. Thus, instead of running out to preach the gospel, I jumped in Chili and ran to the store, because in that miraculous moment of inspiration I saw…meatloaf.

Now if that seems like a let-down in the pantheon of revelation stories, perhaps even showing a slight lack of imagination on the part of the revelatee, let me tell you that when you're the person responsible for making your family dinner every night, you're happy for any and all inspirations, holy or otherwise.

And the result? As you can see from the photo above, it was moist, meaty and oh-so-satisfying, and went perfectly with the mashers and salad served alongside. And the songs of praise from the assembled throng (well, Dave and our son and the dogs, anyway) was heavenly, indeed.

Fennel and Kale Meatloaf

2 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
4 anchovy filets
1 bulb fennel, chopped into 1/4" dice
2 c. kale, sliced into chiffonade
1 lb. hamburger
1 lb. ground pork
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (or 1-2 tsp. dried) like cilantro, oregano, basil or whatever strikes your fancy

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion and garlic till transparent. Add anchovies and sauté till filets dissolve. Add fennel and sauté till tender. Add kale and continue sautéing till wilted. Remove to flat pie plate and chill in refrigerator while you prepare the meat mixture.

Combine ground meat, egg, milk, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and herbs in large mixing bowl. Combine thoroughly with spoon, fork or your hands (don't squish it but keep your fingers open like a fork…you want a loose mixture, not a solid mass). Add chilled vegetable mix and combine. Hand-form into loaf on roasting pan. Bake 45 min.-1 hr. until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part reads between 140-150° (cookbooks all say 160°, but I find that results in drier meatloaf, so you decide for yourself). Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 15-20 min. while you mash potatoes and make the salad. Slice and serve.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jam On It

This article appeared in the March/April issue of NW Palate magazine.

Forget Captain Crunch. Even Tony the Tiger couldn’t entice me, no matter how loud he roared. Snap, Crackle, and Pop made too much noise first thing in the morning. Pancakes? Too much fuss. Fried eggs and bacon? Meh.

What I loved for breakfast as a child was toast slathered with butter and smeared with my mother’s homemade jam. She was a whiz, cooking up pots of strawberries, raspberries, peaches, and pears and pouring them into jars large and small that were saved from the ones we’d emptied the previous year. Opening a jar of her strawberry freezer jam was like an explosion of distilled summer, with its bright red color and deep, rich strawberry flavor.

Wherever I travel, I try to bring back a few jars of local jams and preserves, made from fruit grown in the area, to extend my trip just a little bit longer, if only for as long as it takes to have breakfast.


King Estate
The organic fruit in their Blueberry and Raspberry Pinot Noir jams is grown on the winery’s estate near Eugene and infused with their outstanding wines. 9 oz., $8. Available online or at the winery.

Republic of Jam
Master “jammelier” Lynnette Shaw makes low-sugar, artisan jams from Willamette Valley fruit. Most interesting is her Mostarda di Carlton Apple, a traditional Italian condiment that’s more like chutney—a tasty accompaniment to sausage or roasted turkey. 9 oz., $8. Available online and at the tasting room in Carlton.

Chef Stephanie Pearl Kimmel, founder of Eugene’s revered Excelsior Café, now owns Marché Provisions in the 5th Street Public Market. Her berry jams and pear butter are made from all-organic local fruit. 9 oz., $6.50. Available online and at the store.

Sassafras Southern Kitchen
A budding project of four Portland women, the collaboration has cooked up Southern-inspired preserves, from fig to brandied plum, plus a few enticing relishes—Sunchoke, Pear and Meyer Lemon, and Heirloom Beet and Fennel. 8 oz., $8–$9. Available online and at some Portland retailers.

Ayers Creek
If it’s heirloom, orphan, or rare, farmers Anthony and Carol Boutard will try to grow it on their farm near Gaston. Look for Damson plum, Loganberry, and Italian Prune. Oh, and their blackcap jam also qualifies as a marital aid. 8 oz., $6. Available at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market and online at Portland-based specialty food store, Foster & Dobbs.

Oregon Growers
A collaborative effort of several growers around Mt. Hood, these jams use less sugar than traditional recipes, allowing the full flavor of orchard fresh fruit to shine through. 12 oz., $6.50. Available online and at specialty food stores around the Northwest. 

Pennington Farms
The Penningtons started as flower growers in Colorado before moving to Oregon’s Applegate Valley to start a 90-acre berry farm and bakery. Their Strawberry/Rhubarb is pie in a jar. 16 oz., $6.50. Available online and at area specialty food stores.

Sunset Valley Organics
Seven years ago, farmer Bob Wilt’s diabetes led him to shift his farm to organic growing methods. His blueberry jams, spreads, and preserves are made with as little sweetener (evaporated cane juice) as possible for health and flavor benefits. 10 oz., $5.95. Available online and at specialty stores in Oregon and Washington.


Blue Cottage Jams
The Martin family started making jams for themselves and their friends. Fifteen years later, their low-sugar preserves and butters, all made with Washington fruit, are in demand all over the state. Try the Montmorency Cherry Jam, made with a unique variety of tart pie cherries. 7 oz., $5.25. Available online and at select stores.

Aldrich Farms
These jellies and preserves are a celebration of Whatcom county fruit. Check out the Cranberry Pepper and Blackberries & Brandy. 5.5-12.5 oz., $4.95-$7.95. Available online and at various area farmers markets.

Wild Harvest
It’s best to leave the berry picking to the professionals, as bears and cougars love them too. These jams are made from hand-gathered mountain huckleberries, blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, lingonberries, and black currants. 8 oz., $8.95. Available online and at stores statewide.

Woodring Northwest Specialties
Dale Nelson, a chocolatier by trade, also makes some fine fruit jams and preserves. Rare finds: Golden Raspberry, Gooseberry, and Mimosa Marmalade. 9 oz., $7.75–$9.75. Available online and at his store at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Sakuma Brothers
This fourth-generation farming family in the heart of Skagit Valley grows their own berries and processes them into jams. Try the Tayberry, a cross between a loganberry and black raspberry. 12 oz., $4.95. Available online and at their market stand in Burlington.

Canter-Berry Farms
On their historic five-acre farm in Auburn, Clarissa and Doug Cross have made a living growing and making jam from some of the tastiest blueberries in the state. Available online and at their Pike Place Market store. 11.5 oz., $7.

British Columbia

Taste of the Okanagan
It’s refreshing in this day and age when a company says, “We don’t put ‘JUNK’ in our jars,” meaning unequivocally no preservatives, additives, or food coloring. Their product line includes intriguing flavor profiles such as Apple Rosé Wine and Beer-Blasted Pepper. 8.7 oz. (260 ml), $9.50 CDN. Available online year round and from June through October at the Kelowna, B.C. Farmers & Crafters Market.

Mix Bakery
To accompany their award-winning baked goods, this Vancouver-area bakery makes a selection of cool jams in flavorful combinations like Plumbleberry (plums with mixed berries) and Pear with Balinese Vanilla. 8.4 oz. (250 ml), $7.95 CDN. Available at the bakery and online at Edible BC.

Joy Road Organics
A 100%-organic line of preserves created by two BC chefs from the Okanagan, Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith. Try their Blood Orange Marmalade, Red Haven Peach, and Coronation Grape. 8.4 oz. (250 ml), $7.95 CDN. Available online and at the retail location of Edible BC, at Vancouver’s Granville Island Public Market.

Vista D'oro
Great with pork or as an accompaniment to blue cheese, the Turkish Fig confiture is made with the excellent walnut wine also produced on the farm. 7.75 oz. (770 g) $8.95; 14.1 oz. (400 g) $14.95. Available online, at their farm store in Langley, B.C., and at Edible BC.

Fore & Aft
Caterers Patrick Brownrigg and Beverly Child make a pair of sweet-meets-savory flavors: balsamic jelly [8.4 oz. (250 ml), $6.95 CDN] and red pepper [2 oz. (55ml), $2.95 CDN]. Available at Edible BC.

Okanagan Lavender
Andrea McFadden started growing lavender when she inherited her father’s declining apple orchard. Now she captures the flavor of summer in lavender jelly—the best thing ever with lamb. 4.2 oz. (125 ml), $5.95 CDN; 6.4 oz. (190 ml), $8.95 CDN. Available online and at Edible BC.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Season of the Nosy Parkers

Nosy parker: a person of an overly inquisitive or prying nature.

Home tours, garden tours, tours of chicken coops, wood-burning ovens, beehives…it seems we can't get enough of peeking and prying, of oohing and aahing and pointing. And brave are the souls who open their gates and doors, not to mention their hutches, to the public. I am way too timid to undergo the scrutiny of anyone other than my dearest friends, who are apt to forgive (or at least not mention) my messy house, unswept cobwebs and half-finished projects.

But luckily there are those who willingly go where I cannot, with many worthy causes benefiting from their largesse. Like the West Slope Community Library, an important community hub in its neighborhood, which is seeking to renovate its aging perennial garden into a more structured garden with year-round interest.

My friend Kathryn's garden club is leading the charge to raise funds for the project, and has convinced seven neighborhood residents, including two of the city's most renowned gardeners, to open their personal gardens for the cause. Internationally recognized author Barbara Ashmun,known for her books on garden design, will be participating, as will the Oregonian's Hungry Gardener, Vern Nelson.

So grab a friend and your best binoculars and be prepared to satisfy your nosiest needs. You might even get some ideas to take home to your own garden.

Details: Raleigh Park Garden Tour. Sat., June 4, 10 am-3 pm; $15 advance, $17 day of tour; tickets available online. Pick up tickets and map the day of the tour at Raleigh Park Elementary School, 3678 SW 78th Ave.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Talk About Baby Corn!

From the folks at Viridian Farms, those insidious farmers who got us addicted to pimientos de padron, comes the next sensation in Portland dining: I give you…corn shoots!

I saw these little yellow flower-like shoots sitting oh-so-innocently on the side table at Viridian's Portland Farmers' Market booth last Saturday and, having no compunctions about proclaiming my ignorance in public, asked what the heck they were. The young woman tending the booth said, "They're corn shoots. Try one!"

I popped one in my mouth, munched down and got an immediate bitter flavor that was quickly followed by a flood of full-on corny sweetness. They're $4 for a little container, but these are going to be a huge hit on some restaurant appetizer plates or, if you get to them before local chefs do (I mean you, Anthony!), sprinkled on a salad at your next dinner party.

Immature Cruciferous Flowers or: Raab Rant Redux Reconsidered

Call them what you will (or, like contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood, just get annoyed), but these flowering tops are all over the farmers' markets in colors from green to red and from plants as varied as brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale. And I agree with Jim—a simple sauté or stir fry and you've got yourself a seasonal treat!

Actually, I’m sticking with my original cranky take on misuse of the language re: the rape/turnip/raab issue, but I needed one more r-word for the alliteration. Despite my writer’s irritation with all of the Spring “raabs” at the market, I love to eat them. Cabbage tops, brassica buds, or whatever (might as well just call them “raab” like everybody else), these immature flower buds from various cabbage relatives taste great. They’re more tender than the leaves and stalks from the same plants we’ll be eating later, so quicker cooking works well. Brussels sprout tops are really good; I like kale and collard tops, too.

I drop whole bundles (can’t seem to buy just one) into boiling, well-salted water for a couple of minutes, then fish them out with tongs and drain. While an ample pile of chopped garlic cooks in extra virgin (carefully; don’t let it brown), I’ll cut the “raab” into manageable lengths (about 2 inches), then add them to the skillet with any water left clinging. Another 10 minutes over medium heat, and the greens are ready to eat. Bump things up with a few shakes of your favorite hot red pepper.

Not surprisingly, this same approach works perfectly with real rapini (aka broccoli raab). The greens are great on their own, but a poached or fried (in olive oil, natch) egg on top makes them a meal.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Drunken Noodles, Italian Style

There are some items on a menu that I simply must have or I kick myself for days afterward for not ordering: Kevin Gibson's deviled eggs at Evoe; the cornmeal crusted oysters at Bread & Ink Café; the charred brussels sprouts at Ned Ludd.

Another item on that list is the to-die-for penne alla vodka at Three Doors Down which, depending on the time of year or the whim of the chef, can change to tortiglioni or some other pasta, but the rich, reduced tomato sauce and outstanding house-made Italian sausages remain reassuringly the same.

They also considerately deemed to put the recipe for this addictively luscious dish on their website so that we may have it any time we've a mind to and there are Italian sausages in the fridge. This fortunate confluence of events happened here just last night, and the resulting dish was a fit-for-company triumph.

If time is an issue, the sausages could be boiled ahead of time and kept in the fridge, and the spoon-lickingly delicious sauce could be assembled to the point of adding the cream and then held for the final simmering and baking. But I'm telling you, whether you make it at home or see it on the menu the next time you go to the café, you'll be putting it on your must-have list.

Three Doors Down Penne alla Vodka

1 lb. penne
6 mild Italian sausages
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 med. onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
2 28-oz. cans Italian tomatoes
1 c. vodka
1 c. whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 c. Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
Fresh oregano, finely chopped, for sprinkling (optional)

In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add the sausage links and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the links and set aside. In a heavy-bottomed saute pan or skillet, melt the butter and add onion and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat until onion is translucent. Stir in the whole tomatoes with liquid and simmer for one hour. Add the sausage links and vodka and continue to cook at a simmer for another hour. Turn the heat to high, add cream and tomato paste and stir constantly for 10 minutes. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently until molto al dente (about 1 minute from al dente-which is tender but firm to the bite). Drain well and toss pasta and sauce in casserole dish with 2/3 cup grated cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup cheese on top. Sprinkle with oregano and serve.

Make sure to serve with a nice crusty italian como or ciabatta bread for dunking in the sauce. We like to drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin Olive oil over the top right before serving. This is a great dish for company.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Commercial Break

Aye, yi, yi, yiiii,
I am the Frito Bandito.
I like Frito's Corn Chips,
I love them, I do.
I want Frito's Corn Chips,
I'll get them from you.
- commercial for Fritos, 1960s

Created by the well-regarded New York agency of Foote Cone Belding, responsible for such classic campaigns as "Does she or doesn't she" for Clairol, Smokey the Bear's "Only you can prevent forest fires" for the US Forest Service and the "501 Blues" campaign for Levi's, the Frito Bandito character was voiced by none other than Mel Blanc, famous for creating the voices of Speedy Gonzales and Bugs Bunny for Warner Brothers cartoons.

Pulled off the air in 1971 due to pressure from the Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee because of its stereotyped image of Hispanics, it was replaced by the "munch a bunch of Fritos" campaign, a reviving of an ad theme the chip company had used in the late 50s.

Why this sudden swerve into classic advertising? Have I suddenly had an urge to turn this blog into some paean to my former profession?

The answer is a decided "No!" not just because that territory is being well-documented (relatively accurately, in my opinion) by the series Madmen. It's because my friend Ivy and I had lunch today at Podnah's Pit Barbecue and decided to supplement our heaping sandwiches (hers the brisket, mine the pulled pork) with their version of a Frito Pie.

It would be easy to say the best part is that it's served in a torn-open (small-sized) bag of the famous corn chips, but that would be to undercut the ragu, the falling-apart, tender, shredded Texas chili that is in turn topped by shreds of cheddar and chunks of onion. The chili slightly dessicates the corn chips' harsh crunch, rendering them more pliable but still crispy because of the moisture (mostly fat) they absorb from the chili.

This is by way of saying that for five bucks this is a heavenly combination, one that is not to be spurned because of any association with commercials, racist or otherwise, but simply enjoyed for what it is.

Details: Frito Pie at Podnah's Pit Barbecue, 1625 NE Killingsworth. 503-281-3700.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Season NW: Open for Business

This Sunday you might be celebrating spring with chocolate bunnies and a hunt for dyed eggs. You might be going to church in your best hat. Or dancing around a maypole. Or even celebrating International Workers' Day.

Me? Instead of buying a new frock, I'll be welcoming spring by attending one of the several farmers' markets opening in the next few days, stuffing my shopping bag with pea shoots, nettles, fiddleheads and other spring things:
  • Hollywood Farmers' Market, Sat., April 30, 8 am-1 pm: A test run of the proposed Winter Market that will take over after the regular season ends, it will pilot a proposed year-round market in Hollywood. The regular market season opens Sat., May 7. NE Hancock between 44th & 45th Ave.
  • Hillsboro Saturday Farmers' Market, Sat., April 30, 8 am-1:30 pm: This market reminds me of the markets in France where the farmers gather in the middle of town and neighbors come to shop and gossip. Great vendors, wonderful local feeling. On Main Street and 2nd Avenue, one block northwest of the Third Avenue MAX station.
  • Hillsboro Sunday Farmers' Market, Sun., May 1, 10 am-2 pm: The second of Hillsboro's markets will open in its location at Orenco Station this season with produce, arts and crafts and live music. In the parking area between Orenco Station Parkway and NE 61st Avenue, just off Cornell Road.
  • King Portland Farmers' Market, Sun., May 1, 10 am-2 pm: This popular neighborhood market launches its third season with new vendors and full schedule of events. NE 7th & Wygant between NE Alberta & Prescott in the parking lot adjacent to King Elementary School.
  • Buckman Portland Farmers' Market, Thurs., May 5, 3-7 pm: A lively and diverse group of vendors, plus its afternoon hours, makes this market an eastside favorite. SE 20th & Salmon between SE Belmont & Hawthorne in the parking lot of Hinson Baptist Church.
Look for a complete schedule of Portland and Willamette Valley farmers' markets on the Oregon Farmers' Market page.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Travels with Chili: The Water is Wide

Grass needing mowing? Untilled garden? Ring around the bathtub? There was nothing we couldn't ignore for another day considering the long-awaited, prayed-for, highly anticipated sun that was forecast for Sunday. In other words, it was high time to vacate Dodge and head out in Chili for a little R&R.

View Portland to Astoria via the Wahkiakum Ferry in a larger map.

One of the blessings of living in Portland is that the ocean is less than a couple of hours away, so taking a meandering route is totally do-able in for a day trip. So with Rosey and Walker piled in the back, we decided to head to the beach with a stop in Astoria for lunch.

As you might expect, we prefer backroads to freeways and mapped a route out Highway 30 through St. Helens and Rainier. Just beyond Clatskanie* is the town of Westport and the (to us) irresistible lure of the little Wahkiakum* Ferry (right and at top—note Walker peering out the back window). It's been in daily operation since 1962 transporting passengers across the Columbia River between Westport and the town of Cathlamet* in Washington. The dollar-to-pleasure ratio makes the five-buck fare for the 15-minutes spent crossing the river seem like the deal of the century, with passengers getting out of their cars and oohing and aahing at the bald eagles in the trees along the banks.

The road from the ferry landing on Puget Island winds through the town of Cathlamet and up into the hills above the river before dropping down to the Astoria-Megler Bridge. The small towns along the way to the span are dotted with pioneer cemeteries, historic bridges and some promising-looking bed and breakfasts, but we were too hungry for side trips this time.

Though we love the beer at Fort George, we opted instead for the view looking out over the mouth of the Columbia from the Wet Dog Café (left), home to Astoria Brewing Company. Serenaded by All That Jazz, a local brass band (trombones, drums, keyboard and, yes, a tuba) raising money for scholarships for high school music students, we ordered two amber ales to sip while we perused the menues.

The food here is good, basic pub fare, and you've got a choice of cod, salmon, halibut and albacore for their English-style, beer battered fish'n'chips. The order comes with decent plank fries and coleslaw, though I could have done without the spicy salt on the fries, but it was a small annoyance. After scarfing down our lunch and tipping the band, we headed about five miles west to the beach to reward the dogs for being such patient travelers.

Del Rey Beach is one of those very unusual beaches on Oregon's coast where motorized vehicles are allowed, and watching them zooming up and down the beach made me wish for a sneaker wave or sand pit (with or without giant sand worms). On the next trip we'll head to the beach at Gearhart and stop at the to-die-for Pacific Way Bakery and Café.

But there weren't too many of the obnoxious machines, fortunately, and the dogs were oblivious. It was totally worth it to watch Rosey (right), our twelve-year-old, shed years as she ran after birds in the shallows, then fall sound asleep on the trip home.

It was a successful day all around, and we didn't even notice that the grass had grown that much longer while we were away.

* Pronunciation guide:
  • Clatskanie: KLAT-skuh-nye
  • Wahkiakum: wuh-KYE-uh-kum
  • Cathlamet: kath-LAM-uht

Friday, April 15, 2011

Touching Up My Roots, Part 2

You won't be surprised to hear that I fell for Dave when he cooked dinner for me. After all, what young woman wouldn't love a man who cooked for her?

It was at his place, a tiny converted outbuilding, maybe even a garage, behind a house in The Dalles. We were both working at the local paper, he as a writer/photographer in his first real newspaper job out of J-school, me in the ad department doing paste-up while I lived with my parents, trying to earn enough money to go back to school and finish my degree.

We'd gone on a couple of photographic forays in his 60s-era Chevy pickup with the bench seat. We'd shared a few beers (pre-microbrew, though we rebelliously chose Miller over Bud), but when he invited me to have dinner at his place I knew it was an official "date."

When I arrived the lights were dimmed, the table was set and wine was poured. But forget any formal images that conjures. The table was a low coffee table and we sat on the floor leaning against the paisley-embossed blue and green plastic couch as we sipped our wine. The plates were plastic, the silverware mix-and-match from Goodwill.

But as far as I was concerned it was all candlelight, gleaming silver and Limoges. And when he brought out our plates, it wasn't filet mignon seared to medium-rare perfection with tiny roasted potatoes bathed in butter that made me melt. I fell for the broccoli he'd lovingly steamed and laid over a mound of brown rice, then smothered in a tuna, cheese and cream of mushroom soup sauce, a dish he called "Broccoli Surprise."

Needless to say, I was in love. We made that dish often in our early days, but it'd been years since we'd had it. Then I saw some spring raab at the farmers' market and decided it was time to revive the dish that wooed and won me. I pulled out a package of roasted wild mushrooms from the freezer, a tin of Oregon albacore from the pantry and we were back in business.

Though now the crystal's from Ikea and the plates still aren't Limoges, the candlelight sparkles in Dave's eyes just like it did back then. And, like many things in a long marriage, the Surprise is that much better.

Broccoli Surprise Revisited

2 c. water
1 c. white, long-grain rice
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
4 Tbp. flour
2 c. milk
2 c. sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 lb. wild mushrooms, roasted or sautéed
1 6-oz. can Oregon albacore canned in its juice (drain if it's in oil or water)
1 lb. broccoli raab or rapini

Bring water to a boil, add rice and cook.

While rice cooks, melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Remove pan from heat and stir in flour. Return to heat and cook until flour loses raw taste, approx. 1-2 min. Add milk, stirring while adding to prevent lumps. When it thickens, stir in cheese a handful at a time and allow to melt. Stir in cooked mushrooms and tuna with its juice. Cover and keep warm.

Bring 1/4" deep water to boil in medium saucepan. Add trimmed stalks of raab, lower heat, cover and steam till stalks are tender. On plate or pasta bowl, mound rice, lay stalks of raab over the top and cover with sauce.

See Touching Up My Roots, Part One, where I roast wild mushrooms and revisit the tuna casserole of my youth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Like a Prayer

I give you the Vesper. Completely transparent, like water, and almost as simple. Just like a prayer.

The Vesper

2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. Cocchi Americano
Lemon peel

Fill cocktail shaker 2/3 full of ice. Measure ingredients into shaker and shake; strain into chilled martini glass. Add lemon peel. Makes one cocktail.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Star Shines in Hillsdale

Just heard that the Toyota Farm to Table Tour of the best farmers' markets in the country will be making a stop at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market on Sunday, May 1st. The Tour, showcasing and encouraging connections between chefs and farmers, will feature top local chefs using produce from premier local farmers to make samples that will be handed out at the market that day.

Market manager Eamon Molloy (left) said he's particularly honored to have the Tour come to the market this year. "We are very excited to have the Toyota Farm to Table tour visit Hillsdale at the beginning of our 10th season," said Molloy.

One fun feature will be a "passport" that you can get stamped at each tasting station…collect three stamps and you'll get a free potted herb for your garden. The lineup of participating chefs is yet to be announced, but look for a to-die-for list coming soon

Details: Toyota Farm to Table Tour at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market. Sun., May 1, 10 am-2 pm. Hillsdale Farmers' Market, at in the intersection of SW Capitol Hwy. and Sunset Blvd. in the parking lot of Wilson High School behind the Hillsdale Shopping Center.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Benefits of Travel

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
- Henry Miller

It's not that we go out for dinner that often. After all, it's pretty expensive unless you do take-out burritos or the cafeteria-line salad bar at New Seasons.

Pork belly, sous vide egg, watercress.

But we were badly in need of a date night, and the usual suspects (i.e. burritos, etc.) wouldn't do the trick. Plus I'd been waiting weeks for Anthony Cafiero, chef at Tabla, to return from the molecular gastronomical extravaganza that was Madrid Fusion 2011 to see what he might have brought back with him.

Squid ink tonnarelli, campari-poached gulf prawns, shallots, citrus cream.

You see, Anthony is nuts about fresh produce and I'm constantly running into him at the farmers' market carrying an armload of bags, quizzing farmers and purveyors about what's coming into season next. And Tabla's dinner menu, which offers three courses for $24, is one of the crazy great deals in town. We love sitting at the chef's counter 1) because it's intimate and busy at the same time, if that makes sense, and 2) if you have questions the chef is right there to answer.

Duck confit, potato, kale, thyme, Dijon emulsion.

Without going into excruciating detail about each plate and ingredient (see descriptions next to photos), the trip appears to have taken Cafiero's flavors to a new level of intensity. He's also playing around with some of the tricky techniques he observed on his trip—you'll definitely see more emulsions, items cooked sous vide and even a few alginate spheres (liquids inside a skin that burst in your mouth).

Smoked pork shoulder, spanish octopus, almond, endive, leek, tomato reduction.

But fun techniques aside, he seems more focused than ever on accentuating the flavor and texture of the main ingredient, whether it's pork belly, squid pasta or cured tuna. His plating is showing a new attention to detail, too, that, while not lacking before, has definitely taken a turn toward the artful while staying clear of preciousness.

It's exciting to watch a young chef with this much enthusiasm grow into his talent through what you see and taste on the plate. This trip was obviously good for the him, but I'm thinking it was pretty good for me (and all his other customers), too.

Top photo: Smoked Sweetbriar Farms pork, cured oregon albacore, fennel vinaigrette, salsa verde, marcona almonds.

Details: Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, 200 NE 28th Ave. 503 238 3777.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reporting from the Scene

It's probably a good thing that the world's attention moves on from tragedies, recovering from disasters the magnitude of the earthquake, tsunami and multiple nuclear accidents in Japan. That we do what we can by donating to recovery efforts and then return to our everyday concerns.

But it's also good to be reminded that the pain, sorrow and loss of the people of that country (and others like Haiti and Indonesia) continue. The video above was shot by the terrific Oregonian reporter Motoya Nakamura, who has returned to his native country to report from the areas affected by the devastation. He is posting videos and photos from his trip on his tumblelog, and it's well worth checking (you can also follow him on Twitter).

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Outstanding in His Field

I was lucky enough as a young child to have relatives with a cattle ranch in Eastern Oregon, which meant that I learned to ride the ranch's cattle horses starting at the age of four. We would spend several weeks each year there, so I got to live the horse-loving girl's dream of going on cattle drives and riding through green pastures in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Nick and Nellie canoodling.

Though the desire (my parents would have said single-minded obsession) to actually own one of my own has given way to the reality of my (happy) life as a city dweller, I still love to hang out with horses whenever I get the chance. So when I heard from my friend Clare that she was participating in a plowing competition with other members of her Draft Horse Breeders Association, I had to jump in the car and go.

Yes, mules plow, too!

The video at the top of this post shows Clare's mentor, Duane Van Dyke, and his horses Nick and Nellie plowing in today's competition. If you're saying "Gee, I wish I'd known about this!" Clare said that the teams coming to this year's Champoeg Founder's Day on May 7 are going to blow your mind. In addition to the draft horse plowing competition, there'll also be blacksmith demonstrations, live music and other activities.

So if you or someone you love is crazy about these animals or simply can't get enough of traditional arts, make plans to go. I'll see you there!

Details: Champoeg Founder's Day, Sat., May 7, 10 am-4 pm; free with purchase of $5 State Parks Day Use Parking Pass. 8239 Champoeg Rd NE, St Paul.503-678-1649.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Rhubarb Revelation

The first time I heard contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood refer to honey-roasted rhubarb, it was one of those slap-my-forehead moments…of course! I've seen the first stalks appear at the farmers' markets and local produce sections of the grocery store, though the plant in my garden (below) is just starting to unfurl its leaves. So wait if you can, but if you can't, grab some and get roastin'!

Around here you can depend on rhubarb to be out of the ground and ready to eat before almost anything else. We’re still a few weeks away from when you’ll be able get enough for a couple of pies from that patch on the side of your neighbor’s house, but here’s an old favorite to get you ready for that day.

I adapted this recipe from Tenuta di Capezzana, the Tuscan olive oil producer. It’s easy and incredibly delicious. Make one cake now to eat plain, then another when the rhubarb arrives.

Olive Oil Cake with Honey Roasted Rhubarb

3 eggs
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. milk
Grated zest of 2-3 oranges or lemons
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Large pinch of salt
6 large rhubarb stalks

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Butter and flour a 12-inch cake pan (I usually make this in a 12-inch cast iron skillet). In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Add the olive oil, milk and orange zest.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring just until blended. Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. I let the cake cool in the skillet, and serve it from the pan. but you could let it to cool completely, loosen the sides with a knife, and invert onto a serving plate (hold the plate against cake pan and flip...hopefully it will come out in one piece).

Slice a half dozen or so rhubarb stalks into half inch pieces. Toss them with a few tablespoons of olive oil, then arrange on a sheet pan and drizzle with about a half cup of honey. Roast at 350° for about 20 minutes (I do the prep after the cake is in the oven, then cook the rhubarb while the cake is baking). Let cool and spoon over slices of olive oil cake.

Photo from Jim Dixon's Produce Diaries at

Taking Olinka to Akiachak

This is the fun part of having a blog…sometimes you can go completely off topic and share something that catches your fancy.

My friend Mary works with early childhood education programs in the Northwest and recently got an opportunity to go to Alaska to meet with a program in the town of Bethel in the Northwestern part of that state. Since she's nobody's fool and has always wanted to go out into the hinterlands, she jumped at the chance. Particularly since part of the trip involved taking one of the staff members home via truck up the frozen Kuskokwim river to Akiachak where the families in the tiny village welcomed them with a traditional dinner (top photo).

Flying into Bethel, Alaska.

The potluck feast featured a musk ox that had been shot by one of the men and then cut up with an ulu, a traditional knife with a handle set above a curved blade. She said the meat was rich, rather like lamb, and was served with smoked fish and berries. Dessert was ice cream made with lard.

What an amazing experience…good going, my dear!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Class Acts

A couple of quick announcements of upcoming classes that are guaranteed to be epic. How do I know? Because the women giving them are stunningly talented and never disappoint!

Cheesemaking with Mary Rosenblum, including Cheese Sampling and Lunch

Master cheesemaker and renowned science fiction author Mary Rosenblum teaches how to make your own Monterey jack cheese at home. Taught in Sasha Kaplan's "And She Cooks" home kitchen, you'll also sample some of Mary's feta cheese and have a late lunch prepared by Sasha of a pasta and salad dish using the cheese you create.

Details: Cheesemaking with Mary Rosenblum with Cheese Sampling and Lunch. Sat., April 9, 1-4 pm; $50, preregistration required. And She Cooks, 2335 NE 41st Ave. 503-288-8196 or 503-317-4823.

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Superb Spring Holiday Dinner with Chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

Find out how easy it is to prepare an astonishing spring holiday meal with ingredients bought at the farmers' market. The class starts with a tour of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market where you'll meet many of the market's farmers, ranchers and producers as you gather the ingredients for the meal. Then it's a short walk to Sweetwares kitchen in the Hillsdale Shopping Center where Chef Kathryn will demonstrate how to stuff and tie a lamb leg roast, complement it with savory sauces, condiments and seasonal market vegetable side dishes. A tasting will follow the demonstration and include suggested wine pairings and a dessert recipe.

Details: Superb Spring Holiday Dinner with Chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans. Sun., April 17, 9:30 am-12:30 pm; $60, reservation required. Sign up on the market website.

Photo of Mary Rosenblum by Sarah Gilbert. Farmers' market photo by Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Aviary Takes Flight

I could start this off with some reference to the now ubiquitous quote from Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's series, Portlandia, about the city's fascination with placing birds on things, but then I'd actually have to type the phrase and that would make me cringe. So to avoid that unpleasantness, I'll try something else.

How about this:

Fusion is a term that, when I hear it used in conjunction with food, makes me want to scream, "Run away!" Much like the recent fascination with molecular gastronomy, it conjures images of a three-ring circus with people in chef's coats jumping through hoops, juggling bowling pins and spinning plates to the tune of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance." In other words, making the acts of cooking and eating more about performance and technical prowess than doing justice to the flavors found in the ingredients themselves.

Dungeness crab with winter melon.

So when I heard Aviary, a new restaurant on Alberta Avenue, described as "an innovative East-meets-West blend," I immediately went into "uh-oh" mode. Another warning bell sounded when I read that it featured not one but three chef-owners, Sarah Pliner, Jasper Shen and Katherine (Kat) Whitehead. Huh? I thought there was a "one ego per kitchen" rule. Was this a train wreck in the making?

Than last week a bunch of the city's restaurants got together for a "Dine Out for Japan Relief" benefit. Since Dave had a friend who was gaga about the place and he was a little embarrassed to admit that his foodie blogger wife hadn't been there yet, we decided to rectify the situation and head over despite my nervousness. After all, it was for charity, right?

The lighting at the table was too dark for decent photos, so forgive the lack of visuals, but the flavors and combinations we found on our plates were vivid and brilliantly creative. Organized into three categories, small plates, seasonal and larger plates, the idea is to mix and match them, ideally sharing plates among the diners at the table. We opted to be a little more traditional and ordered a few to share, then we each ordered our own entrées with the usual "bites" privilege in force.

Oxtail croquettes with tomato jam.

The Dungeness crab with winter melon and mentaiko was a personal revelation, since I'd never tasted crab and sweet green melon together. (Yet another idea I'm going to steal for future use.) When the oxtail croquettes came, they seemed a little too darling at first, but the one-bite bits exploded with a powerful meatiness in my mouth and I raised the white flag as any misgivings I'd brought with me vanished. The Asian pear and celery root salad with arugula, watermelon radish and candied cumin was genius, the sweetness and crunch of the components held together by the lacing of cumin.

My braised beef cheek with celery root, blood orange and gingko nuts was piled on a smear of creamy fennel purée, and I'm pretty sure that even Mario's dad Armandino wouldn't have turned up his salumi-loving nose at this dish with its fall-apart tender meat spiked with the tartness of the blood orange sections.

Dave was brave and ordered the crispy pig ear that was described as being done paella-style and, indeed, it did come in a small paella pan, but you can forget any Spanish inflections after that. The chunks of porky ear cracklings were essentially set on top of a creamy coconut milk rice that had been topped with a mix of braised greens, Chinese sausage and avocado. The flavor was definitely Asian-inspired, but again a combination that I'd never experienced (the "bites" rule, remember?).

It all just taught me that my prejudices are just that, and that sometimes you need to get over yourself. Hear that, you molecular gastronomists out there? (Hm…obviously I still have some work to do.)

Details: Aviary, 1733 NE Alberta St. 503-287-2400.


Tal Nadari shook his head when he described trying to introduce Americans to the concept of Kopstootje* or "little head butt" in Dutch. Basically the same idea as a shot and a beer, a small tulip glass is filled to the brim with Genever, the juniper-flavored liquor of the Netherlands, and served with a beer back.

Check out that meniscus!

"The Americans would shoot the Genever and then drink their beer," Nadari said, rolling his eyes. And because the liquor is poured till it's practically overflowing the glass, picking it up without spilling is almost impossible. "They spilled a lot," he said. "It was a mess."

What's supposed to happen instead is to stand at the bar directly in front of the Genever, bend at the waist and take just a sip of the drink from the rim of the tulip glass. Then the beer is lifted in the traditional Dutch toast, "Prost!" Basically after that it's up to each drinker to decide on the order of sips of liquor and beer, but chugging either is definitely considered bad form.

Nadari (far right in photo, right), a managing director at Lucas Bols, was giddy over the release of his product in Portland. That's because while Genever is normally served with a light lager, Jacob Grier (center), a well-known local mixologist and blogger who was hired by Bols just over a year ago, encouraged him to think outside the box for the event.

In a brilliant move, Grier introduced Nadari to Upright Brewing's Alex Ganum (left). Nadari expected to discuss which of Ganum's farmhouse ales might match well with Genever's flavor profile.

"Instead he said he'd brew a beer just for the event!" Nadari said, obviously still thrilled at Ganum's offer.

What Ganum concocted was a bière de garde, what Grier described as "a rustic French beer that uses lager yeasts fermented at warm temperatures, fitting into Upright’s farmhouse style. [It] diverges from the traditional with the addition of many of the same botanicals that go into Bols Genever, including aniseed, ginger, angelica root, licorice, and juniper berries. The result is a dry beer with subtle notes of spice."

What I tasted in the Genever ("Please don't call it gin," begged Nadari) was a slight juniper hit surrounded by other botanical spices swimming in a very lightly sweet, pleasantly medium-bodied liqueur. A sip of the beer that followed it was bracingly chilled and intriguingly spicy, perhaps a bit gingery, and the perfect complement to the Genever.

Ganum's "Kopstootje Bière," will be available on tap in limited quantities at several local bars (see list, below), and many will have Genever chilling in the bar fridge. Get it while you can, and don't forget: bend at the waist, sip, lift your beer and shout "Prost!"

* Kopstootje is pronounced kawp-stow-gee

Details: Dutch Kopstootje, Bols Genever and Upright Brewing's Bière de Garde available for a limited time and in limited quantities at Beaker and Flask, Broder, Clyde Common, Cruz Room, Grain & Gristle, Hop & Vine, Irving Street Kitchen, Spirit of ‘77, Spints Alehouse, St. Jack, and Temple Bar. (Best to call first and check that it's still in stock before heading over.)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Livin' in the Blurbs: Good Eatin'!

Farmers' market regulars in the Portland area know Gathering Together Farm as the double-wide stands overflowing with some of the most gorgeous, flavor-filled organic produce in the area. What most folks don't know is that John Eveland and Sally Brewer have a farm store as well as a full-service restaurant on their farm in Philomath outside of Corvallis. It goes without saying that the restaurant features a menu chock-full of the produce grown on the farm, with pizzas from their wood fired oven loaded with local cheeses and meats as well as a full list of hearty entrées and wines. Don't forget to peruse their list of upcoming wine dinners featuring local wineries; though a word to the wise is to make reservations early since these are in high demand and sell out quickly. It's a do-able evening excursion from Portland, and even better as a romantic dinner destination for an out-of-town overnighter.

Details: Gathering Together Farm restaurant. Lunch: Thurs. & Fri. 11 am-2 pm; Dinner: Thurs. & Fri. 5:30-9 pm; Saturday Breakfast: 9 am-2 pm.

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It's a sad truth that Portland doesn't have a great selection of truly authentic Indian restaurants. The good news is that there are several classes being offered that will not only teach you how to make these dishes at home but will share resources on where to find the spices that will make them regular go-to recipes on your dinner roster. My friend Sophie Rahman of Masala NW has just released her spring class list, and it looks fantastic:
  • Creating Dals from a Variety of Lentils (a vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free class)
  • Reminiscent of the Raj: The Mystery of Curry
  • Breads of India: Naans and Rotis (vegetarian)
  • Regional Cuisines of India from the North to the South
Details: Indian Cooking with Sophie Rahman of Masala NW. Check the website for the full list of upcoming class descriptions and schedules.

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It's a pairing as momentous as Antony and Cleopatra, Ike and Tina Turner, Branjelina or, for that matter, Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow (though easier on the eyes, for sure). Farmers' market chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans and Portland mushroom mavens Roger Konka and Norma Cravens have teamed up over the last few seasons to present product tastings and recipes to customers of Springwater Farm. But now they're taking it to the next level with full-on dinners prepared with goodness from Springwater and other local purveyors. Judging from the smashing success of their recent multi-course Truffle Dinner, the upcoming four-course Forager's Feast, even with two dates available, should be a sell-out event, so get your tickets now.

Details: Forager's Feast. Sun., April 10th and Sat., April 16th at 7 pm; $40, reservations required. All gratuities will be donated to the Portland Farmers' Market SNAP Matching Program.