Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hopworks to World: Can It!

This man is Christian Ettinger. He owns a  brewery call Hopworks. Christian is happy. Very happy. Because he's achieved a big dream. A dream to put his beer in cans.

It was a dream that had to wait a long time. Wait until cans could keep his beer as perfect as the day it went into the can. Perfect from the instant you pop the top and take that first sip right up to the moment you drain it.

You'll find cans of Hopworks lager and IPA in local stores by this weekend. Which will make Christian even happier. Maybe happy enough that he'll make more beer and put it in cans. Which would make lots of Portland beer drinkers happy. Very happy.

Note: It's a can that also has a secret trick you can do with it. See the little red dot down at the bottom? The one that says, "Drink Responsibly"? It happens to be in just the right spot to shotgun the can of beer. But I wouldn't advise that, and neither would the brewery. No sir. It wouldn't be responsible.

More Corgi Cuteness: Shady Character

At the ripe young age of six, Walker still loves to find places to hide and nap, like under the dishwasher or,  in this case, under the small table on our porch.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The "L" Word: Clearing the Fridge

The other night I was totally stuck for something to make for dinner and didn't want to make a trip to the store. We had lots of odds and ends of leftovers (the "L" word around here) in the fridge, like a bit of roasted chicken that needed to be used, about three halves of various peppers that Dave had roasted on the grill the night before, four mushrooms and a half bunch of green onions that were looking a little sad.

There were also some garlic scapes a friend had given us from her garden, six baby Yukon Gold potatoes, a bag of greens from our own garden and several dozen eggs that had multiplied due to generous friends.

It was the eggs that finally made the lightbulb pop on. Since there weren't enough potatoes to make hash and I wanted to use up about a dozen eggs, the idea of a frittata seemed like the perfect solution. So I chopped up the veggies and threw them in our big nonstick skillet. When they'd cooked down to a tender pile, I threw those dozen or so eggs in a bowl, whisked them briefly and dumped them in the pan to seep into the hot vegetables.

While the frittata cooked, I rinsed and dried the greens and tossed them with my favorite dressing of olive oil and aged balsamic. When the eggs were mostly firm, all it took was a sprinkling of cheese, a brief visit under the broiler and dinner was ready.

Oh, and that roasted chicken? I'm having a curried chicken salad on the leftover greens for lunch as I write this.

Fridge Frittata

As mentioned above, this can be made from whatever vegetables or meats you happen to have on hand, sautéed and combined with eggs. Quick and easy, forgiving and always delicious, it's almost the perfect meal!

2 Tbsp. butter, margarine or olive oil
1/2 each green, red and ancho peppers, or about a heaping cup finely chopped
4 green onions, sliced into 1/8" slivers
4-6 mushrooms, halved and sliced thinly
5 garlic scapes, sliced in 1" pieces, leaving the bulbs intact
6 baby Yukon Gold potatoes (or the equivalent of 1 whole, chopped in 1/4" cubes)
12-14 eggs
1/2 c. cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat until it sizzles. Add potatoes and sauté briefly till slightly tender. Add rest of vegetables and sauté until very tender. While vegetables are cooking, break eggs into a mixing bowl and stir until well-mixed, adding salt to taste. When vegetables are done, pour the eggs over the top, sprinkle on the cheese and cover the pan, reducing the heat to low.

When the eggs are cooked on the bottom and still runny on top, put the pan under the broiler briefly (don't walk away or get distracted like I sometimes do!). When eggs are lightly browned on top, remove the pan from the broiler.

To serve, run a spatula around the inside of the skillet to loosen the eggs. Then invert a serving platter over the skillet and, holding them firmly together, turn the platter and skillet upside down. The frittata should plop out of the skillet onto the platter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here Kitty Kitty

My friend Antonia Manda is a fabulously talented fabric designer, illustrator and artist, and I'm always knocked out by the creative touches she brings to everything around her.

Her garden is no exception, and when I saw these kitties* perched along the back wall of her garden, I just had to share them with you.

* Boxwood with small flower pots painted blue and turned upside down.

Food Farmer Earth: Awesome Kids, Awesome Farmers

In this interview for Food Farmer Earth, I talk with Mia Bartlett, program director of Supa Fresh Youth Farm, about how she came up with the idea to use an abandoned plot of land as a tool to teach her young clients about responsibility and healthy habits. To find out more about this series of interviews with local food producers, and to get some terrific recipes featuring the ingredients discussed, consider a free subscription.

Mia Bartlett (on right in photo at left), a career specialist with YouthSource, a program of the Oregon Human Development Corp., was walking her dog one day near Tigard. It wandered off, and she found it in what looked like an overgrown garden full of blackberries and rotting trees behind Durham Elementary School. She was struck by the thought that the small quarter-acre plot would be an ideal place for her teenage clients to start a garden.

In 2010, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the donation of the land from the Tigard School District and additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor's WorkSystems, Inc., the Supa Fresh Youth Farm was off and running. Its stated purpose is to train underserved teens in workforce skills, entrepreneurship, organic sustainable agriculture, nutrition and life skills.

Read the rest of the Supa Fresh Youth Farm story.

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Say Brew-shetta, I Say Brew-sketta

As regular readers know, Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood knows his Italian food. So when he says that the appetizer made with thinly sliced and toasted bread topped with all manner of delicious seasonal goodness is pronounced "brew-sketta," you'd best believe him. He's also working on expanding his selection of offerings and, if you're so inclined, you can give him a leg up by voting for him in the Chase Bank-Living Social grant contest. Details below the recipe.

Caramelized Onion, Caper & Sage Bruschetta

Let me get this little detail out of the way. It’s pronounced brew-sketta. Never brew-shetta, no matter what that sweet but not Italian-speaking server might call it. End of pronunciation rant.

I needed something to put on grilled bread this week. Onions in the pantry, sage in the garden and the newly-arrived Pantellerian capers (above, on the vine) seemed like a good idea. Slice a couple of yellow onions and start cooking them slowly in extra virgin olive oil; caramelizing onions takes time, so plan on at least 40 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, chop a handful of fresh sage leaves and a couple of anchovies and add them to the pan. Rinse the salt from a tablespoon or two of Pantellerian capers, chop them coarsely if you want (spreads the capery goodness around and keeps the little spheres from rolling off the bread), and add. A few chopped cloves of garlic are a good idea, too.

Let everything cook over a low flame until the onions start to brown, stirring occasionally. Grill or toast some good bread, drizzle with a bit of extra virgin, top with the onions, sprinkle on a bit of flor de sal, and eat. Then vote for Real Good Food.

* * *

Hi. This is Jim, and I'm applying for a business grant offered by Chase Bank and Living Social. Real Good Food needs to grow, and while the chances of getting the grant are only slightly better than winning the lottery, completing the application has been a good first step in determining the best way to expand. Part of the process is getting at least 250 people to support my application. To help me continue offering you extra virgin olive oil and other delicious stuff, please go to the Mission: Small Business home page and click on the “Log in with Facebook” link. Enter Real Good Food in the search box, choose Oregon from the pull-down menu to the right (you can skip the City pull-down), and click “Vote” when the search results come back. Thanks so much for your support!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Startling Street Art

I've always loved street art, and I literally ran across this one on my regular loop through the neighborhood with the dogs. It was about two feet across and 18" high, and its vivid red color stopped me in my (our?) tracks.

"Razón," according to the vastness that is the internet, means "reason" or "argument," as in making an argument. (Feel free to weigh in on this…)

But whatever it means, the heart design with the primitive pointy triangles was quite striking, and the puzzling placement on a sidewalk in an otherwise solidly middle-class, tree-lined neighborhood was a nice shot of urban chic.

See more posts about these temporary pieces of public art: Art or Vandalism?, More Graffiti, Groovy Graffiti.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Soup in the Summer?

Growing up in Central Oregon, my family always went out into the woods in early December to cut our Christmas tree. (And yes, I know it's summer outside right now, but bear with me…) We usually went with a passel of other families, kids spilling out of cars to tromp through what at the time seemed like very deep snow to find the perfect tree.  Or at least one that would pass for perfect once we got it home and my dad drilled holes in trunk, sticking in a few branches to fill out the bare spots. When the tree had been shoved into the back of the station wagon, the kids would collapse, exhausted, to consume gallons of hot chocolate, soup and sandwiches.

Another tradition was the annual spring picnic, "spring" being defined as that time when the snow started melting from the Cascades. We'd all dress in our winter coats and boots, pile into the station wagon, drive out to the country, open the tailgate and eat hungrily from the basket of sandwiches and thermoses of soup that our mother had made that morning.

These heartwarming memories are all to cheer you up for the coming days of rain, when our planned weekend picnics are going to move indoors and the barbecues are going to go back under their rain covers until the sun graces us with its presence again.

But hey, make lemonade, right?

Or, in this case, a pot of soup. Because, at least in my book, the best antidote to cool, rainy days is something that'll fill the house with good smells and warm up our bellies. Put it in a thermos, pile into the car and take a drive. Stop someplace, let the kids out and have a picnic. Or just invite a passel of friends over for a soup dinner with a big loaf of crusty bread. I guarantee it'll make the rainy days go by a lot faster.

Mexican-style Black Bean and Greens Soup

1 lb. dried black beans
1/4 lb. bacon
1 1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
8 c. chicken stock
4 c. mustard greens, kale or chard, roughly chopped
Cilantro, finely chopped
Lime wedges
Sour cream

Put beans in a saucepan and cover with water by a couple of inches. Cover and let sit out overnight. Drain.

Sauté bacon over medium heat in large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onion, celery and garlic and sauté in the bacon fat until tender. Add spices and stir for 1 minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, and stir; bring to a boil and add beans and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cook until beans are tender, at least an hour. Add greens and cook till wilted. Ladle into bowls and serve with cilantro, lime wedges and sour cream at the table.

Quick Hits: Otto and Acadia

Needing a convenient spot to have lunch with a friend and having heard raves about a little café on Hawthorne named, simply and succinctly, Otto, I arranged a meet-up. Bright and charming, it had an odd mix of sleek mid-century design (mod patterned upholstery on the booths, canted plywood bartop) and hunting lodge (a stuffed antelope head on one wall, large rack of antlers on another).

Grabbing a cozy booth for two under the aforementioned antlers, I ordered a beer from their pleasantly local selection and perused the menu. Labeled "brunch" and containing a nice selection of breakfast items like pancakes and hash, it also had more lunch-ish offerings like tacos and sandwiches. The beer arrived in concert with my date, and we ordered the house zucchini fries (top photo) to munch while our mains were prepared.

The sticks of zucchini arrived fried in a light batter, rendering them, as a long-ago Volvo ad* touted, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and with a tasty schmear to dip them in (top photo). The tongue tacos I ordered were fantastic, the tongue tender yet beefy and topped with a cabbage-carrot slaw and lightly pickled onions. I was jealous of my companion's liverwurst, however, which verged on the heavenly, the wurst having a smoky flavor accented by an aioli and more of those pickled onions.

We had to try the chocolate brownie for dessert, and they gladly substituted tarragon ice cream for the vanilla that was listed. Gorgeous and decadent, it was totally over the top in a very, very good way. If the lunch is any indication of the quality to be found at dinner—and the menu looks oh-so-promising—you can bet we'll be going in soon.

Details: Otto, 1852 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 503-517-7770.

* The ad in question, written by iconic adman Ed McCabe of Scali, McCabe and Sloves, was a clever twist on the slogan of a popular candy bar.
* * *

Who knew there were so many kinds of absinthe, not to mention that each could taste so distinct from the others? And if you're one of those who's hated that overly licorice-y flavor that this spirit is known for, my friend, then I'm here to tell you that you've simply been drinking the wrong one.

I got an education in this uniquely French disgestif at that outpost for all things New Orleanian called Acadia on NE Fremont. New Orleans has taken absinthe to its ample bosom, and Acadia has followed suit with no fewer than twelve to sample, from the very light, ethereal Kübler from Switzerland to the intensely botanical Delaware Phoenix Walton Waters from New York.

You can select individuals from the menu or share a flight with your table. All are prepared in the traditional manner, of course, with the absinthe poured into an elegant stemmed glass. A sugar cube is then placed on a special absinthe spoon that sits across the rim of the glass. This is placed under a spigot on the water fountain which then drips an exact portion of water into the glass, melting the sugar as it does so and transforming the absinthe from clear to a milky liquid called the louche.

In this case the fountain is a 4-spigot work of art handblown by local glass artist Andy Paiko, and it's well worth taking a seat at the bar to watch the whole process transpire. There was also a fine selection of New Orleans classics to go along with the beverages, from softshell crab (top photo) to Gulf shrimp (above right). Talk about dinner and a show!

Details: Acadia, 1303 NE Fremont St. 503-249-5001.

Food Wisdoms: What It Takes to Make An Egg

Spending a moment at the sink with farmer and artist Clare Carver of Big Table Farm gave me a whole new appreciation for those eggs I so casually crack into a bowl.

Watch the longer interview I did with Clare for Food Farmer Earth.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: Which Came First, The Chicken or the Farm?

In this interview for Food Farmer Earth, I talk with farmer and artist Clare Carver of Big Table Farm. To find out about this series of interviews with local food producers, and to get some terrific recipes featuring the ingredients discussed, consider a free subscription. This week's recipe: a Dungeness crab and green garlic quiche.

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast at Big Table Farm.

Eggs, and the chickens that lay them, are a critical part of an integrated system that sustains the land and the couple who farm it, Clare Carver and her husband, winemaker Brian Marcy. The birds are also a frequent subject of Clare’s paintings, a living part of the landscape from which she draws her inspiration.

Carver was raised on her family’s farm, but at the age of 7 she moved to the city with her family. She took to riding horses at a nearby stable and participated in 4-H activities through grade school and in high school. Carver also started painting, often finding inspiration in the natural environments that surrounded her.

Now, as she and her husband live and work on Big Table Farm in Gaston, Oregon, Carver’s canvas largely focuses on the farm animals she raises, including her chickens and even their eggs—the latter more of a challenge, as she explains in this video.

Read the rest of Clare's story. Spend a moment at the sink with Clare as she washes eggs and talks about what it takes to produce them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Book Report: Two for Two!

A recent week at the beach gave me the opportunity to get off the computer and away from the "to-do's" at home and actually sit down with a book. Not an electronic device with a glowing screen, but an actual, real live book. Pages and everything!

My first task was to finish a book I'd barely started on my last out-of-town trip, a nonfiction travelogue by Portland journalist, photographer and Fulbright grant recipient Judy Blankenship, about a year that she and her husband Michael spent in the highlands of Ecuador.

Part memoir, part cultural study, Cañar: A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador documents the lives and rituals of the people of Cañar as Blankenship records them in words and in her startlingly intimate photographs. From the foods they eat, to childbirth, to healing ceremonies, weddings and funerals, she writes with compassion about the people she gradually comes to call friends.

Not just some rich Westerner who drops in, takes some pretty pictures of colorful natives and then drops out again, she conducts photography workshops for the local people, especially the Cañari women, so that they can preserve their own visions of their culture as they struggle to merge ancient traditions with new technologies. In one scene, she's scheduled to teach photography to several cloistered nuns:

"Over the centuries, the cloister has grown to encompass an entire city block. all of which is enclosed by a twenty-foot wall, except for the beautiful church on one corner. As I stand waiting, an ancient woman who works in a stall nearby selling the herbal drinks and pastries made by the nuns hobbles down the street toward me, holding an enormous key on a metal ring. How old is that key? It is her job to open the outer doors of the convent twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, for one hour, when outsiders can have limited contact with the cloister.

"Inside the dark, stone-floored anteroom, I pull the thick rope hanging from the ceiling that rings a brass bell announcing a visitor. I have a few delicious minutes to sit quietly on the stone bench built into one wall, and I try to imagine what it would be like to pass through this entry as a young novice, knowing you will never see the outside world again."

This is a terrific book for armchair travelers and seasoned globe-trotters alike, or anyone who wants a good book to curl up with on a long flight,  while looking out at a rainy beach or even in your own favorite chair.

* * *

I have to confess that this second book, HugoSF, was written by a friend. Fortunately he's a terrific writer, which I knew already from reading his blog, A Gentle Iconoclast in Paradise.

In this self-published first novel, author Jeffrey Hannan introduces us to Hugo Storm, a somewhat hapless denizen of the dot-com bubble that held millions of cubicle-dwelling Americans in its thrall. The bursting of that bubble, as might be expected, swamped him in its wake, but being the surviving sort he jumped into the booming real estate business.


Hannan's way with words paints Hugo's world in deft and humorous strokes, the story never taking itself too seriously as it explores its hero's world: the post-millennial worker bees, queens, queers and movers that inhabited Bagdad by the Bay at the turn of the 21st century. It reminded me of other books that draw portraits of time and place and people, like John Berendt's dark poem to Savannah, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

"The Internet leveled the playing field among everyone—at least that was the theory. Standing on the deck of the Industry Standard bulding at the corner of Battery and Pacific, the ambient buzz was intoxicating and real. The social air was ripe with the smell of equal economic opportunity. You could see it condensing like spittle in the smiles of nouveau hipsters sipping wine and swilling beer."

Or this:

"In Silicon Valley there were myriad characters of varying means and intellect, but none that was as revered, feared, envied, loved or despised as much as the VC. The Venture Capitalist. They scoured the region for ideas and when they found what seemed like a good one they stuffed the underneath of it with cash as if it were kindling and set the whole thing on fire. They recruited a management team then took over the Board and stoked the flames to their ultimate end, which sometimes included walking away to let the fire burn out on its own."

This is a fun read and one that makes a perfect vacation book…an enjoyable trip to take on your next trip.

Photo at top by Judy Blankenship.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Farm Bulletin: A Tour and a Sale!

Exciting news arrives from contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm…he's written a book! Scroll to the bottom to get your prepublication discount.

Next Sunday, the 24th of June, we will open the farm to visitors from 3:00  to 5:30 pm. It is our chance to show you all the food while it is still in the field, and engage in the longer conversations so difficult in the commercial venue of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market. It is a working farm, so sturdy shoes are recommended. Linda Colwell is helping us prepare a light and tasty snack.

This has been an extraordinary spring, and we looking forward to a wonderful summer season as a result. Of course, crap can happen, but it helps to enter the season on a good note. Corn and beans were planted about three weeks earlier than last year, and they are doing well. We will even have fresh shell beans this year, after two years of absence.

If you have a few drachmas restless in your pocket, we recommend a dinner at one of the nearby restaurants in Forest Grove, Newberg and McMinnville. There are more excellent choices each year. Our friend Henry Richmond is particularly keen on the Blue Goat down in Amity.

Now a word from our commercial sponsor:

Too often you have experienced the frustration of reading a Farm Bulletin from Ayers Creek, wading through the sloppily edited essays, impulsively grasping for a red pen. You want to pick up all the dropped articles, reunite the split infinitives, reign in those wayward prepositions, but you know it is a lost cause. Anthony puts the task off to the last minute and churns it out in an hour without any consideration for his readers. It is clear he could do with a bit of professional help.

New Society Publishers has come up with a solution. With the help of their professional staff and editors, they have cleaned up his writing, and even managed to find some people to say kind things about his work. Yes, there is a very modest cost for what is usually free, but New Society is confident that you will appreciate their efforts. The cornmeal cookie recipe you keep losing is in the book. There is the additional pleasure of knowing that you may have had polenta or a cookie made from one of kernels so fetchingly portrayed on the cover. Not often you can claim that distinction.

* * *

Beautiful Corn
America’s Original Grain from Seed to Plate

By Anthony Boutard

Cultivated from sea level to mountaintop, from parched deserts to
 sodden rain forests, from the rocky Gaspé Peninsula to the plains of Argentina, corn is the grain of the Americas. In terms of culinary uses, it is amazingly diverse, reflecting the breathtaking variety of the continents and environments from which it evolved. The consummate immigrant, corn is grown extensively on every continent except Antarctica.

Market farmer and naturalist Anthony Boutard weaves together this unique plant’s contribution to our culture, its distinctive biology and the practical information needed to grow and enjoy it at home. Beautiful Corn advocates a return to the nourishing whole grain that built America, in place of today’s genetically modified crops processed by industrial agriculture into synthetic sweeteners and cheap meat. Come along on this lyrical and inspiring journey through the seasons, learning about growing and using corn in the traditional way.

Gardeners and market farmers can lead the way to a healthier country by restoring heritage corn varieties to our tables. An unabashed celebration of a much-maligned culinary treasure, Beautiful Corn will forever change the way you view this remarkable plant.

Offer valid until 7/20/12.

A Happy Father's Day Staycation

Going out for brunch is all well and good, but when you can sit on the front porch in your sweats, unshowered and unshaven, newspapers strewn about and coffee in hand, doesn't that sound preferable?

My house bacon-maker.

Especially when the help (that's me) is bustling about the kitchen making scrambled eggs, frying some homemade bacon and then sautéeing mustard greens from the garden in the fat. Add in a slice of sourdough bread (again homemade) toasted to perfection, and I'd say that's a pretty nice way to celebrate Father's Day, wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Supermarket Pork: Not Cheap at Any Price

In the second installment of my interview for Food Farmer Earth, Kendra Kimbirauskas of Goat Mountain Pastured Meats explains the costs that we all pay, in our health, in damage to the environment, in our tax dollars subsidizing big corporations, for conventionally raised pork.

What is it really costing us to feed our families, and which would you rather put on your table?

Watch Part One: A Passion for Pigs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: A Passion for Pigs

It's no secret that I love the farmers, food producers and chefs of the Northwest. So when Rebecca and Fred Gerendasy of Cooking Up a Story asked me if I'd be interested in working with them on their new series called Food Farmer Earth they barely had time to finish making the offer before I said, "I'm in!" This interview with passionate pastured meat rancher Kendra Kimbirauskas is the first of the stories I worked on in the capacity of producer, and the first of many you'll be seeing on GoodStuffNW.

Kendra Kimbirauskas (left, with her "bacon maker" LV) grew up on a small farm in the Midwest watching her parents working long hours to make ends meet. With an intimate knowledge of the day-to-day struggles farmers face, after college she became an activist on the issues affecting small farms, working on factory farm issues in Iowa.

Baby pigs napping in their pasture.

While there, she also spent time at Niman Ranch, working with a co-op that supplies pork to Chipotle restaurants. The experience of raising pigs outdoors on pasture resonated with her and in 2006 she decided that it was time to "walk her talk." Putting her beliefs into action, she and her husband, Ivan Maluski, started a small, organic farm on a few acres in Colton, Oregon.

Gretel and her brood.

At Goat Mountain Pastured Meats they raise goats, whose milk Ivan uses to make cheese, along with chickens, horses, pigs and two rescued oxen. They are committed to farming in a way that provides high quality, healthy and affordable organic food while protecting the biodiversity of the land and its water. 

Read the rest of Kendra's story and consider subscribing to future Food Farmer Earth posts! Also, Kendra explains what it really costs to raise pork conventionally in Supermarket Pork: Not Cheap at Any Price.

Farm Bulletin: Owl Update

Even with all the work to do on the farm at this time of year, what with plants surging out of the ground, torrential rain and hail, plus a farm tour to prepare for (bunting, anyone?), contributor Anthony Boutard takes time to fill us in on the latest chapter of the Ayers Creek Farm Great Horned Owl Saga.

Sunday evening, I noticed the owl on her regular hunting perch, in silhouette with the sun streaking through the big leaf maple leaves.

No thanks, no photos today.

With two young to feed, she is hunting whenever the opportunity allows. She was so nicely framed in the branches that I hauled out the camera with the 400 mm chunk of glass, though I expected her to flush. She spotted me but had no intention of moving from her prime hunting spot, and getting nattered at by robins and kestrels in the bargain. Then again, she had little interest in being a model either.

Now please go away.

Instead, she gave me the stink-eye and, as you see in the second shot, moved in a deliberate fashion a bit further up the branch. She settled behind a bunch of leaves that obstructed my view and returned to her task. I left her be for the rest of the evening. 

Photos by Anthony Boutard. Track the progress of this owl family with Who's Minding the Frogs, the Great Horned Owl Follow-Up and Leaving the Nest.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Treat: Crispy Chicken Skin

I love chicken skin. As a matter of fact, after I carve a roasted chicken, I go so far as to tear off the skin left on the carcass and make a little pile of it on the platter along with the meaty pieces. So you can only imagine how delighted I was on receiving this post from contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food.

One indication of the confusion over what constitutes food that’s good for us is the reluctance to eat chicken skin (I won’t get on the soapbox, but if you think it’s bad for you, read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do about It by Gary Taubes). If we’ve got guests for dinner, and I cooked a chicken, I ask them to save any skin they’re not eating so I can make crispy chicken skin (see How to Eat a Chicken for details).

But there’s only so much skin on one chicken, like the sublime example at left. Sometimes you want more. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to get—just ask your butcher. Any meat counter that does more than open boxes of already processed chicken parts can usually get you some skin if you’re willing to wait a few days. I get mine from New Seasons. Just ask.

Once you’ve got some skin (a pound is a nice place to start), spread the pieces out in a heavy skillet or other suitable baking dish (be sure use one with a bit of depth to hold the fat that cooks out). Salt well and roast at 350° for about 45 minutes or until the skin gets, well, crispy. Let cool and store in the refrigerator so you’ve got a ready supply for things like grilled cheese with crispy chicken skin or anything else where you want a crisp, savory note.

Be sure to pour off and save all that good chicken fat, too. You can use it to make this:

Mushrooms with Crispy Chicken Skin

Wash and thickly slice a pound or so of button mushrooms. Start cooking them without any fat in a heavy skillet over medium heat. The liquid in the mushrooms will soon cook out, and when it’s about to disappear altogether, add a couple of tablespoons or so of the chicken fat (if you’re using crispy skin from a leftover roast chicken, use extra virgin olive oil). Cook the mushrooms in the fat for at least another 20 minutes.

Coarsely chop some crispy skin, enough to give you about a half cup or so after chopping. Add it to the mushrooms and cook a bit longer. Add a little fresh rosemary if you feel so inclined. Or sprinkle liberally with pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) and, if you like heat, a little cayenne or piment d’Espelette.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Garden 2012: Tomatoes On Parade

I was beginning to think that, for the first time in memory, we might not be planting tomatoes in our garden. My neighbor, Susana, had planted hers a good three weeks earlier and I'd been watched them gradually pop out of the tops of their protective teepees. Plus we'd been gone for a week at the beach, losing even more precious planting time.

I was somewhat comforted when the weather took a turn for the colder, followed a couple of days later by a horrendous hailstorm that blasted through the area, leaving pellet-sized residue a good half inch deep on the ground. So yesterday we downed some coffee and headed for our favorite neighborhood nursery, Garden Fever, hoping that they hadn't sold out of our favorite varieties.

The younger starts we normally plant in the spring had been replaced by larger, sturdier plants in gallon pots that were a bit more expensive, but we decided to pay the penalty for not planting earlier and bought six: two Cherokee purples and one each of green zebra, yellow pear, Sungold and red cherry. And with the weather for the coming week predicted to hover in the 60s and 70s, and consequent warmer nights bringing the soil temperature up to the desired 60 degrees, we also invested in pepper starts: two Jimmy Nardellos, two pasillas and a Melrose.

With those and a six-pack of lacinato, we bought, we came home, we planted. Add in the tiny leafy greens, carrots and herbs in the raised beds and the pea shoots climbing up the fence behind them, and we're pretty much done for the time being. Now to sit back and pray for nice balance of sun and rain for the duration!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Crustacean Celebration: Beach Cioppino

There's nothing like a trip to the beach in the spring when oysters, Dungeness crabs and clams of many kinds are all in season at the same time. Plus the hordes of tourists and vacationers haven't yet descended on our shores, unaware as they are of the sometimes stellar weather that can occur at that time of year.

We recently returned from just such a trip, a week where there was only one day that was too rainy to get the dogs out on the beach and most days came with a sunset included. We also took advantage of the opportunity to get our seafood on, indulging in oysters fresh and fried, clams steamed and stirred into pasta and at least three dinners that featured the crazy deliciousness of crab from Kelly Laviolette (left) of Kelly's Brighton Marina in Rockaway.

We made not one but two trips to Kelly's, loading up on his fresher-than-fresh seafood cooked and steamed in his outdoor kitchen. He fishes them snapping and grasping out of the tank with his custom-designed tool (right) which he swears will someday fund his retirement. The creatures in his tanks are nothing like the tame ones you see in the city with their sluggish, barely-moving inhabitants. Filled with a constant circulating rush of clear Nehalem Bay water, Kelly said he can tell when the tide is in or out by the activity of the crabs in the tank, sensitive as they are to the changing oxygen levels in the water.

If you go there for crab, whether you sit on the deck that surrounds the bait-and-tackle shop, sipping a beverage and overlooking the beautiful bay, or take it home for your own uses, make sure to ask for his signature "crab butter" (left). It's the shell of your freshly shucked crab, still holding the crabby fat and a good portion of melted butter, with the crab heart on a crab claw skewer. Eat the crab heart before or after, but definitely pick up the shell, tip it back and drink in the crabby goodness…pure pleasure!

One of the standout meals we made after a trip to Kelly's place, and Dave's request for his birthday dinner that night, was a fantastic cioppino accented with odds and ends from the produce we'd brought with us. Simple and sensational, all it required was a salad and a loaf of bread, plus a terrific pinot gris my brother had supplied, to make this a highlight of the week.

Beach Cioppino

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 med. carrots, chopped in dice
1 large green pepper, chopped in dice
1 spring onion or leek, halved and cut into 1/2” slices
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 qt. roasted tomatoes or 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 c. water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 whole Dungeness crabs, meat picked out

2 c. dry white wine

2 lbs. steamer clams, scrubbed

1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, green pepper, spring onion and fennel and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, 2 cups water, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, and cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.

Transfer seafood to pot with sauce, and add crabmeat, cover, and simmer for 10–15 minutes.

Pour wine in a skillet over high heat. Add clams, cover and cook until shells open, about 5 minutes. (Discard any clams that don't open.) Add clams and broth to pot; adjust seasonings. Ladle soup into large bowls, garnish with parsley and serve.

This year's Crustacean Celebration also features a fabulous Crab and Corn Chowder and Crab Niçoise. Read last season's series starting with And They're Off!, and the previous year's series kicking off with a Hot Artichoke and Crab Dip (with links to other posts in the series).

Livin' in the Blurbs: Adding to Your Skillez

One of the highlights of my year is the annual spring tour of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston with Anthony and Carol Boutard. Not only is it one of the few times of the year that they open their amazing organic farm to the public, it's one of the rare moments that you can actually chat with them for longer than it takes to ring up your purchases at their popular stand at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market.

His lofty eminence.

As usual, there will be a short tour of the farm narrated by the always-informative Anthony, to be followed by some snacky bits. Plus I hear they've arranged to have a celebrity greeter, the not-so-secret power behind the throne known as Tito. (If we're very lucky he might demonstrate his vole-fetching skills!)

Details: Ayers Creek Farm Ramble, Sun., June 24, 3-5:30 pm. 15219 SW Spring Hill Rd. near Gaston. This is a real farm, so bring your wellies in case of mud, or at the least wear sturdy shoes for walking.

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Summer is an ideal time to pick up some new skills, whether its at the grill, learning to preserve summer's bounty or picking up pointers on a new cuisine. Whether you're an experienced hand in the kitchen or someone who's more familiar with a take-out menu than a chef's knife, there's a plethora of excellent classes available this summer. Here are some of my faves and a sampling of what they're offering; most are small classes of no more than a dozen students at a time and are very reasonably priced.
  • Sophie Rahman of Masala NW: Learn the basics of Indian cooking, including how to prepare lentils (vegetarian and gluten-free), flatbreads and classic biryani, as well as dishes from Goa, Chowpatty street food and how to grill tandoori-style.
  • Melinda Casady and Susana Holloway of Portland's Culinary Workshop: These gals are making waves on the Portland scene for their fun-yet-informative approach. Both were professional instructors at culinary schools, and bring their extensive knowledge and love of teaching to their classes on a dizzying array of classes on grilling, smoking, preserving, butchery, vegetarian and vegan cooking, knife skills, sushi…you name it, they teach it!
  • Katherine Deumling of Cook With What You Have: Katherine teaches how to cook simple, nutritious family meals, how to stock your pantry to avoid endless trips to the store and how to make the most of seasonal produce. Upcoming classes, which she offers in her home kitchen, include how to use fresh herbs in your dishes and kitchen fundamentals.
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Summer's a time when kids are off from school and parents are desperately looking for quality classes for their young'uns. If you've got a budding Scorsese or Coppola in your house, then the Hollywood Theatre has a camp for you. Project Youth Doc for teens still has a few scholarships available, and if I could still pass for 19 I'd be all over this: Kids will work with industry pros and world-class gear to make a film from start to finish.  Check it out!

Details: Project Youth Doc, a filmmaking class for teens. Two sessions: June 18-July 13 and July 2-27. Scholarships available. Classes at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd.  503-493-112.