Thursday, November 29, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: Growing Healthy Kids

Childhood obesity, diabetes and other health problems can seem intractable when presented as numbers in a news story. But a visit to a local child care center that is educating kids and families about healthy diets and local foods shows a different perspective. My interview for Food Farmer Earth explains how big changes can come from small gestures…like a phone call.

Head Start began as an eight-week demonstration project in 1965 to help break the cycle of poverty, providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. Since then it has become the nation’s largest federally funded early child care and education program for children zero to five years old.

Good nutrition has always been a focus of the program, but many of the children in Head Start programs don’t have access to fresh, local foods at home. Discussing this fact a couple of years ago, Dr. Betty Izumi of Portland State University and Dawn Barberis of Mt. Hood Community College’s Head Start program came up with the idea for the Harvest for Healthy Kids project.

Based on farm-to-school food programs that were being piloted around the country, it would not only bring healthier foods into the Head Start food service program, it would educate children about fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging the children in activities centered around a featured food.

One recent week the featured vegetable was carrots.

“The children are cooking with carrots and doing carrot art activities,” said Dr. Izumi. “They’re reading books about carrots and gardening and doing planting activities. The program is unique in that the featured food is really being integrated into the rhythm of the Head Start day.”

Read the rest of the article.

Learn more about the farmer who grows vegetables for Harvest for Healthy Kids in Growing Carrots: Red, Yellow, Purple and Orange. This week's recipe is for easy Rutabaga Carrot Ginger Soup. Get regular updates on this series about our local food scene by subscribing.

American Meat

The other day I got an e-mail from the editor of the Oregonian's FoodDay section asking if I'd like to cover a screening of a new movie about the American system of meat production. It took, oh, about three seconds for me to check my calendar and respond in the affirmative.

While Stephen Spielberg's latest film, "Lincoln," and Graham Meriwether's "American Meat" both feature compelling storylines and engaging characters, there won't be any screaming headlines about a hot and heavy box office smackdown. And not just because the A-list actors in "Lincoln" and its upwards-of-$65-million budget dwarf the $250,000 Meriwether spent to make his movie about the farmers who raise the meat we put on our tables.

Meriwether is eschewing theaters for a more direct and, he feels, effective way to engage with his audiences.

"We're using a very unconventional distribution model," he said at a recent screening held at Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland. While most filmmakers apply to festivals such as Sundance or the Toronto International Film Festival and look for a distributor to pick up their film, he said his aim was to get "American Meat" directly to farmers. This fall, he premiered the film at the national conference of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), an organization for young people interested in becoming farmers. He's now screening the film at FFA chapters around the country, as well as at select colleges and universities with strong agricultural programs.

Read the rest of the article.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Anatomy of a Bad-Ass

You'd never meet Donald Kotler and think, "Wow…what a badass!" And indeed, he is not.

This native of Long Island, New York, is smart, funny and articulate. He started his first restaurant, Toast, on a sketchy corner of deep Southeast Portland, moving into what had been a classy joint called Angie's Bad Ass Video.

Donald embraced its former badness with a vengeance, naming several dishes after video titles or even Angie herself. None is more emblematic than the most popular item on the menu, the Bad Ass Sandwich, a pile-on of two fried eggs, bacon, goat cheese and field greens between two slabs of toast. (All the breads here, including their justifiably famous English muffins, are made on premises.) It's served with Toast's signature take on hash browns called a potato rosti, a buttery round of thickly grated, locally sourced potatoes grilled to golden, crispy perfection—and well worth ordering as a side with any of their other dishes.

There's a weekly celebration, appropriately designated Bad Ass Wednesdays, where you can get all the goodness mentioned above for only $5, an astonishing deal considering the local goodness that goes into it: Stiebrs Farms eggs, Sweet Briar Farms pork belly, Cypress Grove ChevrePurple Rain Vineyard greens and that housemade toast made with grains from Bob's Red Mill. Add on a Bloody Mary concocted from Donald's secret Mary mix for only $5 and you've got yourself a memorable morning.

Details: Bad Ass Wednesdays at Toast, now through Dec. 19th. 5222 SE 52nd Ave. 503-774-1020.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cameron Wines: A Year in the Making

Winemaker John Paul has been making some of the state's best wines, some would say some of the best wines in the country, since 1984—a year he describes in the video above "as one of the worst vintages ever." Variously described as a genius, idiosyncratic and maniacal about his wines, he's hewed to his vision of producing wines that express both the essence of the grapes and the Jory soil in which they grow.

The video above, which documents one year in the life of Cameron Winery was made by my friend Jeremy Fenske, a newcomer to Oregon but someone we can all hope decides to make a home here so he can tell more stories about the people who make it so special.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Get Fresh All Winter

Thanksgiving heralds the last gasp of fall and the onset of winter, with its focus on squash, fowl and root vegetables. It also marks the beginning of the winter farmers' market season, and this year the census of markets open year round has increased to eight…count 'em…eight! All full of vendors willing to brave the elements with a plethora of fresh, lively produce harvested from their fields (whether under cover or not). For times, dates and maps please consult the Oregon Farmers' Market page right here on GoodStuffNW. The full list is:

Food Farmer Earth: Time for Wine!

Normally I only post videos from Food Farmer Earth if I've worked on them, but in this case I have to make an exception for an incredibly informative video with, dare I say it, a potentially breakout performance starring my brother, Bruce Bauer, of Portland's best wine shop, Vino, on SE 28th. (Though I may be just a teensy bit biased.)


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Farm Bulletin: The Visitors

One chilly January morning a few years ago, we watched a young mink splashing about in the stream at the base of the canyon for an hour or two. In the winter, the young disperse and find their own digs, and this one was passing through on its way to a new territory. In recent years, we have noted several road killed minks, perhaps indicating an increase in their population. On the south border, our neighbor watched a young cougar bounding about in the grass seed field on an early autumn morning, another offspring of predators looking for new home range.

Pileated woodpecker.

On occasion, we have watched pileated woodpeckers working some of our snags, but they are soon chased away by the acorn woodpeckers, earlier visitors who chose to stay and are intolerant of any other woodworking birds. Their behavior changes when goshawks and Cooper's hawks pass through, using the residents of the oaks as a quick snack on the way to other places. The woodpeckers stay close to the trunks and communicate the location of the hawk in quiet, urgent calls. This September, a Cooper's hawk caught a flicker unawares, and we have photo of it with a lifeless flicker, beak agape, in its talons (top photo). The scene was as dramatic as any captured by Audubon but too gruesome for a full month, so it won't appear in this year's farm calendar.


Some visitors pass through without us seeing them. The depressions made by hooves in soft soil tell us that a stag or bull elk passed through while we were sleeping. The bones and sinew of a deer's hind leg was found on the low ground, betraying another drama missed by us.

Our farm is part of a bridge, or maybe a set of stepping stones is more apt, between the Coast Range and the Tualatin Ridge dominated by Bald Peak. Ecologists call these areas "wildlife corridors." Our approach to farming, with its rough fields and perennial crops, has enhanced the quality of the connection, providing creatures cover in their transit. It doesn't hurt that we provide a lot of great nesting habitat as well, thus having a few flickers to spare for the hawks.

Northern goshawk.

Peter and Pam Hayes of Hyla Woods share our affection for the natural components of the landscape. We have batted about the idea of a collaborative effort to link the farm and forest lands of the area. Working with Faye Yoshihara from the Food Front Cooperative board, Peter and Pam have proposed a loose collaboration called "Tualatin Headwaters: Producers in Partnership." The idea is to put together a gift package of Hyla Forest maple cutting boards,  preserves from Ayers Creek and wine from Montinore Estate Vineyard. This will be the first step of a work in progress.

We have a lot to figure out, but we are drawn to the project because we understand some our visitors were raised in forests flanking Mount Richmond that are carefully managed by the Hayes family. Maybe the Cooper's hawk we saw here nested on Mount Richmond and passed through the Marchesi family's vineyard feasting on a few robins or starlings. Anyway, we are part of Portland's backyard, and the waters from our lands flow through the city, so it will be fun open up a discussion about the connection we have with each other and the city.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Roasted Chicken: Variations on a Theme

Roasted chicken is, without question, one of the top two favorites for dinner around our house. Simple, delicious, satisfying and relatively quick to put on the table, it's both a company-worthy entree and a warming mid-week meal. If you buy a big enough bird, you might have enough left over to make a pot pie, soup or hearty chicken salad. Plus the carcass is terrific for stock.

James Beard is my go-to guy in terms of method, the chicken roasting on a bed of sautéed vegetables. Which means that they gradually roast in the fat and juices from the bird, a brilliant idea that provides a ready-made side dish from the vegetables and a killer base for gravy from the juices.

The other night I was getting ready to roast a chicken and, instead of mashing potatoes, I was going to roast some delicata squash that had been sitting around waiting to be of service. That's when the lightbulb went off—you've no doubt already guessed this, but I can be a little slow sometimes—and I chopped up onion and garlic, gave it a quick sauté, then combined it with the squash.

The rest, as they say, is history…and something I'm going to keep playing with using other vegetables. Stay tuned!

Roasted Chicken with Squash

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 small delicata squash, seeded and cut in 1/2" cubes, about 3 cups or so*
1/2 c. white wine or dry vermouth
1 roasting chicken
1/2 lemon
Handful of fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme or tarragon)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour 2 Tbsp. oil into a frying pan and saute onions, carrots and celery (or whatever vegetables you might have) till slightly tender but not fully cooked. Place in mixing bowl with cubed squash and combine. Put squash mixture in 9" by 12" Pyrex casserole dish. Pour wine over vegetables.

Rub chicken with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, throw 1 tsp. or so salt and the lemon and herbs into the cavity and place the chicken on its side on top of the vegetables. Place in oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn chicken on its other side and roast for another 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn chicken so it is breast-side up, baste with pan juices and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast another 15 minutes, remove and baste, then roast a final 20 minutes or, for our tastes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees on the inside of the lower thigh. Remove from oven, allow to rest for 10 minutes. We cut it into pieces, but the breasts we remove whole and slice crosswise.

* The skin of delicatas is thin, so don't bother peeling it…just eat as is. Other winter squash would work just as well, but peel them before cubing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Series: Hug a Farmer!

Whaddaya think? A whole series demonstrating how to properly hug a farmer?

This particular hug is with one of my favorite farmers—also a graphic designer, horsewoman, blogger, photographer, winemaker—Clare Carver of Big Table Farm.

Photo by Jeremy Fenske.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bluehour: Rocking the Noon Hour

I miss the lunches I used to have with my mother in the little mezzanine lunch spot in the Lipman Wolfe department store downtown. When I was a child, coming "into town" involved wearing a pretty dress, white anklets, black patent leather Mary Janes and even white cotton gloves—it was, after all, the era of Jackie Kennedy and her pillbox hat. I'd order exotic fare like chicken salad with slivered almonds, or little tea sandwiches that I'd eat half-distractedly as I looked over the railing at the shoppers on the floor below.

The dining room at Meier and Frank has a similar hold on my memory, with its quiet, plush draperies, the older women sitting at "their" tables, the heavy (i.e. real) silverware, the solicitous staff who'd worked there for decades. Neither place had a menu that rose much above old school favorites like meatloaf or creamed vegetables, but they seemed fancy, even rich, to my small-town girl self.

Crab cake sandwich.

Both are now relegated to the once-upon-a-time category, but once in awhile I find myself wanting to stray from the of-the-moment hipster hangouts and cafés and go someplace with a quiet grace, lovely service and, please god make it so, terrific food. And no place in town fits that bill better than Bluehour, Bruce Carey's flagship that in the last year or so has been experiencing a renaissance under chef Thomas Boyce.

The new winter menu was being featured when my friend Bette Sinclair invited a group there for lunch recently, including a rich and velvety celery root soup, a strikingly fresh trout salad on a bed of greens and winter chicory, and a crunchy and completely filling crab cake sandwich with what looked like a whole avocado sliced in it. A star was Boyce's housemade tortellini lightly sauced with fresh tomatoes and herbs, the pasta perfectly tender and with a creamy, luscious filling that oozed out when bitten.

Trout salad.

Not to brag, but I won the jackpot when I ordered the potato gnocchi with rabbit sugo. Gnocchi, when made correctly, is often described as "pillowy." But I'm here to say that pillows are a harsh metaphor for what Boyce is making in his kitchen. His gnocchi are like little clouds, the white, fluffy kind that you see floating in perfectly blue summer skies. They practically evaporate, melting into the sauce to make a creamy mouthful.

Boyce stopped by the table to chat, and was kind enough to spill the beans on his method: cook the potatoes—always russets, he said—until they're just a bit overdone, which means they'll be a little drier. They should be riced while they're still warm, then allowed to cool to room temp. At that point add the flour. If they're too warm when the flour is added, they get clumpy; if too cool they absorb too much moisture from the air. Above all, don't work them too much. That's it.

Very old school, but very special. And most definitely a place to take your (well-behaved) child or niece or nephew to lunch. It may well be a memory they'll carry with them for decades.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Buzzin' of the Bees in the Linden Trees

There's a heavy, somewhat astringent perfume that wafts through Portland's neighborhoods in early summer. Emanating from the cascading yellow-white blossoms of linden trees planted along the city's sidewalks, the aroma is apparently akin to crack for honeybees.

Walking beneath one when it's in bloom is to experience what it must be like to live inside a beehive, with a constant, rhythmic thrumming of wings as the bees go from blossom to blossom collecting the copious amounts of nectar the flowers produce. One tree can have the equivalent of a couple of acres of flowers, enough for a backyard hive to produce a particular type of honey known as basswood.

Highly prized, basswood honey is light-colored but with a distinctly strong flavor that is, not surprisingly, reminiscent of those strongly scented linden flowers. It's moderately sweet, has a very slight bitterness and a taste that lingers on the tongue.

How do I know all this? Well, a neighbor recently harvested about 50 pounds of honey from his hives and, as he'd hoped, some of it was the basswood honey from a nearby linden. It only took a moderate amount of begging, but the other day we were presented with a small jar of golden treasure. This morning we opened the jar, drizzled the honey on the sourdough biscuits Dave made and found out what all the fuss was about.

This is just to say that if you have a wide parking strip of, oh, six to eight feet wide with no overhead wires, the city of Portland okays the linden as a street tree. And after tasting this honey, I'd highly recommend planting one of these babies and getting into beekeeping.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Farm Bulletin: Our Bean Primer

Corn, beans, sweet potatoes…it's hard to say which crop sets contributor Anthony Boutard's heart aflutter more. Here he offers a basic guide to the beans he and Carol grow at Ayers Creek Farm and how to cook them to best enjoy their flavor.

Dried legumes have a relatively short life. Typically, after two years, chickpeas and garden beans become stale and eventually they may not even soften up no matter how much they are cooked. They are in their prime for six months after harvest, and good for a year.

Anthony and the Roto-Fingers Pea-Bean Sheller.

The bean is a seed and the two halves within the seed coat are storage leaves bridged by a stalk supporting the root and a shoot which will grow into the plant. The cotyledons store a mixture of carbohydrates (long chains of sugar molecules) and proteins (long chains of amino acids) that were originally formed in special seed tissue called the endosperm. In grains, the endosperm is retained, but in legumes and many other plants, it is entirely absorbed into the cotyledons. This repackaging of these long molecules apparently makes them vulnerable to tangling, sort of like the way that elastic bands, string and paper clips left in a drawer will eventually form a knotted mass. As the carbohydrates and proteins get tangled up they become harder and then impossible to separate into digestible units by heat or enzymatic action. This repackaging problem is probably why beans have a shorter shelf life than grains.

Soaking the beans.

We always soak our legumes overnight or a bit longer. As the seed draws in water, enzymes are released which start to chop apart its proteins and carbohydrates into smaller units. In our experience, allowing the seed's natural enzymes to start the process yields a sweeter and smoother cooked bean. The next day, we drain off the soaking water. Seeds must germinate in a relatively hostile environment. To fend off hungry invertebrates, fungi and bacteria, they release nasty compounds that make life unpleasant for these creatures and us. There is a myth that the soaking water contains valuable nutrients; taste it and decide for yourselves. We dump the water, rinse the beans and start cooking them in fresh water.

Harvesting the beans.

Beans cook best in a nearly neutral pH, which makes water the best cooking medium. In some areas, it is customary to add a pinch of "soda" to raise the pH of  the water. Acidic ingredients such as tomatoes should be added after the beans are cooked. Some people believe salt impedes the cooking of beans. Whether or not this is true, we always salt our beans after cooking. Judy Rodgers' advice in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is to salt the cooking liquid to taste after the beans are done and let them rest. This works well for us.

Finally, the cooking liquid of all of our beans is really delicious and, if the recipe calls for draining the cooked beans, retain the liquid for some other recipe or enjoy it as you would a cup of stock.

The Bean Roster

We sell both pole and bush beans. The pole beans (Borlotto, Tarbais, Black Basque) cost more to grow because they must be trellised, so we package them in 3/4 pound packages. Bush types come in 1-pound packages. Over the last decade, we brought more than 50 types to the market. We have settled on this group of ten which provides a manageable level of diversity and includes our favorites.

Borlotto bean stew.

Borlotto Lamon: This is a classic Italian pole bean from the Veneto. Traditionally used for la jota. The flavor is nutty with a very fine, silky texture, our choice for a desert island bean. Several years ago, a virus brought in by some seeds purchased for a different variety destroyed our crop. We bought new seed but it had declined in quality; the beans were highly variable, with about 90% off-type, and ripened over a five week period. As there is no substitute for the variety, we have spent the last three years reselecting the crop in order to improve its quality. We have invested well over $2,000 in the effort, and we are very pleased with the result.

Ayers Creek tarbais beans.

Tarbais: A flat, white pole bean traditionally used for cassoulet. Also great with kale and cabbage dishes.

Black Basque: A black pole bean from northern Spain. It is a slightly sweet bean with a delicate flavor. Unlike other black beans, it is best prepared with a light hand on the seasonings, and served simply in its own broth with some good bread.

Zolfino: A white bush bean with a yellowish cast. Like the previous bean, go easy on the seasoning, just a sprig of sage or rosemary is enough. We add a splash of vinegar and olive oil before serving.

Purgatorio: A small white bean traditionally served with fish. We have it courtesy of our sister-in-law, Shirin. Many years ago, we had dinner at Al Covo, a restaurant that specializes in fish, and the person serving us noted that she was from Texas and wanted to know where we lived and what we did. We introduced ourselves as bean farmers from Oregon. A few minutes later her husband, Cesare Benelli, came out and told us how much he loved beans. The chef then turn serious and told us that we should grow the bean from Gradoli, as it is the best bean for serving with fish. He checked in the kitchen, but had run out of the beans. A few months later, Shirin sent us a box with several types of beans, including 'purgatorio', the bean of Gradoli. This week, we enjoyed them as a soup in their own broth with some Oregon bay shrimp sauteed with a bit of cumin and lots of freshly ground cayenne.

Black Turtle: The standard black bean for Cuban and Mexican dishes. Holds it own in the company of strong seasonings and whatever else you fling at it.

Gorgeous Dutch Bullets. 

Dutch Bullet: A golden round bean with a red eye. Good for soup, perhaps with some escarole added. The late Dutch plant breeder, Kees Sahin, recommended  that we grow these beans as they are a favorite in Holland. Our friend, Alice Doyle of Log House Plants, brought Kees to the farm and we spent a whole evening tasting and talking about beans and other vegetables. By coincidence, our neighbors grew several acres 'Bull's Blood' beet for seed this year which is one of Kees's varieties.

Vermont Cranberry: A red kidney bean with dark streaks. Use as you would other red kidney beans. The common name is a misnomer as cranberry beans are round and red like the fruit. This type of bean used to be called a horticultural bean, and is very similar to the old 'Boston Favorite' bean, and it will be perfect for baked beans.

Soldier: A white kidney bean from Northern New England. Similar to the other white kidney beans, the cannellino and lingot. Good for soups and other dishes that call for navy beans or white kidney beans.

Flageolet: A small, greenish bean traditionally served with lamb. It is also good in a gratin. It is named after a small wind instrument related to the recorder, a reference to its long, delicate pod.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: Meditation on Winter Fields

GoodStuffNW contributor Anthony Boutard's lyrical, thoughtful writing is based on years of observation, noting and photographing the effects of weather and season on his land.

His meticulous eye for detail is reflected on the pages of his just-released book, Beautiful Corn, and is shown in this video, the second part of my interview with Anthony for Food Farmer Earth.

Watch part one, A Farmer's Sensibility.

Get this week's recipe for easy street-style enchiladas with adobo sauce. Get regular updates on this series about our local food scene by subscribing.

Photo by Anthony Boutard.

Brown and Stirred: Rum Club's Gift for Your Holiday Bar

Michael Shea, co-owner of Portland bar industry hangout Rum Club, admitted that when he was coming up with a holiday cocktail menu he kept tending toward brown and stirred.

Michael Shea of Rum Club.

"I just couldn't get away from it," he said, so as with any creative endeavor, instead of fighting instinct he decided to throw it a curveball.

That's how the Walk the Line came to contain not the usual autumnal go-to of bourbon or rye, but a combination of tequila and mezcal. A lightly spicy, warming drink going down, the tequila lifts your mood at the same time that it smooths the edges of a winter day.

Work with that, instinct, you wiley dog!

Rum Club's Walk the Line

1 pt. reposado tequila
1 pt. cinzano sweet vermouth
1/2 pt. cognac
1 bsp. (barspoon) mezcal
2 dashes Angosturra bitters
2 dashes Peychaud bitters

Fill mixing glass half full of ice. Add ingredients and stir briefly to chill (30 seconds or so). Strain into short cocktail glass over large ice cube. Add twist of orange.

Makes one cocktail.

Food Farmer Earth: A Farmer's Sensibility

In my interview for FoodFarmerEarth with Gaston farmer—and GoodStuffNW contributor—Anthony Boutard, he allows as how farming, for him, isn't just crop yields and calculations. There's also a place for whimsy, experimentation and even an aesthetic sensibility.

The son of a renowned Massachusetts botanist, Anthony Boutard was raised with the rich aromas of the earth and an appreciation for the changes in the natural world that come with the turning of the seasons. Educated as a forester, he came out West to work with a new organization, 1000 Friends of Oregon, dedicated to preserving a balance between urban and rural life.

After a few years of living and working in Portland, he and his wife, Carol, decided to move out of the city and engage their growing commitment to local, organic food. Looking for a farm that was close enough to the city to make deliveries, in 1998 they found a 140-acre working farm on the banks of little Ayers Creek in Gaston, Oregon.

“If you’ve got one and a half million people who are potential customers, it makes it a little more workable than if you were 350 miles away,” he said of their choice, adding that it wasn’t all cold calculation. “It just had a good feel to it.”

Read the rest of Anthony's story.

Watch part two of this interview, Meditation on Winter Fields. This week's recipe is for easy street-style enchiladas with adobo sauce. Get regular updates on this series about our local food scene by subscribing.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Kick Out the Chicken for this Quick Fish Dish

One of the reasons I don't often cook with fish is simply because the fresh stuff was hard to come by in the small Central Oregon town I grew up in. Even after my parents moved the family to Portland there wasn't much available in the supermarkets around our suburban housing development, the streets strangely named after American Indian tribes. (Pawnee Path? Shawnee Trail? Sioux Court? Really?)

My mother was much more comfortable cooking red meat, due to her upbringing in an Eastern Oregon cattle ranching family. Any time we did have fish, it tended to be less than absolutely fresh, requiring lots of what was called "doctoring" to cut through the fishiness. So, needless to say, there's a lot I have to learn about cooking these members of the gill-bearing aquatic family.

Gazing distractedly at the fish and seafood case in the store the other day, I noticed a fish with the strange name of "swai," fillets of which were going for less than $4 a pound, a pretty unbelievable price for fresh fish. Pulling out my phone and launching the handy Seafood Watch app, I found out that swai (above left) is a farmed river catfish from Asia—usually Vietnam—with a mild flavor and meaty texture. Rated a "good" choice if it comes from a foreign source, it rates a "best choice" if raised domestically.

At that price I couldn't walk away, but what to do with it when I got home? Then I remembered a fish dish my friend Dana had made for dinner the last time we were at her house. She'd come across a chicken piccata recipe that sounded great, but she had rockfish fillets on the menu. Ignoring tradition like any good creative cook, she not only decided to try a completely new dish on guests, she subbed in the fish for the chicken. Excellent!

It seemed like my foreign fish purchase might work as well as rockfish, so I followed her lead. Start to finish, it's ready in about half an hour…and I think you'll agree it's a winner.

White Fish Piccata

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped fine
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. capers
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped fine, for garnish (optional)
1-1 1/2 lbs. fish fillets

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add garlic and very briefly sauté until it's just warmed. Add lemon juice and chicken stock and heat until it barely comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add capers and stir. Add small amount of water to cornstarch to make a thin paste. Add cornstarch to sauce and allow to thicken slightly.

Place fish fillets in a 9" by 12" baking pan. Pour sauce over the top and put in oven for 20-25 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Drink for a Good Cause

My friend Katie Burnett just alerted me to a cause I can really get behind:

There are several bars in town rallying together to raise money to help their friends back east whose bars were heavily damaged in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It was just a few days ago that they were all together in Portland for Portland Cocktail Week, so the bartenders in Portland and Seattle are working tirelessly to raise funds for the United States Bartenders' Guild New York Chapter, which is heading up the charge in that city.

The bars below are donating all the funds from one or more cocktails to the USBGNY this weekend to help the relief efforts:

Teardrop Lounge
Park Kitchen
Rum Club

Rob Roy
Liberty Bar

If you can't make it in for a drink, please consider making a donation directly to the USBGNY. Please send checks payable to USBGNY to this address:

Hal Wolin
80 2nd Street
Brooklyn NY 11231