Monday, December 30, 2013

Creamy Comfort, Thy Name is Cauliflower

What is it about creamed dishes that are so comforting on chilly winter nights? They're like wrapping up in your favorite blanket with a good book and a warm dog asleep at (or preferably on) your feet. Not to get all cliché, but it's that indefinable, je ne sais quoi of texture, flavor and warmth that spells cozy with a capital C.

This simple cauliflower soup warmed us up the other evening, and was terrific for lunch a couple of days later.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

For the soup:
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1/4 lb. bacon or pancetta, chopped in 1/4” cubes
2 med. onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 head cauliflower, separated and chopped in 1" pieces
2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
Salt to taste

For the roux:
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
4 Tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
4 oz. (1/2 c.) sour cream or cream cheese

Melt butter in large sauce pan or soup pot. Add bacon or pancetta and sauté till fat is rendered. Remove bacon and save for garnishing the soup.

Add onions to fat in pot and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and sauté briefly to warm, then add basil and thyme and sauté until fragrant. Add cauliflower, chicken stock and salt, then cover and simmer 30 min. until cauliflower is tender.

In separate pan melt butter over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and stir in flour until lumps disappear. Return to heat and, stirring constantly, cook the roux for one minute until it loses its raw taste. Still stirring, add milk. When it starts steaming and thickens, add sour cream or cream cheese and stir till it melts into the sauce.

Remove soup from heat and add roux, combining it thoroughly. With immersion blender, blend until soup is a thick, creamy consistency. (This can also be done in batches in a blender, but the soup must be cooled first.) Return to low heat for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Adjust salt. Serve in bowls garnished with bacon cubes.

Ring In the New Year Italian-Style!

Contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food is one lucky guy…it just might have something to do with the way he rings in the New Year. Here he discusses a traditional Italian dish he makes on January 1.

Many cultures eat special New Year’s foods, usually things that symbolize good luck or prosperity. Greens are the color of money, long noodles mean long life, pigs root forward and herald progress, and round foods look like coins. That last one’s why Italians eat lentils (lenticchie) at the beginning of a new year, and if coin-shaped slices of pork sausage are included, that’s even better.

Italian lentils don’t break down during cooking, and that’s what I prefer. According to wikipedia, the difference between cooked lentils that get mushy and those that stay intact is the husk. But that’s not the kind of information you’ll find on a label, so you need to shop for specific lentils by type. The brownish, speckled lentils from Umbria are hard to find, but the small, dark green lentils often marked as French or du Puy can be purchased as most good grocery stores. Here’s how I usually cook them.

Lenticchie al Mauro

Mauro (left) is a grizzled farmer we met in the Umbrian hill town of Castelluccio, home of Italy’s best lentils. He admonished us as we were about to sprinkle Parmigiano over a simple bowl of lenticchie: "Solo aglio, olio, sedano, sale, e aqua. Non formaggio." ("Only garlic, oil, celery, salt, and water. No cheese.")

Sauté a couple of minced garlic cloves and a diced stalk of celery plenty of extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Add the lentils, water to cover (2-3 cups), and a good pinch of sea salt. Bring to gentle boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Adjust salt and drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil.

For New Year’s, add some sausages for Lenticchie all’Uccelletto con Salsicche:

Fagioli all’Uccelletto, or beans with tomato sauce, is a common Tuscan dish. Literally "like little birds," the origin of the phrase all’Uccelletto is subject to some debate. Pelligrino Artusi, in his classic 1891 cookbook "La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene,"* says it refers to the use of sage, essential in cooking birds. Others claim it acknowledges beans as the traditional accompaniment to roasted songbirds. Lentils with tomato sauce and sausage are also served in Tuscany and Umbria, but not usually tagged all’Uccelletto. I just like how it sounds.

While the Lenticchie al Mauro are cooking, cook 4-5 sausages (for this I like Salumeria di Carlo’s cotechino-style, available in the freezer at New Seasons) in a little olive oil over medium low heat, turning often until browned on all sides. When the lentils are done, add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Place the sausages on top of the lentils, cover and cook another 10 minutes over low heat. Drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil at the table.

* Here's a link to get the English version, "Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Quick Hits: Grassa, Ha & VL, Stone Cliff Inn

When it comes to meeting up with a friend for lunch, those of us on the east side of the river have endless choices in a panoply of cuisines, from American barbecue to Mexican tacos to African stews to Cuban sandwiches. And you can pretty much name your price point, from cheap to très cher. Downtown is another story altogether—in numbers, variety and cost—if you want to sit at an inside table in a heated room, and the past few weeks have been so unseasonably cold that those were pretty much required attributes.

Grassa's Aglia Olio.

So when a friend who works at PSU wanted to meet during her limited lunch hour, I suggested Grassa, Rick Gencarelli's pasta emporium on the upper side of downtown, an area recently bestowed with the tony-sounding title "West End." Walking in, some neck-craning is required to read the ceiling-to-floor blackboard menu before you step up to the register to place your order. Then you're given a number and directed to the long, shared counter-height tables and stools or the bar facing the kitchen.

We opted for two plates of the house-made pasta, and within 15 minutes they were placed before us. My squid ink pasta "Aglia Olio" was a basic pangratatto, the pasta beautifully black and tossed with olive oil, garlic, chiles, romano and crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. My companion's "Gigli"—lamb bolognese, pecorino and a sprinkling of fried mint—broke the comfort-o-meter with its warm, luscious combination of pasta and fatty meat sauce. At eight and eleven dollars, respectively, these were well worth the price, and we could have split a salad for not much more. Plus we were finished in time for a leisurely cappucino at Heart a half-block away.

Details: Grassa, 1205 SW Washington St. 503-241-1133.

* * *

The day after my friend Hank Shaw's incredible booksigning/dinner at St. Jack where chef Aaron Barnett blew the roof off the building with his ducky prowess, we decided to take it easy and have a restorative lunch at what I consider the finest pho palace in PDX, Ha & VL. This postage stamp of a place has been known to run out of soup late in the morning, so I was somewhat nervous walking in a little closer to noon than I like. Plus Hank's home town of Sacramento has some of the best Asian restaurants of anyplace in California, which cannot, sadly, be said of Portland.

Ha Luu, maestress of pho.

I needn't have worried on either count. Since proprietor Ha Luu has started making two soups a day rather than just one, we were able to get a bowl of each. Mine was the Phnom Penh special, a perfectly balanced bowl of broth, noodle and bits of pork and seafood that makes me crave Luu's soups on a regular basis. Hank's pho ga (chicken soup for you non-pho speakers) was equally amazing, and he proclaimed that the pho here was as good as any he could get in his home town.

Details: Ha & VL, 2738 SE 82nd Ave., #102. 503-772-0103.

* * *

The Stone Cliff Inn is one of those places that takes you by surprise. First off, it's a giant Doug fir-timbered lodge set high on a cliff overlooking the Clackamas River outside of Carver. It was built by the son of a local logging family, the Rosenbaums, on the site of a rock quarry, the rock from which was used to line the steep driveway and which forms the foundation of the lodge.

Inside you can sit in the vaulted dining room in front of the giant stone fireplace (left) or at one of the many windowed tables with a spectacular view of the river. The lunch menu features a decent middle-of-the-road selection of salads and sandwiches, but on it is also a very good and  plate of fish and chips with a hefty helping of fish, a decent cole slaw and some of the best sweet potato fries I've had in town.

If you're looking for a destination after a weekend drive in the country, this would be a fun place to go, or to take your Aunt Tilly for a nice lunch and a glass of wine. I'm interested in heading back when the deck is open and I can sit looking out on that great view with a cold beer to go along with those sweet potato fries.

Details: Stone Cliff Inn, 17900 S. Clackamas River Dr., Oregon City. 503-631-7900.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Great Gifting: The Gift of a Better Community

Most of us are swimming or, more likely, drowning, in stuff. We don't need another gadget or doodad or gewgaw. But gift certificates seem so "Whatever." Like we couldn't think of anything else but had to put something under the tree, and surely they can find a gift at that giant online retailer that has everything from books to toys to tools to…well…you know which store I'm talking about.

Zenger Farm.

If you're stuck for a last-minute present and dread fighting the hordes that seem to find the Battle of the Last Minute a thrill, then might I suggest giving a gift that will warm the heart and do some good in the community (and/or the world). And that's giving a gift to an organization or effort in the name of your giftee.

Friends of Family Farmers.

There are plenty of national and international groups that are highly rated by Charity Watch, a nonprofit that gives charities a letter grade based on their practices and the percentage of donation dollars that go directly to programs (rather than executives' salaries). But if you want to do some good right here at home, below you'll find a few organizations that are working hard to make the Northwest a better place to live.

Zenger Farm. A working urban farm that models, promotes and educates about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship, community development and access to good food for all. Working to build an Urban Grange, a hub for healthy food and community connection, right here in the city.

Friends of Family Farmers. A grassroots organization promoting sensible policies, programs and regulations that protect and expand the ability of Oregon’s family farmers to run a successful land-based enterprise while providing safe and nutritious food for all Oregonians through education, advocacy, and community organizing.

Farmers Market Fund. Providing low-income, elderly and under-served populations throughout the region increased access to fresh, locally grown food. Administers Fresh Exchange, a money matching program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, also known as food stamps.

The Portland Kitchen. Offers free, comprehensive culinary after-school and summer programming for Portland high school youth, age 14-18. Its mission is to empower urban youth to graduate high school with job skills and improved eating habits.

Organic Seed Alliance. Advances the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. Believes that seed is part of our common cultural heritage—a living, natural resource that demands careful management to meet food needs now and into the future.

The Pongo Fund. An emergency pet food distribution network, it provides quality pet food to people in need, keeping animals out of shelters and keeping pets healthy.

Others to consider are Growing Gardens, Grow Portland and Outgrowing Hunger (top photo). Feel free to add your favorites in the comments section below, and happy giving!

Read the other posts in this series: Gifts That Give Back, Mad Skills, Kids' Stuff, Bookin' It and Good Eatin'.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Farm Bulletin: The Boutard Manifesto, Pt. 1

I know, I know, it's the holiday season and no one wants to think about politics. Nonetheless, the machinery of politics and the machinations of corporations churn relentlessly. If you don't have time to read this right now, fine, but bookmark it for later when you do, because this is terrifically important information about the future of our state's agriculture and our local food system. (BTW, you can tell how important it is when you hear contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm quoting scripture.)

This autumn's special session of the Oregon Legislature was called to deal with urgent budget problems. Unfortunately, the legislature also passed SB 633, a bill that blocks local communities from regulating genetically engineered (GE) crops—the same bill that had been defeated earlier in the regular session (pdf of full text here). It stuck out like a sore thumb and garnered a measure of national attention. Its sole purpose was to sweeten the budget deal for the Republicans. It was a disturbing indicator of how powerful the biotechnology industry is, even in a state where GE crops play a minor to trivial economic role. As a general matter, we have a deep ambivalence toward local governments regulating agriculture as the laws have often been directed against organic gardeners and farmers. Ironically, even when such laws are prohibited, such as in the case of SB 633, it is still skewed against organic growers. The old heads we lose, tails you win game.

Anthony with his flint corn.

Plants that cross pollinate, whether by wind or insects, are vulnerable to contamination by nearby plantings of GE crops of the same type. Last Saturday, at the suggestion of Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed, a reporter contacted us regarding Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack touting the idea of "coexistence" between organic growers and the biotechnology sector. The USDA is in the comment period for rule-making on coexistence, another indicator of the industry's influence. After the market on Sunday, we sent the reporter this quickly drafted response, reedited a bit for clarity.

* * *

When we hear people use the word "coexistence," we hear the language of the Prophet Isaiah 11:26: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat …" In life on earth wolves eat sheep and leopards eat goats, and quite happily, at least from the predator's perspective. We agree with Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds, the faith-based approach to controlling genetic trespass, cynically named coexistence, isn't reassuring unless the predator is caged, or defanged and declawed.

Bees can carry pollen for miles.

Parts of Oregon have a legal and social structure called "open range." Cattle are allowed to roam without fences and cow hands round them up in the autumn when it comes time to sell them. If you don't want livestock on your property, you have to put up a fence. Ownership is determined by the branding iron not the location of the beast. When you travel in the eastern parts of the state, highway signs advise you that there may be cattle in the road. You hit one, you have to compensate the owner for the dead or injured animal. In the more densely populated areas, that doesn't work; livestock must be fenced.

Up to now, the genetically engineered crops have had their grand romp across the nation with little resistance. Millions of acres in GE corn and soybeans cover the midsection of the U.S. It is the equivalent of open range; the pollen from these crops and the traits it carries can range freely. If your crop acquires a GE trait, even passively because the pollen lands on your crop, you have to pay the company that owns the trait if you want to use that seed. Yes, it is outrageous, and it is the law upheld by the Supreme Court.

Ayers Creek flint corn.

In the Willamette Valley and Rogue Valley with their small area and dense pattern of cropping, open range rules for GE crops are economically destructive to certain sectors of agriculture, and not just the organic growers, also specialty seed growers and crops grown for the export markets. Those agricultural sectors are well established in the state. Oregon is fifth in the nation in terms of number of certified organic farms, and one of the top seed-producing regions in the world. We need the equivalent of a fenced pasture here, in other words, keep your modified genes on your own land.

The inane argument that modified genes are legal doesn't cut it. Cattle and sheep are legal but the state does not sanction our neighbor's sheep trespassing on our land and destroying the value of our crops. In our part of the state, livestock must be fenced, and if one wanders in the road and we hit it or it damages our crops, the owner is liable for damage to our property. Drift from a legal pesticide onto a neighboring farm is likewise trespass if it causes economic damage, even if it is applied according to the label. Unfortunately, in the case of genetic trespass, neither the federal nor the state governments have shown leadership or concern for growers who are put at economic risk.

Table beets.

The next step of the argument is the foundering, hand-waving assertion that pollen is everywhere and no one can control it. This is wrong on its face. Almost every plant species has a mechanism for excluding foreign pollen when it lands on the stigma. That is why you can't cross lettuce with a tomato in classic breeding methodology. If the patent office hadn't granted utility patents on traits in established crops, we doubt we would be at this contentious moment. The industry would have found a way to protect their proprietary traits by preventing their replication in non-GE crops, utilizing one of the many exclusion mechanisms found in nature or maternal inheritance (no modified genes in the pollen). The EPA could have required that pollen from a modified plant be unrecognizable to plants in the same species as a condition of approval. With patent protection, the large corporations exploit the court system instead. The owners of the patent have no incentive to corral their traits, so local governments have no choice but to step into the breach using what authority they can reasonably muster.

Teosinte, ancestor of modern corn.

For every economic crop that is genetically modified, the approving authorities should require that its pollen is unrecognizable to the crop so modified, or that plant is sterile. For example, GE beet pollen should not germinate on non-GE beets. There are many foreign gene exclusion models that occur in nature. Some strains of popcorn have a single gene, GAS, that stops the germination of the pollen tube if is from a different class of corn, and prevents pollination. Some organic seed producers have incorporated this gene into their lines, using classic breeding techniques. In fact, domesticated corn cannot pollinate the wild corn plant, teosinte, which has a similar exclusion mechanism. The industry could also use traits that lead to sterile hybrids.

Just as with fencing livestock in the valley, that burden should fall to the entity profiting from the wandering genes. The companies producing GE seed have the tools and expertise at their disposal to produce seed lines that would not pollute non-GE seed lines with their pollen. But they are not going to do it if they don't have to.

As Frank Morton noted, we produce a great deal of seed on our farm. If our neighbors upwind of us decided to grow GE corn, for example, we would lose that crop and a substantial chunk of income. We have been working on our seed lines for twelve years, adapting them to the climate and soil conditions on our farm. It is incredible corn and if you are in Portland, visit Pine State Biscuits and try their grits. We grow that corn.

Photo of teosinte from Wikipedia.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Shakshuka: Don't Call It Breakfast

Thank heavens for NPR. All these years I've been covering up a dirty secret, carefully glossing over what seemed to be a major character flaw, and now our very own Deena Prichep, writer, producer and radio personality extraordinaire (Hey, she's talked with all my crushes at NPR…that qualifies!), has absolved my shame.

And that is…oh god, it's so hard to type this…I will, on occasion, make breakfast for dinner.

The ragu.

There, I've said it. Breakfast for dinner. Usually involving eggs, but occasionally pancakes or, heaven help me, waffles. Yes, waffles.

Whew…I feel so much better! Like a heavy burden has been lifted, like my life doesn't need to spiral into embarrassment and recrimination every evening when the light starts fading and I look up from Facebook and realize Dave's going to be home in 30 minutes and I don't have a gorgeous roast chicken or braised meat to set on the table.

Dinner is served.

Panic mode! But then I relax because, as anyone who indulges in this practice knows, breakfast items like the ones Deena writes about—chilaquiles, waffles, omelets and pancakes—can be easily whipped up in less than an hour.

One example from just the other night is shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a vegetable ragu. Flexible as far as required ingredients go, it's a great way to clean out the vegetable bin of those bits and bobs that didn't quite make it into other meals and might not make it to the next day (you know what I'm talking about here…).

So free yourself from your chains, grab the egg carton out of the fridge and declare your liberation. Let me hear a "Hallelujah!"


2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and sliced crosswise into 1/8" slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 c. crushed tomatoes
1 small bunch kale, about 3 cups, sliced into thin strips
2 tsp. smoked paprika (I used piquante, or slightly spicy, but mild dulce is fine, too.)
1 tsp. cumin
Salt, to taste
6 eggs
Chevre (optional)
Crusty bread (optional)

In large skillet (I used a large cast iron skillet, but any kind will do), heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and sauté till tender. Add garlic, bell pepper and spices and continue sautéing. When peppers are tender, add tomatoes and bring to a simmer over low heat. Stir in the kale and allow it to cook down into the ragu, about 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point, if the shame is too much, you could always just cook up a pot of pasta and mix the ragu into it, but I'd encourage you to go for broke:

Make six slight indentations in the vegetables and crack an egg into each one (the indentations help to cup the egg and keep it from running all over the surface). Cover and cook until the whites of the eggs are cooked but the yolks are still soft. (The yolks will have a slightly translucent white film when they're done, but watch so you can catch them just as the film appears.) Serve in the skillet or plate by taking a scoop of eggs and ragu, then top with a dollop of chevre, if desired. Slices of crusty bread are encouraged for sopping.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Frost on the Fencepost

The frost early this morning was spectacular. A soft covering of crystals, the quiet of a winter morning…perfect!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Great Gifting: Good Eatin'

Self-liquidating gifts are a favorite theme around the holidays. It's so much easier and guilt-free…no need to remember to wear that hideous pendant at family gatherings so Aunt Esther knows how much you appreciate her generosity, or where to place the reindeer-or-is-it-a-deranged-gorilla that little Bobby made in his art class.

No, I believe in the gift that disappears without a trace within a few weeks of the giving, and a nicely chosen food item fits that description to a T. Think of it as a hostess gift for the holidays, whether it's a single jar of picked-at-the-peak-of-ripeness organic berry jam or some exotic spices with the aroma of a magical Mediterranean island. Whether it's given singly or packed in a basket, there's no end of goodness to share.

Here are a few of my favorites. Feel free to vamp on these for the lucky giftees on your list:

Real Good Food: Last year I put together baskets of Jim Dixon's imported olive oil and packets of the most amazingly fragrant oregano, fennel pollen and capers (right) from Pantelleria, a tiny island between the toe of Italy's boot and Tunisia. Jim also has wonderful grains, dried beans and Crystal hot sauce from Louisiana, any combination of which would make a greatly appreciated gift. Find him on at his annual Olive Oil Garage Sale on Fri.-Sat., 12/20-21, from 12-5 and then on Mon., 12/23, from 3-7 pm at his retail location at 833 SE Main, #122, on the corner of SE 9th and Main.

Nostrana: This year Cathy and David are offering specially labeled 375ml bottles of Italian olive oils (top photo). In addition to their house arbequina, they have four kind of olio nuovo, the freshly pressed oil that is loaded with phenolic compounds (i.e. pungency) and that is a greatly anticipated seasonal treat in Italy. Their house oil is $15, and the olio nuovo varies from $30 to $50 per bottle. In addition, they have their famous pizza scissors for $20 a pair should you want to combine them with the oil for a "pizza package" or slide them into a deserving pizzaiolo's stocking.

Ayers Creek: Nothing makes foodie friends happier than giving the best of region's bounty, especially items that are hard to find and that give a real "taste of the place," the terroir of Oregon. I've given baskets brimming with Ayers Creek Farm farmstead polenta and beans packed around a jar of their fabulous jam. You will find Anthony and Carol this Sunday (12/22) at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, and you can get their jams at Vino on SE 28th and at Pastaworks on Hawthorne.

Read the other posts in this series: Gifts That Give Back, Mad Skills, Kids' Stuff and Bookin' It.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Artisan Bread: Don't Put It Away

The advertising business has a maxim that goes something like, "If you want your message to get through, repeat it. Then repeat it again. And again. And again. [etc.]" It's why we remember classic slogans like "it's the real thing," "the un-cola" and "you deserve a break today."

A few years ago I bought a giant—and I mean at least 20 inches across—loaf of artisan bread from Pearl Bakery to take on a beach weekend with friends. As she handed it to me, the sales clerk said, "Don't wrap it in plastic or put it in the refrigerator. Leave it out on the counter even after you cut it open. The outside will get nice and crusty and the flavor of the bread will continue to improve."

We got to the beach and, when we'd used some of the bread with our crab Louies and it was time to clean up, I just couldn't do it. The bread was popped into a plastic bag and went into the fridge. It was fine, of course, but lost that crusty crunch of an artisan loaf.

Years later we were on a road trip to the Okanagan region of BC to check out its food and wine scene and ran across an artisan bakery called Walla in Penticton. We bought a loaf of artisan bread from owner Benjamin Manea, a Romanian-born Israeli, and as we left he said in a stern, heavily accented voice, "Before you buy, you need to know about this bread." He instructed us to never, ever put the bread in a plastic bag in the fridge, that when it’s cut open it needs to be stored cut edge down on the counter and that it would last for four days. As we were paying, he grumbled something about people not knowing how to take care of fresh bread.

When Dave started making his own sourdough bread we remembered Mr. Manea's instructions and started leaving the bread out on the counter, standing it up on its cut side after slicing what we needed. As the clerk at the bakery said years earlier, the outside gets a nice hard crust and the inside keeps its chewy, moist texture for several days—up to a week, though a loaf rarely lasts that long.

My brother, who regularly is given a loaf so his son can have toast for breakfast in the morning before heading off to school, leaves it on the counter as instructed. But if it happens to be a day when their housekeeper comes to clean, she wraps the bread in plastic and puts it in the fridge. I guess she just hasn't heard the message often enough yet.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kay Boyle, the Most Dangerous Writer in America

"Kay Boyle is the most dangerous woman in America." - S.I. Hayakawa, president of San Francisco State College (now University)

Kay Boyle by Man Ray.

Local filmmaker Kelley Baker has been working to tell the story of this dangerous woman for nearly 30 years. In 1983 he was researching the stories of the expatriates who made up the demimonde of Paris in the 1920s. A name, that of writer Kay Boyle, kept coming up. Further digging revealed that Boyle was at the epicenter of much of that world and knew most of the key players, writers like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, as well as artists like Marcel Duchamp, Picasso and Brancusi.

Married three times and the mother of six children, she wrote constantly, publishing nearly 40 works of fiction and nonfiction. She was also a political activist and human rights advocate, involving herself in movements from anti-McCarthyism to civil rights to protesting the war in Vietnam. In short, a filmmaker's dream subject.

Kay with her second husband, Laurence Vail.

"Kay Boyle was an amazing role model—not just for women or artists, she was a role model for all of us," said Baker of the woman who has inspired him to make the film he's titled "Dangerous: Kay Boyle."

"She was an example of how to live a full life and have a profound effect on the lives of others. I don’t want to see this legacy lost."

Baker is on the verge of finishing his film, a journey that's taken him from a wet-behind-the-ears young filmmaker to an accomplished professional who's worked on films with the likes of Gus Van Sant, Todd Haines and Will Vinton. His work on the Boyle film has been awarded the support of the Fredericksburg Athenaeum, which allows him to raise tax-deductible contributions for the $20,000 he needs to finish the film.

Kelley Baker.

"There are a lot of interesting projects out there that need your help, so why choose this one?" he asks. His answer? "Because if Kay’s life and work inspires just one person to speak out, not be intimidated and to help change someone’s life, then your donation did something important."

For as little as $25 you can get your name on the credits of the film, and the perks go up from there. I urge you to consider donating or, heck, to donate in the name of one of the folks on your holiday gift list. After all, who wouldn't like to see their name in lights?

All photos from Kelley's website.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's Been So Cold…

How cold has it been in the Northwest this past week? When even the plastic horses need blankets…yikes!

I Saw Twenty Ships Come Sailing In…

It's one of Portland's longest-running annual events, and I had almost completely forgotten about it.

It's been years (or maybe decades) since I'd watched the parade of Christmas Ships, but when my friend Bette said she had two prime viewing seats available from the bar at Salty's on the Columbia, I was happy to hop on board. Especially since evening temperatures were hovering in the 20s and Dave and I could slip out to the copious deck (under a heater) for a closeup view, then pop back to our table in the bar for the big picture.

A little nosh with our Christmas parade? Sure!

The parade was started in 1954 by one lone sailboat bedecked with green bows with some ribbon tied along the rails, and it sailed up and down on the Columbia and Willamette rivers to celebrate the Christmas season. The next year some other hardy souls joined the first boat, and subsequent years saw the parade grow until the fleet now averages about 55 to 60 boats between the two rivers.

From the first garlands and bows of that first boat there's now some stiff competition to have the best lighted, and even animated, display, though any of the captains will tell you it's not about beating out the other boats. (Yeah, right…) The parade runs through Dec. 21st this year with sailings every evening on both the Columbia and Willamette. Complete schedule is available on the website.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Mystery Pic: Whose Bowl Is It Anyway?

Introducing a new series that will flex not only your brain cells but your research muscles.

Your hint: This bowl, about seven inches in diameter, comes from a specific part of the world and is used for a specific purpose.

The first person to come up with both correct answers will win a copy of the recently released 2nd edition of Portland's 100 Best Places to Stuff Your Faces by Jen Stevenson. Guesses must be left in the comments section below this post on or before noon on Dec. 20th. Check back to see if you guessed correctly!


Saturday, December 07, 2013

The "L" Word: Salmon Two Ways

I went a little crazy buying fish this past year, but my excuse is that the stores were offering such darn great prices. I mean, two whole albacore tunas and two gigantic salmon, both filleted on the spot with the bones and heads bagged and ready to go in the stock pot for half (or less) of what they normally go for? It was a deal I obviously couldn't resist.

Beautiful Northwest salmon. Wow.

All this is to introduce a dilemma, albeit a delicious one, that I faced last week: a friend from New York was visiting his family over the Thanksgiving holiday and we'd cajoled him into stopping by before he flew out of town. A freelance writer and playwright, his first produced play will be opening in January in the Big Apple, a pretty darn momentous event that deserved to be celebrated.

Contestant #1: Salmon mac'n'cheese.

My thoughts immediately swam to one of those amazing salmon fillets waiting patiently in the freezer, envisioning it glistening from the heat and smoke of the grill, served with a risotto of wild chanterelles and an oh-so-Northwest kale salad. So that took care of dinner. For four people. Which meant that there was a huge amount, probably at least two pounds, of gorgeously smoky cooked salmon left over.

Contestant #2: Salmon and corn chowder.

What to do? Well, two ideas came to mind, one a completely over-the-top, possibly much-too-much, macaroni and cheese casserole with chunked salmon folded in at the last minute. The other was a more sedate, but totally delicious, salmon chowder with corn and bacon.

I made both (on separate nights) and put them to a family vote. Which did they like better?

To my surprise, the mac'n'cheese (top photo) was the winner, selected because, well, it's a darn good recipe for that cheesy classic and the smoky salmon was perfectly complemented, but not overwhelmed by, the sharp cheddar. Though the voters said that any time I wanted to make the salmon chowder again, they'd be willing to help make it disappear. So nice!

Decadent Macaroni and Cheese with Salmon

1 lb. dried pasta
4 Tbsp. butter*
4 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk*
3/4 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. cream cheese*
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 c. cooked salmon, chunked into bite-sized pieces
Smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton), optional

Boil large pot of water. While water is heating, melt butter in medium-sized saucepan. Remove from burner and add flour, stirring to combine. Place back on burner and cook on low heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add milk gradually, stirring/whisking until it thickened, then add cheese in handfuls until melted. Add cream cheese and stir until sauce is thick and creamy, then add hot sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook till al dente. Drain and put back in pasta pot, add salmon and cheese sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with smoked paprika, if desired. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes.

* For Dave, who is lactose intolerant, I use margarine instead of butter, substitute lactose-free whole milk for the regular milk and Tofutti cream cheese for the cream cheese. It works great…even the lactose-loving will rave.

* * *

Salmon Chowder with Corn and Bacon

3 slices bacon, cut in 1/4" pieces
2 Tbsp. butter*
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 potatoes, chopped into 1/2" dice
2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 c. chicken stock, fish stock or corn stock
4 c. milk
2-3 c. cooked salmon, flaked
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon pieces in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is cooked but not crispy. Add the onion and garlic and sauté till translucent, then add the butter and allow it to melt. Add potatoes and sauté till slightly tender. Add corn and stir to bring up to temperature, then pour in stock and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and cook until potatoes are completely tender. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add the salmon to the pot and stir gently until it's just warmed (a minute or so).

* As in the mac'n'cheese recipe above, margarine was used in place of butter and whole lactose-free milk was substituted for the regular milk.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

My Kinda Garage Sale!

There are Italian festivals called sagre (plural of sagra) that celebrate the harvest (above) and often center around a type of local food from the region like eggplants or onions or polenta or, yes, even frogs. Almost every village has an olive oil festival at some point in the year, often after the olives are pressed. The oil, stored in 50-liter metal canisters called fustino, is poured into containers, often wine bottles, brought by the villagers and then taken home to be used throughout the season.

For the last several years, Portland has been one of those villages celebrating the Italian olive oil harvest, thanks to Jim Dixon of Real Good Food. He originally began his own sagra in the garage of his home in Irvington (left), selling olive oil to friends and neighbors who would bring their containers to be filled from the fustino he imported from Italy. A pot of soup was on the hot plate, there was wine and often some homemade nocino from the walnuts that fell from the tree in his front yard, and a crackling fire pit in the driveway to warm the villagers'…I mean, customers'…hands.

One year, though, it got so cold that the oil in the fustino (right) in his unheated garage started to solidify, making filling the wine bottles somewhat problematic. It was about the same time that his selection of products expanded from olive oil, salt and dried beans to grains, oregano, capers and more, much too much to fit in the old garage.

So for the last couple of years Jim can be found celebrating the sagra in his (thankfully heated) retail space in inner SE Portland, where he still fills wine bottles with oil from the fustino and ladles out soup and sips of wine to customers, with a warming fire in the parking lot outside. And I can say from personal experience that a basket of, say, a small bottle of olive oil, a bit of fennel pollen and some Pantellerian capers and oregano make a very appreciated gift under the tree for your favorite cook or holiday host.

Details: Olive Oil Garage Sale (and more!). Fri.-Sat., Dec. 20-21; Noon-5 pm. Real Good Food, 833 SE Main St., Suite 122, on the ground floor on the NE corner of the building. 503-380-1067.

Photo at top of Sagra Astigiane by Andrea Marchisio from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Flashback to Childhood: Tamale Pie

My mother was a ground meat maven. With three growing kids, hamburger gave her a relatively cheap way to feed a large family, and the women's magazines she subscribed to—filled with advice on wifely skills like cooking, entertaining and raising children—invariably had several recipes in each issue that called for a pound or two.

It was a time when herbs like thyme, basil and oregano were considered exotic, when Italian food was too spicy for some folks and, when tacos were introduced to middle-class tables, they were made with oil-fried tortillas, hamburger and Tillamook medium cheddar. In addition to tacos, ground beef was a primary ingredient in (so-called) Spanish rice, spaghetti sauce and a version of "goulash" that featured macaroni noodles, canned corn and more cheddar. Each of which made regular appearances on our dinner table.

Every once in awhile in a fit of nostalgia I'll get a craving for one of my mom's aforementioned dinner classics—I've already written about my reimagining of her tuna casserole—and I'll start going through the little metal boxes of recipes I copied out onto 3" by 5" cards when I was leaving for college. If that fails to turn up a lead, I'll resort to searching online for some clues.

A couple of weeks ago I'd pulled some grass-fed ground beef out of the freezer from the portion I bought from Clare at Big Table Farm and was musing over the possibilities. What sprang to mind was the cornbread-topped, chili powder-inflected American-take-on-Mexican casserole my mother would carry to the table and set before her ravening offspring.

Tamale Pie

For the cornbread topping:
1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs
1 c. cheddar cheese, grated

For the filling:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 poblano or Anaheim chiles, chopped fine
1 1/2 c. corn
1 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 c. roasted tomatoes
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375°.

Mix dry ingredients for topping in medium mixing bowl. Add milk, melted butter and eggs. Stir to combine. Add cheese and mix thoroughly.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add hamburger and brown, chopping into small bits as it cooks. Add onion and garlic and sauté till tender. Add chiles and corn and sauté till chiles are tender. Add spices and tomatoes and bring to simmer. Pour into 9" by 12" baking dish. Top with corn batter by dropping spoonfuls on top of the hamburger mixture and gently spreading it to cover the top. Place baking dish in oven and bake 45 min. until topping is browned.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Great Gifting: Bookin' It

Hello. My name is Kathleen and I love books.

A few years ago I heard someone say that they never traveled without a "flood book." That is, if they were on a trip and couldn't continue because the road was flooded—or the flight was delayed or a bus was late—they'd always have a book at the ready to help pass the time. We subscribe to that philosophy as well, and it's rare that you'll find either Dave or me without printed reading material of one kind or another on our person.

Several books by friends have come out in this past year, and any would make a fine flood book for the folks on your list.

Duck, Duck, Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese, Both Wild and Domesticated by Hank Shaw. This book is a must-have for the hunters on your list. It's also a great choice for cooks who are interested in becoming more familiar with fowl that isn't chicken, especially since ducks and geese are becoming more available to we non-chef types. From hunting and processing wild birds to getting one from the grocery store that's ready to go, Shaw explains what to do with whole birds or parts, breasts to eggs to legs. And as readers of his previous book on foraging and hunting, Hunt, Gather, Cook, know, his recipes are easy enough for moderately experienced home cooks, with clear lists of ingredients and instructions. Holly Heyser's step-by-step photos of boning and other processes, plus mouth-wateringly gorgeous photos of finished dishes, illuminate Shaw's words and make this beautifully designed book a great one for the serious cook's shelf.

Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by Tami Parr. Author of the premier blog about artisan cheese, the Pacific NW Cheese Project, as well as the first book about the Northwest's booming cheese scene, Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest: A Discovery Guide, Parr's new book is the result of extensive research that shows our current bounty of local cheese is no fluke. Fans of cheese, along with NW history buffs, will appreciate the stories of early cheese-making operations established by the Hudson's Bay Company and the contributions by people like Mrs. Helen West of Tigard, who started the Red Rock Cheese Co. in 1919, distributing her cottage cheese to customers via the Oregon Electric Trolley line which ran along the back of her property. Historic photos of early cheesemaking and quaint labels give way to contemporary portraits of the artisan cheesemakers who formed the backbone of our current artisan industry. Appendixes include the history of cheesemaking in Alaska as well as an up-to-date list of current curdsters. A fascinating read.

The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America by Langdon Cook. Mushroom hunting comes as naturally to many Northwesterners as pulling on their Danner boots. Even those of us who eschew the damp, dirty work of foraging the precious fungi from our forest floors anticipate the start of chanterelle season when stores and menues are packed with these gems. Cook, author of the blog and book Fat of the Land, takes readers behind the scenes into the murky, secretive world of the commercial mushroom hunters who supply markets and chefs with these seasonal treats. It's a truly amazing, and sometimes frightening, journey as Cook "follows the invisible food chain from patch to plate," interviewing new immigrants and scrappy geezers, and will appeal equally to those interested in food, natural history and outdoor adventure.

Crackers and Dips: More Than 50 Handmade Snacks by Ivy Manning. I don't know what it is, but my Portland neighborhood may have more food writers per square mile than anyplace in the country. I am fortunate that Ivy is one of those who lives close by, since, when she's working on an article or book and testing recipes, she will often call and ask if I want some of the results of her meticulous (and delicious) labors. It's especially great when she has to concoct recipes containing meat, since her husband, dubbed Mr. Tofu, is a confirmed vegetarian and there's often too much for her to consume on her own. (A situation that led to her previous book, The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table.) So I can personally testify to both the incredibly variety and insanely tasty recipes she presents in this latest effort. Easy enough for beginning cooks and interested kids, it also includes toppings and dips to serve with these crunchy snacks. You may never buy a cracker from the store again.

Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips, and Other Savory Bites by Cynthia Nims. This ode to snackage by my friend, Seattle writer Cynthia Nims, is a compelling argument on the savory side of the sweet versus salty debate. It's geared to a more adult palate but, like Ivy Manning's book (above), it would make a great gift for cooks who like to entertain.

Other suggestions: Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut by Eastern Oregon writer Lynne Curry is a comprehensive, eminently useful book for those of us wanting to move from industrially processed meat to a pastured product; includes recipes and shopping tips. The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More by Laura B. Russell is a godsend for those who love Asian cuisine but can't get around its heavy dependence on wheat products; great resource. And one more, non-local but knee-slappingly funny sliver of a book, Nietzsche's Angel Food Cake: And Other "Recipes" for the Intellectually Famished by Rebecca Coffey is a collection of pseudo-recipes/essays with titles like "Ernest Hemingway's Battered Testicles" and "Geoffrey Chaucer's Stinking Bishop's Tart" that begs to be read out loud; perfect as a stocking stuffer or for foodies with (or who need) a sense of humor.

Read the other posts in this series: Gifts That Give Back, Mad Skills, Kids' Stuff and Good Eatin'.