Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oregon Artisan: Lisa Jacobs of Jacobs Creamery

I've been watching Lisa Jacobs come into her own as a cheesemaker since her very first appearance at the Portland Farmers' Market at PSU. It was a privilege to write this article for the Oregonian's FoodDay section.

Not many cheesemakers can say they gave up a potentially lucrative law career to pursue the joys of 18-hour days with their hands submerged in a vat of curds, or up to their elbows in car grease because their truck broke down after picking up a couple of tons of milk from the dairy.

But Lisa Jacobs of 3-year-old Jacobs Creamery said she was so disillusioned as a third-year law student by what she saw as the life of an attorney that she left to start her own online advertising company. After hiring out most of the work to subcontractors, she found herself with time on her hands and signed up for an intensive three-day cheesemaking class in Massachusetts with Ricki Carroll, a cheesemaker who was also a major character in Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

Read the rest of the story.

Monday, May 27, 2013

An Infusion of Spring: Elderflower Syrup

My mother didn't get it when her only daughter would want to mow the lawn. After all, she had two sons for that purpose, didn't she?

I loved yanking the starter cord—sometimes over and over—and hearing the motor rumble to life, then adjusting the choke just so. It was a pleasure to walk up and down, slicing the yard into neat rows. Other areas were better for rectangles, where I'd start at the outside and spiral my way to the center as if walking a green labyrinth.

Elderflowers in situ.

Contrary to all the rules, and what really inspired my passion for mowing the grass, was walking barefoot behind the machine, letting the cut blades of grass turn my feet a bright green and having the intoxicating smell of mown grass fill my head. It was those first mowings of spring that I loved the most, when the grass was rich and dense and most fragrant.

Many years later, my friend Linda Colwell introduced me to another passionate scent of spring when she offered a spoonful of a pale, hay-colored liquid from a jar in her refrigerator. I smelled it before I tasted it, a light, citrus-y, floral aroma with a tinge of bitterness to balance its sweetness. It was an elderflower syrup, made from the first blossoms of the Sambucas nigra, or elderberry, that she had gathered at Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston.

Elderflowers steeping in syrup.

It took me two years to finally get around to making my own, pestering Anthony and Carol Boutard with inquiries about when the bushy plants would be blooming. It was a sunny spring morning when I drove out, about three days after the blooms had first appeared, and Carol thought there would be blooms enough to make a gallon or so of syrup.

She drove us out in the all-purpose Gator, with Tito sitting on my lap and guiding us to the orchard of mixed fruit trees and elderberries. We walked through the tall orchard grass from one plant to another, snipping off the delicate clusters of white flowers that were in full bloom, leaving others that weren't quite fully blossomed for another day, or to form berries that could be harvested later in the summer.

The Martinique (thanks, Kate!).

Carol said the two gallons of flowers we'd gathered, about a full shopping bag, would make a gallon of syrup. When I got home I checked my friend Hank Shaw's blog for his elderflower cordial recipe to use as a guide. With some coaching-by-text (you could call it "cexting") from Linda, three days later I had about a gallon of a rich syrup that we've been using to make spritzers and cocktails.

I've frozen little jars of the cordial to pull out this summer and serve over ice, with or without the addition of a little alcohol, to remind me of the scent of spring in the Ayers Creek orchard, wandering through the grass with Carol. It's almost as much fun as having green feet.

Elderflower cordial

2 gallons of flower clusters, about a shopping bag full*
1 gallon of water
7 lbs. sugar
8 lemons

The stems of the elderflower are toxic, so separate stems from flower clusters, stripping them with your fingers or with scissors. You'll have lots of clusters with the teeny green stems still attached, but don't worry about these. Just remove as much of the stem as you can. Then place in a large pot. (I used a 5-gallon stock pot.)

Combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to stand and cool to room temperature. While the syrup is cooling, zest the lemons and juice them. When the syrup has cooled, pour it over the blossoms and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Cover the pot with a towel and/or a loose-fitting lid and place in an out-of-the-way spot for three days.

Uncover and strain through fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Can be refrigerated for a week or so in a covered jar or frozen in sterilized canning jars. These make terrific gifts and, believe me, you'll have plenty for later.

* Springwater Farm sometimes has elderflowers at the PSU and Hillsdale farmers' markets during the fleeting season when they're available.

Martinique Cocktail
From Kate Ramos of ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Makes one cocktail.

3/4 oz. elderflower syrup or elderflower liqueur
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 oz. light rum

Place all of the measured ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill the shaker halfway with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. Strain over fresh ice into a chilled cocktail glass.

Here's a recipe for making another cocktail with elderflower syrup.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Farm Bulletin: A Small Act of Kindness

Working with nature in its cyclical processes is the main occupation of a successful farmer. Occasionally it means choosing to intervene in its harsher aspects, as contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm describes.

Yesterday morning, we were greeted by this barn owl chick. It is just beginning to develop its immature plumage on its wings. They are hideous and lack charm until they fledge.

It had been tossed or fallen out of the nest. Sort of hard to say. Most years we find a dead chick or two on the barn floor. Earlier this week, a much smaller chick lay dead beneath a nest in our other barn.

Not relishing the task of putting it back up in the box, and cautious lest it had an illness, we waited until mid-afternoon. Still alive and punchy, show no signs of malaise, we decided it was worth returning to the nest. We grabbed it, scaled the ladder and jammed it back into the box. Our effort was rewarded by a horrible and sustained hissing from the other occupants. Checked this morning and there is no sign of the beast on the barn floor, so it is probably fine.

Barn owls are excitable and humorless creatures, make a mess of the place and equipment with their casts and urine, but seeing their ghostly forms over the fields at night makes them tolerable companions.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Big Table Farm: Crowdsourcing a Winery

Call it a 21st century barn raising. Winemakers Brian Marcy and Clare Carver of Big Table Farm are not known for doing things in the traditional manner, from the way they farm to the wines they make. So it didn't come as a surprise when they announced that they were turning to friends and fans to help finance their new winery, to be built on their farm in Gaston.

You see, Brian and Clare believe in growing and producing what they love to eat and drink, from the eggs their chickens lay to the pork from their pigs to the award-winning white, red and rosé wines that they serve on their table and offer to their buyers. It's a hard-won and not-very-lucrative life, which doesn't always neatly fit the forms used by big banks and lending institutions, but their passion shines through in the quality of their labors.

And it's not just their exuberant fans who think so…Big Table Farm wines have received high scores from the biggest noses in the wine world, from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate to Wine and Spirits magazine to Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

To accomplish the next step in their dream of making their own wines on their own land, they've created a Founder's Circle for folks who want to help. For a donation of $1,700, Founders will receive a six-pack of magnums from the 2012 vintage and an invitation to a Big Table Farm Feast in July of 2014 to celebrate. To me, that sounds like a dream worth investing in.

Photo of rainbow and magnums by Clare Carver.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Artichokes: Bless Their Fuzzy Little Hearts!

Artichokes are plentiful at the farmers' markets this time of year, so this recipe from contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food comes at the perfect moment.

Oregon farmers grow great artichokes, and now is the time to eat them. I like the purple-tinged variety, especially when they’re very small and the fuzzy choke is minimal to non-existent. They still take a bit of prep, but the results are worth it. If you’ve never trimmed an artichoke, search Youtube and watch a couple of videos. [Here's a good one from Gourmet. - KAB] And keep your knife sharp. You'll need a dozen or more of the little ones for the recipe below.

Carciofe Pantesco

Carciofe is Italian for artichokes; Pantesco refers to the island of Pantelleria. I use it as shorthand for the delicious combination of Pantellerian capers and oregano with garlic and anchovy.

Split the artichokes from top to bottom, cut off the upper two-thirds, pull off leaves until you get the really light-colored inner ones, and use the tip of your knife to dig out any fuzzy choke. Most recipes call for putting cut artichokes into acidulated water (lemon juice or vinegar added) to prevent browning, but they turn brown when you cook them anyway, so I skip this part. Put the trimmed artichokes halves cut side down in a heavy pan (one you can cover) with a enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom.

Add a few (2-4) of the best anchovies you can buy (these at Gustiamo are the best I’ve found and worth every penny; New Seasons carries oil-packed anchovies in jars from Sciacca, Sicily, home of Madre Terra), cleaned if salt packed, diced small. Toss in a few cloves of garlic, diced, a couple of tablespoons of the Pantellerian capers (rinsed of salt), and at least a tablespoon of the island’s oregano. Cook everything gently in the oil for 5 minutes, then add about a quarter cup of water, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. Good hot, better at room temp.

* * *

Jim has announced a not-to-be-missed opportunity on Tuesday, May 28:

I met Brian & Catherine Faris at the farmers market a few years ago. They told me about their house and olive groves in Puglia and their dream to someday bring the region’s extra virgin olive oil to Portland. It took some effort, but you can taste that oil Tuesday, May 28, at my Activspace “warehouse.”

Come by from 5-7 pm, meet Brian & Cathy, and try Pascarosa extra virgin olive oil. Tom & Ani from AniChe Cellars will be sampling wine from the Columbia Gorge, and we’ll have some traditional Pugliese food.

Details: Pascarosa Olive Oil Tasting with the Founders. Tues., May 28, 5-7 pm; free. Real Good Food, 833 SE Main St., Suite 122, on the ground floor at the NE corner of the building.

Quick Hits: Raven & Rose, Mirakutei, Clemente's

In recent years there's been a dearth of great places to have lunch downtown, with most of the hot lunch action taking place on the east side of the river. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, since that's my side of town, but when there are friends on the west side with prescribed lunch hours, it'd be nice to have someplace decent to drop into.

Perfect celery root soup with lardons, chive blossoms.

Fortunately for downtowners, there's more than just Clyde Common and Higgins for a nice-to-fancy spot for a business lunch, a meet-up with your auntie or just a soup-and-sando with a friend. And since it's located in one of downtown's oldest buildings, a former stable for city father William Ladd's horses, Raven and Rose provides plenty of fodder (ha!) for conversation.

Rabbit Caesar salad.

Open less than six months, R&R's menu offerings, under the direction of Exec Chef David Padberg, are coming along nicely, with the intimate dining room opening for lunch just a week ago. Lunch revolves around a selection of soups and salads, a few sandwiches and a sampling of larger plates with staples like fish and chips, shepherd's pie, a couple of seafood options and a pasta dish that are augmented with Padberg's stable of seasonal vegetables and greens along with herbs from his prodigious garden.

Rhubarb phosphate.

The rabbit Caesar I ordered was spot-on, the rabbit, sourced from a small local farm, braised to fall-apart perfection and shredded over a bed of tender local greens. My friend's black cod was similar to the version found on the dinner menu, roasted and placed on top of cannelini beans, chard stems, celery and wild mushrooms. I couldn't resist ordering a rhubarb phosphate, though I was tempted by the anise spritzer that was also on the non-alcoholic beverage list. There is, of course, a complete menu of fully-leaded cocktails, wine and beer available, but I like the seasonal sodas that Padberg and Dave Shenaut, R&R's bar director, are developing, a category that isn't often found on PDX bev menus.

Next time I'm going for the fish and chips, since I'm obsessed with finding a decent representative of that most quintessential pub grub, and the burgers and fries ordered by other patrons looked luscious. Comfortable and clubby inside, with outdoor tables ringing the building on sunny days, this is a nice place to spend even a short lunch hour.

Details: Raven & Rose, 1331 SW Broadway. 503-222-7673.

* * *

It can be said, without equivocating in the least, that I adore sushi and its riceless cousin, sashimi. They would be my choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner if it was possible. Though I'm married to someone who, while he enjoys it on occasion, is just not as cuckoo as I am for these articles of Japanese cuisine, which means lunches are a good time to head out for a fix.

There are several good places to experience this food in Portland, though it's slow going getting around to them due to the (mostly justifiably) pricey tabs that can be run up sampling this and that. Mirakutei, just over the bridge from downtown on East Burnside, is a little hole-in-the-wall spot to do just that.

It's built its reputation on ramen, but I found both the sushi and sashimi to be moderately priced and cleanly made, with super-fresh fish that was beautifully and simply presented. Well worth checking out, especially on week days.

Details: Mirakutei, 536 E Burnside St. 503-467-7501.

* * *

Tables of steam trays, racks of meat under heat lamps and baskets and bowls heaped with pastries and out-of-season fruit have always puzzled me as a solution to a holiday breakfast. Maybe it's that Grannie and Uncle Henry and the nieces and nephews can all find at least one thing in the pile they'll like, but, really?


Call us fogies, but we rarely go out for a traditional brunch or even for breakfast, preferring to sit and sip our coffee, read the paper and maybe have toast or an omelet, all in the comfort of our jammies and slippers. So on Mother's Day, when the males in the household said we were going to go on a road trip dubbed the Magical Mother's Day Mystery Tour, especially when it was mentioned that the dogs would be coming with us, I was in.

A terrific Bloody Mary.

Without a blindfold, it was pretty obvious when we hit Highway 30 that we were heading for the beach, so when we pulled into Astoria around one-ish I was more than ready to fill the gaping hole that had opened up since toast and coffee earlier that morning. Fortunately, we pulled up in front of Clemente's, the refreshing addition to Astoria's previously moribund dining scene, a place where seasonal and local rule and ingredients are treated with knowledge and respect.

Supremely satisfying crab Caesar.

It was a casual, order-off-the-menu brunch-or-lunch scene with not a steam table in sight, and I exercised my mother's privilege of ordering a Bloody Mary made with house mix and home pickles, followed by a half dozen local oysters. They needed just a couple of drops of lemon before being consumed, and then my crab Caesar arrived with a pile of Dungeness smiling up at me from the plate. Though Dave hit the jackpot with his seafood-alicious cioppino (top photo), crammed with salmon, oysters, scallops and crab. Other than a puzzling spoonful of quinoa on one side of my salad, it was a particularly satisfying way to celebrate the holiday, especially since it was followed by a romp on the beach and a (for me) sleepy ride home.

Details: Clemente's, 1198 Commercial St., Astoria. 503-325-1067.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Farm Bulletin: A Swale Proposal

The following letter was written by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, addressed to members of the Oregon Farmers' Market Association. In it he outlines a new development on the farm, a building that will house packing and milling operations for the crops he and Carol grow, as well as some of the issues faced by small farmers in such expansions.

This summer, we are constructing a building for packing stuff and milling. The building will satisfy the Oregon Department of Agriculture's food establishment rules at OAR 603-025-0030. The building also anticipates future requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It will be primarily a dry facility, with provisions for washing harvest containers and produce; we are not planning to produce preserves, pickles, prepared or cooked foods on site, nor will we have a toilet in the building as we have several accessible nearby. Nonetheless, separate hand-washing and container washing sinks are required in order to license the building, and they must be approved by the county health department.

The Roto-Fingers Pea-Bean Sheller will have a new home.

Yesterday, the Washington County Health Department inspected the premises and approved our pumping the water from the two sinks into a nearby sewer system. If we did not have a system nearby, we would have to build a separate septic system with a leach field in order to get county approval and thus meet the ODA licensing rules. Currently there is no simpler or more economical way to meet the requirements, even though this water is more green than grey, and does not contain any human waste or animal blood, &c. It costs several thousand dollars to install a tank and leach field. Larger food processors can spread their washing water in agricultural fields, but on a farm such as ours that option is even more expensive than a septic system.

Throughout the state, municipalities use bioswales to collect and process water that drains from streets, sidewalks and parking lots, keeping it out of the general sewer system. This water carries all manner of disease bearing materials (animal urine and waste, spit from uncouth joggers, bird droppings, discarded food), as well as herbicides, insecticides, motor oil and other toxins from urban activities. From a public health perspective urban run-off is far more problematic than anything that will be generated in a farm's packing and milling facility, yet it is allowed, as it is considered the environmentally better approach and very wholesome.

Flint corn will be milled into cornmeal in the new building.

Small farms such as ours should be able to construct simple bioswales to process the waste water from packing sheds. For our situation, pumping it is probably a bit cheaper, but from an environmental and aesthetic perspective, I would prefer to use natural vegetation rather than the leach field to process the waste water.

As we look down the road, I think it is inevitable that we will see additional regulations governing the harvesting and packing of fresh fruits and vegetables. Even those of us who fall under the Tester exemption will face increased challenges from our buyers and insurers. Anticipating these changes, I would like to see bioswales adopted as a legally approved means to process wastewater from cleaning farm produce, harvest containers and hand-washing.

The designs and research are done. It is just a matter of tweaking the designs so they are scaled correctly and convincing the decision-makers of the benefits of the approach, and including small farm facilities in the bioswale rules. It would remove a substantial barrier to developing better packing facilities on small farms, furthering food safety.

Something to mull over as we wait for the ground to dry. I am not sure whether anyone is interested in this, but I figured I would start the discussion. I believe a proposal could be presented to the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Human Services. Someone might even get a whopping big grant to do the work. There are certainly less worthy projects that get funded.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are 4-Week-Old Corgi Puppies Cute?

Why, yes. Yes, they are.

Fortunately both of Kitty's puppies are spoken for, so I can play with them and smoosh them to my heart's content, knowing they're going to loving homes when they reach 10 or 11 week of age. And I'm thrilled, too, that their mom is coming home to us when they're about eight weeks old, to retire in the comfort that she so richly deserves.

Can't think of a happier ending to the story!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Livin' in the Blurbs: Help Yourself and Help Others

Chinook (aka King). Coho. Sockeye. Pink. Chum. We're talking salmon, perhaps the iconic protein of the Pacific Northwest, prized for its rosy flesh and rich, fatty character. And since May is National Wetlands Month, and wetlands are a key to the conservation of our favorite members of the salmonidae family, the Wetlands Conservancy has created two ways you can celebrate it. The first is an Aqua Plate Special featuring wild-caught salmon at Jamison, 900 NW 11th Ave., where 10% of the menu price will go directly to Wetlands Conservancy for preservation of this crucial habitat. The second is a book-signing and discussion on May 20th of NOAA fisheries research biologist Dan Bottom's recent work, "Pathways to Resilience: Sustaining Salmon Ecosystems in a Changing World," which contains 11 essays on the importance of salmon to both ecological and social systems. Sounds like they've got it covered, inside and out.

Details: Wetlands Conservancy Aqua Plate Benefit. May 1-31. Jamison, 900 NW 11th Ave. 503-972-3330.
Dan Bottoms Book-signing and Discussion. Mon., May 20, 7-8:30 pm; free. Event at Classic Foods, 817 NE Madrona. 503-227-0778.

* * *

If someone mentions co-op grocery stores and what comes to mind are dusty wood floors, bins of buggy bulk goods and patrons tromping around in bare feet, you need to upgrade your mental image library. Co-ops these days are state-of-the-art stores that also act as centers for community gatherings and activities, and the burgeoning neighborhood of Montavilla is well on its way to establishing just such a place. You can help them get just a little bit closer to their goal and check out dinner at a brand new neighborhood hangout on May 29, when Redwood is donating not 5, not 10, but 20 percent of all food and drink purchases to the Montavilla Food Co-op. By the way, Redwood's a 21-and-up type of place, so think of it as a perfect excuse for a date night or a get-together with your homies…all for a good cause, of course!

Details: Dine Out for Montavilla Food Co-op. Wed., May 29, 4 pm till closing. Redwood, 7915 SE Stark St. 503-841-5118.

* * *

There aren't many places, even in this film-crazy town, where independent films are showcased on a regular basis. And there are fewer and fewer classic film palaces from the golden age of movies that have survived the wrecking ball. One that embodies both those qualities is the Hollywood Theatre on NE Sandy Boulevard, which opened the curtains on its first film in 1926 and was immediately dubbed "a palace of luxury, comfort and entertainment unsurpassed by any theatre on the Coast." Hyperbole notwithstanding, it showed films virtually continuously from that date and was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1983. Years of deferred maintenance had caught up with the old building, but it wasn't until 1997, when it was purchased by the non-profit Film Action Oregon (FAO), that the needed work was begun. Fast forward to 2013 and the need to refit the old marquee with energy efficient LED lighting. Local sponsor Neil Kelly is donating $50 for the first 100 households that apply for and schedule a free (yes, FREE) energy audit through Clean Energy Works Oregon. A free audit and a local landmark gets help with it's renovation? Sign me up!

Details: Free Home Energy Audits through Clean Energy Works Oregon. Use this link to apply.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Foie For All

It was definitely one of those foodie moments. I was going to meet a friend at her house in the Hawthorne area for a glass of wine and some noshing on the deck.

I was running just a bit early, so decided to stop at Pastaworks and pick up a bottle of rosé and snacky bits to share. As I walked in, I saw that Evoe, the restaurant associated with Pastaworks and that, to me, is the best place to eat in the city, was virtually empty. It was mid-afternoon on a gorgeous, unusually warm spring day, and the usual habitués were no doubt still out riding their bikes up to the top of Mt. Tabor or picnicking on the flanks of the extinct volcano.

Kevin Gibson, the genius chef and man behind the incredible food that is whipped up with merely a mandoline and an electric stove you might find in the kitchen of any neighborhood rental, was behind the counter messing with what looked like pale beige Play-doh.

Turns out he was making a batch of foie gras, that buttery gift from the gods that, in the hands of someone who knows his craft as well as Gibson does, is not unlike the stuff that surely must grace the tables in heaven. Flattening the pale lump of liver and butter, he sprinkled it with salt and a few drops of cognac, then folded it together and wrapped it tightly in cheesecloth.

A bucket of salt and spices stood nearby, and Gibson scooped out a few handfuls into a bowl to make room for the large sausage of foie that would be buried in it for a day or so. It all looked too easy for what is considered a delicacy among delicacies, but Gibson intimated it really was as simple as it looked.

A few days later I couldn't stand it any longer…visions of a pale glass of ice-cold rosé and plate of that foie were starting to block out any other thoughts. I managed to cadge my son into a trip over and, oh dear lord, it was so worth it. Its buttery, literally melt-in-your-mouth fattiness with a subtle saltiness was even better than I'd hoped. And if angels aren't satisfied with that, I'd be happy to take their portion.

Details: Evoe at Pastaworks, 3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 503-232-1010.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Grilled Vegetables: A Manifesto

Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood is a sweet, mellow guy, though you might get another impression from his writings about immature cruciferous flowers (aka raab) and a recent rant about grilling vegetables, below.

The Grilled Vegetable Manifesto

Don’t put any oil on vegetables before you grill them.

That’s it. Despite what every single thing ever written about grilling vegetables says (except, of course, by me), do not “lightly brush,” “gently toss” or in any other euphemistic way put any extra virgin olive oil on any vegetable before you cook it over a hot fire. (I won’t add my rant about the fire, but know that all of your grilling will be better if you do it over real wood charcoal; email me for details.)

Don’t put any oil on the vegetables before you grill them.
The vegetables don’t need oil to keep from sticking to the grill; they don’t stick without it. Any oil drips off, ignites and the resulting flames send little particles of burnt oil back up to your food. Oiling vegetables doesn’t do them any good. It’s a mistake. Don’t do it.

Grill your vegetables dry, which means not dry like the desert but free of anything other than a little water that might be left from washing. Cook until done, which usually means with a little charring from that intense heat. When the vegetables are done, put them on a platter, drizzle with extra virgin, sprinkle with flor de sal or your favorite salt and eat.

Some things get a little vinegar and some time. I usually grill the vegetables first, when the fire is hot, so they’re often at ambient temperature when we eat them. A simple salsa verde of chopped fresh herbs (mint, parsley, marjoram), garlic, olive oil, vinegar and capers is a nice addition to anything grilled, including vegetables (anchovy and oregano from Pantelleria are always in mine).

Asparagus is just coming on, and it’s one of the best vegetables for grilling (see above). The Katz Meyer Lemon Olive Oil is particularly good on asparagus, but hurry if you want some. All of the extra virgin olive oils I have will also be delicious, and you can squeeze a lemon for extra goodness. Chopped hard-boiled egg is good, too.

À Paris!

If you've always wanted to visit Paris in the springtime, or if you've ever been there, you must start reading Cynthia Nims' blog, Mon Appétit. Nims is a Seattle food writer, author and delightful, appreciative traveler who's spending a month living in Paris, a city she knows well. She's visiting old haunts, discovering new ones, and sharing it all on her blog and Twitter feed. You'll be missing a treat if you don't tune in!

Photo above by Nims with the following caption: "A cool bee house in the Jardin des Plantes, they called it a 'hotel de charme' (boutique hotel) for the bees." [Note the chestnut trees in bloom in the background.]

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Greek Salad Fit for the Gods

Summer time is salad time, and this Greek-style salad is perfect for indoor or outdoor dining. I took this to a Greek-themed birthday potluck and it was a huge hit with the crowd. The only problem was that tomatoes are required to call it a Greek salad and local tomatoes won't be around for a couple of months. I did run across some early heirlooms at the store and used as few as I could get away with and still legitimately call it Greek.

This style is basically a chopped salad, so you can make it with just about any vegetables you want, like bell peppers, cauliflower, romanesco or whatever strikes your fancy. And I loved the pickle-y tartness from the artichoke hearts and pickled peppers that I got, along with the olives, from the olive bar at my local store. Also, most Greek salads are way too chunky for me, so I tore the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and chopped the vegetables into half-inch or so cubes. If you like it chunkier, though, feel free to do that!

Greek Style Summer Salad

For the dressing:
1 c. olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp. dried oregano or 2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

For the salad:
2 med. heads romaine lettuce, washed
2 c. artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 c. Mama Lil's Mildly Spicy Peppers, chopped
1 c. kalamata olives, chopped
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 English cucumbers, seeded and chopped in 1/2" cubes
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped in 1/2" cubes
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled

In a tub or bowl with a tight-fitting lid (I use a clean salsa container), combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Put the lid on and shake hard for 30 seconds. Allow to stand at room temperature while you combine the salad ingredients.

In a very large salad bowl, tear the romaine into bite-size pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and the dressing and toss.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Spot Prawn Season Opener

Pandalus platyceros, or the spot prawn, is a Northwest delicacy I first heard about a couple of years ago on a trip to Vancouver, BC, home of the largest spot prawn festival in the province (there are other festivals scheduled in Cowichan Bay, Powell River and Ottawa). As opposed to the uniform pink of most shrimp, these prawns sport deep reddish-pink shells that are spotted with brilliant white dots, and their legs and antennae are banded with alternating red and white stripes (top photo).

My friend Peter Szymczak (left, with his little friend) is a spot prawn aficionado of the first order, so when he invited Dave and I to a prawn boil, it was damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It was an idyllic, warm spring evening when we arrived at Peter's place, the rich steamy aroma of an Asian-inspired broth wafting from a gigantic pot on his stove. The pot was soon filled with tiny round eggplants, bok choy, bamboo shoots and rounds of daikon, many of which he'd bought at the farmers' market that morning.

When the vegetables were nearly done, Peter dumped the live prawns, groggy from the refrigerator, into the boiling broth and three minutes later strained the liquid off, dumping the contents onto a long, newspaper-covered outdoor table. With brief instructions on the proper peeling technique, we dove in.

Live spot prawns are available at ABC Seafood (6509 SE Powell Blvd.), but you'll have to act quickly if you want to have your own prawn boil, since the season only lasts about a month. Fabulously decadent, you couldn't do better than this for a truly memorable, unique local feast.

Spot Prawn Boil
Courtesy of chef Ted Anderson, Fat Dragon BBQ, Vancouver, BC

Serves 6-8 as an entrée.

If a trip to the coast isn’t in the cards this Father’s Day, serving up a prawn boil will bring the taste of the beach to him. Serve the boiled prawns family-style in a large bowl, or load them into stainless buckets and dump them out in mounds on a table lined with newspapers for an authentic beach-side boil presentation.

For the broth:
4 stalks lemongrass, outer layer peeled

2 gal. water

1 onion, peeled, cut into quarters

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths

3 shallots, peeled and halved

4 charred red thai chiles, split in half lengthways (add more or less depending on how spicy you like it)

1/4 c. salt

1/2 c. fish sauce

1 piece palm sugar, roughly 50 grams

15 pieces lime leaf, stem removed and bruised

2-inch piece of galangal, sliced thinly

3 limes, zested and juiced

1/2 bunch cilantro, tops and bottoms

For the boil:

5 lbs. live spot prawns

1 lb. clams

1 lb. of your favorite sausage (such as hot links or Chinese sausage), chopped into bite-size pieces

1 qt. chopped veggies, for example: potatoes, eggplant, long beans, daikon, bamboo, peas, baby corn, bok choy, etc. (optional)

Make the broth. Using the back of a chef’s knife, bruise the stalks of lemongrass to release oils. Fill a large pot with water and add all ingredients, except for lime and cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to steep for 45-50 minutes.

Add cilantro, and let sit for another 10 minutes. Then add lime juice and zest and steep for another minute. Strain solids from liquid, and check for seasoning. It should be salty, sour and mildy sweet. Add more citrus, salt, fish sauce or sugar depending on your taste.

To boil the seafood, sausage, and vegetables, bring the broth up to a boil. Skim away any foam that collects on the top. Add sausage and clams, and cook for 4 minutes. Add vegetables in stages: add those that take longest to cook first (potatoes, eggplant, long beans, daikon) and those that cook quickly last (peas, baby corn, bamboo slices, bok choy). Add prawns and cook until opaque, about 3 minutes. Strain out all the veggies, clams, sausage and prawns into a large bowl for everyone to share. Serve with lime wedges, hot sauce, mayonnaise or anything that you’re into. Reserve broth for another use or discard [please don't, though…freeze it and use later for an incredible base for soup, paella or an Asian-style chowder. - KAB].

Friday, May 03, 2013

Garden State's Sandri in Motion

You might say that Kevin Sandri is going back to his roots. He started out a professional musician, playing his nights away for not a lot of money but a lot of acclaim. But since acclaim wasn't something he could put on the table or use to pay the rent, and with no other discernable skills that would get him a regular job, he decided to open a food cart using dishes from his childhood in New Jersey.

It was before food carts were a dime a dozen in Portland, but customers were soon flocking to his quilted aluminum trailer in an obscure corner of Southeast Portland for his meatball hero packed with big, beefy balls and luscious sauce, and his chickpea sandwich and arancine. Within a couple of years the cart scene was booming and he'd opened a second Garden State as well as a hipster burger cart called Burgatroyd in the Mississippi Marketplace pod.

The cart boom was getting crazy with pods opening up in every vacant lot in the city, as ubiquitous as Starbucks were a decade earlier, and Sandri decided it was time to get out. After selling his carts (Burgatroyd still operates in the Mississippi pod under new ownership), he helped start up a couple of food businesses in town.

Sandri's signature meatball hero.

After a stint he called "chef rehab" working the line at Rick Gencarelli's Lardo, he said he's ready to step back into the food fray by taking the reins in the kitchen at the newly renovated and under-new-ownership Alberta Street Pub. The pub was one of the first businesses in what was then a very down-and-out (read "scary") corner on NE Alberta street. Two brothers, Eli and Django Amerson, have bought the pub from original owner Michael Beglan and are set to reopen in the coming weeks.

Customers can expect a full bar with beer and wine on tap, music at least three nights a week, and a menu with a house burger and what Sandri is calling a killer plate of fish and chips that'll put other fried fish dishes into the wannabe category. He's looking forward to calling in his former farm suppliers for many of the raw ingredients, so the city may be in for the (oddly in this food-crazy town) rare experiences of a pub with stellar food. We can only hope he brings back that hero to the specials menu once in awhile, as well as stepping up on stage with his guitar!