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Archive for August, 2010

Ode to the fig.

There is something provocative about figs. The ancient Greeks attributed their intoxicating beauty to Dionysus and their sexiness with Priapus. They are mysterious and mythical, and lest we forget, delicious.

Figs tell us that the dog days of summer have come and gone and the sun will soon be turning its head towards fall.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Portland still has a few warm days left in her and I seriously am not ready to start wearing socks again.

Adam’s mom scored this fruit for me. The plums, Asian pears, and of course, figs were all harvested the night before I photographed them. They still had the glow of the barely waning full moon on them.

This recipe was inspired by one found on the Food and Wine website. I adapted it with ingredients I had on hand. If I were to make it again I would have added coarse sea salt and shaved reggiano at the end to balance out the sweetness.

Pan Seared Figs, Plums and Asian Pears

What you’ll need:

About 6 or so fresh figs, halved

3-4 plums, halved and pitted

1-2 Asian pears, cut into small wedges

1/2 cup of honey

Juice of one lemon

Fresh thyme and mint

Heat honey and lemon juice in a large skillet. Bring to a boil. Add the fresh thyme and/or mint and reduce  for about one minute.

Place the pears in the skillet and let cook over high heat for about a minute. Add plums, cut side down for another 30 seconds to one minute.

Use a slotted spoon to remove pears and plums to a plate.

Place figs in skillet and heat until softened. Turn once.

Spoon figs and juices over pears and plums. Garnish with fresh mint or thyme and bit of crumbled goat cheese or feta.
Cheers!

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I’ve been thinking about tomatoes ever since that touch of heat we got back in February. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about tomato tarts. As climate change and Northwest weather would have it, our summer arrived later than usual which means tomatoes are just now starting to show at the markets. However, I have to confess that my weakness for heirloom tomatoes means I’ve been buying tomatoes shipped up from California. I know, I know, but the way I look at it, the little organic farms in California need our support too, right?

I don’t know if any of you have ever eaten an heirloom tomato, if you haven’t, it will change everything. Heirlooms have an earthy, subtle flavor. They don’t offer that bright sweetness that you get with your standard tomatoes. They are meatier, to be sure, rustic and understated. It’s best not to doctor heirlooms up too much or you risk losing their soft flavor. Eat them as is or sliced with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of coarse sea salt sprinkled on top.

Heirloom Tomato & Pancetta Tart

This is my first time working with phyllo dough. I thought it would be much more difficult than it was. Working with phyllo is, however, time-consuming. So be prepared to do some gentle humming to yourself as you handle each sheet.

What you’ll need:

1 lb-about 20 sheets of phyllo dough. (Usually found in the freezer section near pie crust and the like)

4-5 large heirloom tomatoes or standard tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Handful of pitted green olives, sliced

2-3 handfuls chopped pancetta (If you don’t have pancetta, bacon or chicken will do. Or make it vegetarian)

3-4 sprigs of rosemary

Ricotta Salata, or another easily crumbled cheese. Goat, blue, whatever turns you on

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Coarse sea salt to finish

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and brush a little olive oil on it.

Gently lay a sheet of phyllo dough on parchment paper and brush with olive oil.

Sprinkle sheet with a few chopped or torn rosemary leaves.

Continue placing each sheet of phyllo on top of the previous and brush each with olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary on every 5 sheets or so.

When finished with all of the sheets, place sliced tomatoes on phyllo, followed by shallots, pancetta and green olives.

Use a fork or your hands to crumble ricotta salata over tart.

Sprinkle whole or chopped rosemary leaves.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle with olive oil.

When all the ingredients are layered on your tart, gently fold up the sides and corners of the phyllo and give it a final brush of olive oil.

Place in pre-heated 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes then turn heat up to 425 for 10-15 minutes. Periodically check the dough for coloring. If it is dark golden and flakey then it is ready. If it is still fairly pale, then it needs a few more minutes.

Let cool and finish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut. Phyllo is super flakey and you may need a large plate (or the sink) to catch all of the flakes!

Serve with an arugula salad and a dry red.

Cheers!

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One of the cool things about Portland is that you just need to drive a little ways out of the city to find neighborhoods that all seem to have their own vibe. Be it hipster (Southeast), nouveau riche (Pearl), homey (Deep southeast), diverse (NoPo), or  St. John’s, which is working class. When I drove through St. John’s on my way to meet a friend and his kids for some photo’s, there was something familiar and grounding about the neighborhoods. I grew up in a working class town surrounded by refineries that employed half the town. I hated it then, but I appreciate it now. St John’s is like that town. People working to make a living. No pretensions, not a lot of money, lot’s of family, and folks just being folks.

I met Ryan and his brood under the strikingly majestic St. John’s Bridge. Will, as Ryan puts it, never turns off adorable. I would agree. And Marilyn is just plain cool. She’s a seven-year old skateboarder who rides at the skate park with all the big boys. She runs, fishes and messes with her little brother just enough to keep him on his toes.

Here are some of my favorites from the shoot.

Cheers!

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Last week all I wanted to do was make pictures. I went to the market on Thursday afternoon and was overwhelmed and persuaded by the colors, the shapes, the smells. I found I just wanted to spend time with the produce and explore their textures with light.

Todays post is just that. Me and my camera, beautiful morning light, playing with food….

Cheers!


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Adam and I have a few favorite places that we like to go to for snacks, and these days our current favorite is Serratto. We popped in to Serratto on a whim a few months ago and we’ve been going back for happy hour every couple of weeks ever since.

The atmosphere at Serratto is Mediterranean casual. In other words, it’s a beautiful Mediterranean influenced restaurant that has a relaxed and cozy vibe. The wait staff although constantly on the move, embody that relaxed vibe and have somehow mastered attentiveness without being overbearing.

While I was in the restroom, our waiter (who kinda reminds us of a Latin Jack Black) noticed my napkin was in a lump on my chair, came by our table and gently folded it back into a neat triangle.

Aside from the mussels (my favorite), the lamb meatballs (Adams favorite),  and the fact their happy hour wine is always a hit, the women’s restroom has a continuous Italian language instruction recording on. I learned how to say chewing gum while I peed. La gomma Americana…

Cheers!

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Someone once asked pastry chef David Lebovitz, who lives in Paris, why he didn’t have any delicious bread recipes posted on his blog. His response was, “Since I’m surrounded by all these great bakeries, I’ll let them slave over a hot brick oven all day long.” In other words, when you can walk out your door and find a perfect baguette two minutes in any direction, what’s the point of making it yourself?

That’s kind of how I feel about Mexican food. I grew up in the Bay Area where there is no lack of yummy Mexican joints. In my early 20’s, I would head a few blocks up Ashby to College Ave in Berkeley and I’d have a Gordo’s burrito in my hand.  On special occasions we’d go to Juan’s Place where they had flour tortilla chips that weren’t on the menu and you had to ask for them specially. Makes you feel cool when you’re in the know like that. I was absolutely addicted to those chips. After leaving the Bay Area for the South I tried to make those chips at home. Never got it quite right.

I lived in Austin, TX for five years, and well, let’s just say I was spoiled. Gueros, Maria’s Taco Xpress, Polvos, and I could go on. Tex-Mex is a different animal, but man is it good.  Some say it’s the cheese that makes Tex-Mex different, but I think it’s the sauce. There’s definitely more heat when your food is made closer to the border, and I found Tex-Mex to be a bit more tangy and savory then the Mexican food I grew up with in California.

You have to search a little harder in Portland to find good Mexican. And, honestly, I lived here for two years before I found any. I had pretty much given up the search, but then, there was Fonda Rosa.

This post is not a review for Fonda Rosa, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. Hugo and Terri own this little gem on NE 28th. The chips are made fresh to order (I won’t disclose their secret ingredient that makes them so nutty and unique) and all of the recipes on the menu come from Hugo’s village, and the surrounding villages, in the Monterrey area of Mexico. But I do have a confession to make; I haven’t tried much of the menu. There is something about their cornmeal dusted halibut tacos that I can’t move past. I THINK about ordering something else, but I rarely do. Adam always gets the Enchiladas de Pollo. Those are yummy too.

Fonda Rosa is an eight-minute walk from our house. That’s four blocks. You see where I’m going with this?

However, I’ve decided that this blog is also about challenges. I’ve never made enchiladas before. Never even considered trying, and I am so glad I did. These turned out amazing. The tortillas stayed doughy and the sauce had just the right amount of heat to it without killing any of the flavor. I ate these standing up in the kitchen.

Salmon Enchiladas Verde

I cooked the salmon the night before to eliminate a step.

I didn’t want the enchiladas to become crispy so I chose a fluffy corn tortilla made by Mi Abuelita Bonita.

About a pound of fresh salmon, cooked

8-10 corn tortillas

8-10 fresh tomatillos, husked and washed

1 very large shallot or small onion

1 bunch fresh cilantro

About 1/3 cup chicken stock

1 avocado

1 small tomato

6 whole garlic cloves, skin still on

About 1/2 oz dried green chilies, rehydrated or a few fresh serranos (I used Los Chileros green chilies from New Mexico)

Crème fraiche

About 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, or to taste

Preheat your oven to broil

Coarsely chop the shallots and sauté in a hot skillet until caramelized. Set aside.

Coarsely chop tomatoes and cilantro and set aside.

Place whole tomatillos and garlic on cookie sheet and place in oven under broil. Broil for about 8-10 minutes using tongs to turn every couple of minutes. Remove from oven when the tomatillos look nice and charred-slightly blackened.

Once cool enough to handle, gently peel the skin off of the garlic.

Place garlic, tomatillos, tomato, avocado, shallot, cilantro, a tablespoon or two of crème fraice and chicken stock in a food processor or blender and pulse to desired consistency. You may add more or less stock and/or crème frache to your liking.

Use a fork to flake the salmon into chunks. Combine salmon and about 1/2 of the sauce with about a handful or so of crumbled queso fresco in a bowl.  Stir well.

Preheat oven (or cool down oven) to 250. I had to leave my oven partially open to help it cool.

Heat up a tiny bit of oil in a skillet. Heat the corn tortillas one by one for about 10 seconds on each side. Stack on a plate.

Place a layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole or Pyrex. Or whatever size you have on hand that will fit all of the tortillas snugly.

Scoop a couple of tablespoons or so of salmon mixture into a corn tortilla, roll and place in casserole.

After all of the tortillas are stuffed, rolled and placed in the dish, drizzle the rest of the enchilada sauce and another small handful of crumbled queso fresco over the top enchiladas.

Bake at 250 for about 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes crank up the oven to broil and place enchiladas on broiler rack for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Just until the cheese on top starts to brown.

Place cooked enchiladas on plate, drizzle with crème fraiche, grab a fork and dig in.

Cheers!

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Jennifer, Nate, Jasper, some (mostly) friendly bees and about an acre of leased land on Sauvie Island is Two Forks Farm. I’ll really try to not talk about Jasper too much, but if you ever meet this kid you’ll understand.

If you’ve been reading my posts you’ll know that Two Forks is responsible for the famed fava beans that I just can’t get enough of.

Two Forks has a tiny little stand at the Buckman Farmers’ Market where they sell their wares out of galvanized steel tubs while greeting each shopper with the kindness and generosity they show their produce, and each other. They are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Trust me, you want this family growing your food.

Jennifer graciously invited me up to the farm on Wednesday morning so I could take a look around and make some pictures. What you’ll see in this post is sustainable farming, healthy weeds and the smartest six year old I’ve ever come across. Did you know that it’s the female mosquito that sucks your blood for the proteins? And the males consume flower nectar? I didn’t. Not until Jasper.

When I arrived on Wednesday he immediately posed for a picture, (read: ham) asked me a few a questions, then gave me a thorough tour of the farm introducing me to cucumber beetles, perfect summer squash and wild blackberries-one of the best things about the farm, according to J.

I left with a head of fresh-cut red leaf lettuce under my arm of which I nibbled on the way home.

Cheers!



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