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Archive for September, 2010

I’m stuck in the depths of Lacuna. It arrived in the mail two weeks ago, a surprise package from a beautiful and generous friend. Lacuna is one of those books you think about throughout the day. Not only do my thoughts wander to the characters, but Barbara Kingsolver’s prose gently dance in my mind as if the words were sliding down silk. The hero in Lacuna spends some time in Mexico with Frida and Diego. Two of my favorite artist. Have you ever seen a Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera painting in real life? It will stop you in your tracks. Passionate, raw, moving. Much like Kingsolver’s portrayal of her characters. Especially Frida.

Food is also a character thus far in the book. A minor character, to be sure, but with a noticeable presence. At least to someone who spends a lot of time thinking about food.

I sometimes wonder how a character develops in an author’s mind. I imagine the initial personality is birthed and then it just runs off on it’s own from there. Kind of like children, I think.

Photography, and often cooking, is the same. I find I usually have a preconceived idea of how I want to photograph something, and I inevitably always end up somewhere else altogether.

I initially planned to work an Indian or Middle Eastern angle with Coconut Bliss. I wanted to reflect the original vibe I got from the packaging with bright, red, decorated bowls for the ice cream to rest in. Instead, I found I reached for the more delicate colors in my cupboard. Soft blues and whites, with a splash of red here and there. When you taste Coconut Bliss, you expect and explosion of coconut in your mouth, instead, while the presence of coconut is pleasantly the predominant flavor, I find it is gentle on the palate carrying just a hint of agave sweetness, with the essence of vanilla , or whichever flavor you’ve chosen, lingering on your tongue. By the way, that includes all  three of the ingredients for their Vanilla Island.

I would imagine that is what true bliss is: gentle, sincere, kind happiness. Served on a tiny silver spoon :)

I decided to photograph Coconut Bliss for two reasons, one it’s yummy and it was an excuse to have some in the freezer. Two, I wanted a bit more practice making pictures of ice cream. Ice cream can be trying to photograph. Fortunately, I work with natural light unless the shoot calls for lights, so the melt rate was a bit slower. Unfortunately, I only bought two pints of Coconut Bliss. Meaning right when I was starting to warm up and the ideas started flowing, the shoot was pretty much over. Once the ice cream starts to soften, you lose that beautiful ice cream texture and it looks, well, like melting ice cream.

I guess I just need to go pick up more Coconut Bliss!

Cheers!

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The weather is shifting toward the cooler months and my mind wanders to soups and stews, root vegetables and warmth. A gradual introduction of heavier meals feels appropriate and I decided to make a light soup to get the digestive juices flowing.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my Azorean dad could, or perhaps preferred, to cook one or two things. One of them being Couves Soup. The Couves, or kale, grew on the hill next to the house we grew up in alongside the ubiquitous fava beans and under an ever-present cloud of white cabbage butterflies fluttering nearby.

I can’t exactly remember what was in my dads Sopa de Couves, but I do remember that is was simple. Brothy, fresh, with maybe a root vegetable or two thrown in to the pot. My version has a little more going on, and I suspect it’s closer to what you might find on mainland Portugal but just as simple and fresh as my dads.

Many of the recipes I found online called for linguica or chorizo. I wasn’t in the mood for something quite as oily as linguica (as much as I do love it) so I spiced up some ground turkey thigh and made turkey meatballs.  I wanted to keep the flavors bright so instead of cooking the kale in the broth, I gave it a quick steam and added it at the end. The kale was crisp and flavorful and pleasantly lacked that sulfurous taste and odor you can get if you cook it for too long.

Portuguese Kale Soup

What you’ll need:

1lb white beans, cooked or canned

2 large leaves of Lacinato kale, cut into ribbons

2 sweet potatoes, cubed

1 lb  ground turkey thigh

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

2-3 carrots, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1-2 handfuls fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 tsp fresh oregano

2 tsp dried marjoram

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

1-2 tbsp paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

16 oz chicken stock

Water

Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using dried beans, soak beans overnight in cool water. In the morning drain and rinse the beans. Place beans in a large pot and add chicken stock and enough water so you can add the other veggies keeping the soup brothy.

After the beans have been cooking for about 20-30 minutes, add the carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and bay leaves.

In the meantime, oil a baking sheet or Pyrex and preheat the oven to 350. Place the ground turkey thigh in a large bowl; add crushed garlic, fresh oregano, marjoram, cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a generous sprinkling of paprika. Oil your hands with a bit of olive oil and stir and mash the turkey and herbs together until well blended.  Make turkey meatballs by rolling a bit of the mixture in your hands. You want your meatballs to be bite size. Place meatballs in baking a dish and sprinkle a bit more paprika on top. Bake for about 30 minutes.

When the beans and vegetables are about cooked, place cut kale in your steamer and steam for about 10 minutes or until desired crispness.

Stir turkey meatballs into soup. Add fresh parsley and cooked kale to bowls when serving.

Serve with a hearty Portuguese red and a chunk of crusty bread smothered in butter.

Cheers!

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Walking outside I can smell fall in the air. The light is changing and you can see just the hint of autumn in the leaves.  But summer hasn’t quite left us yet. Portland is finally getting a dose of late summer rain and with it high humidity. If there was any question as to whether the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula, just take a look at my hair when the humidity spikes. No amount of leave-in conditioner calms my frizz.

This weather reminds of spring in Austin and I find my cravings lean towards a lighter fare.

I found inspiration in Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food– a gorgeous cookbook of simple, healthy and often unique dishes. Her version of Green Rice is laced with lime powder, dill, and pistachios. I didn’t have lime powder on hand so I sprinkled a generous bit of sumac powder to offer the tanginess you might get from lime powder.  I also squeezed a bit of fresh lime in to the finished dish. I added some French lentils I had on hand in lieu of her choice of pistachios. I wanted the dish to be more of a one-pot meal so we could have leftovers for a few days.

I served this dish with some sautéed red chard and fresh filets of tilapia. Tilapia is our go-to summer fish. It’s very inexpensive and light. I find it’s delicate flavor lends well to seasoning. We sometimes generously season it with Cajun spices, but often we just add a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs from our kitchen garden.

Late Summer Golden Rice

What you’ll need:

1-2 cups basmati rice, cooked (I used brown basmati)

1 tsp saffron threads

2-4 tbsp olive oil

2 leeks, green and white parts, sliced and/or chopped

2 tsp or more sumac powder

1 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup French lentils, cooked

A few splashes of champagne vinegar. (or whatever white vinegar you have on hand)

Salt and pepper to taste (I used freshly ground green peppercorns for a bit of a bite)

Place your rice in a sieve and rinse for several minutes under cool water.  Add one cup of rice to two and a half cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a hard simmer for about 20 minutes. Lower to a softer simmer until all water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let you’re your rice rest. There are probably better instructions floating around on the Internet, but this is, more or less, how I do it.

Rinse lentils well and place in a pot and add water to about two to three inches above them. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to a hard simmer. Cook until lentils have softened. About 20 minutes.

Place saffron in about 2 tablespoons of cool water and set aside.

Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan on medium and sauté leeks until they begin to soften and turn golden. Pour the saffron through a sieve in to your leeks and rice. Slowly start folding in all of the other ingredients. You’ll probably want to taste your rice here and there to see if you need to add more spices or vinegar.

Place lid on saucepan and remove from heat. Let sit so the flavors can meld. Taste after a few minutes and add more spices if needed. I found the rice and lentil absorbed much of the flavor so I had to continue adding a bit of a salt and sumac.

Make sure your tilapia is fresh and natural. The fish we get at Whole Foods (and New Seasons) is farm-raised, and abide by Whole Foods strict farm standards. Trust me, if you care at all for our environment you don’t want to eat wild tilapia. They are bottom feeders, which means, first, who know what they’re eating thanks to what us humans dump in the ocean. Secondly, the fishing practices are very questionable. Can you imagine the damage that can be (and is!) done to the ocean environment when you have nets trawling the bottom of the sea? I don’t even want to think about it.

Tilapia is not a thick fish. It usually takes only a few minutes to cook through.

Warm olive oil in a skillet. While pan is heating up rub a bit of olive oil, a squeeze of lime or lemon, salt, pepper (I used crushed green peppercorns) and fresh herb of your choice in to the tilapia.

Place fish in warm pan and let cook for about 3-4 minutes, depending on thickness, on each side. I find the tilapia is done when it’s not spongy or rubbery when you poke it with your spatula. You want your tilapia buttery and flakey.

Serve over a bed of golden rice and red chard with a cup of Moroccan mint tea. Look out the window and watch fall come around the corner.

Cheers!

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Central Oregon is what happens when desert meets forest. A sea of Ponderosa pines stand like quiet soldiers from Portland to Sisters, and beyond. The pines stop as dramatically as they began making way for a golden blanket of high desert. Only to make their stand yet again when the valley turns to mountain. The occasional hawk and falcon man the sky as chipmunks run like mad in every direction.

The towns between Portland and Sunriver are the saddest expression of Middle America. Traditional cowboy life has made way for concrete and box store, after box store, after box store. What was once a sleepy ski town, Bend is now Home Depot, Wal-mart, Barnes and Noble over and over again. I suggest driving through until you get to the mountains. Close your eyes until you hit desert again or until you look up and see Mt. Bachelor.

Don’t get me wrong. There are treasures in these towns. Madras, well,  is a great place to stop for gas and the toilet. Sisters, which looks and feels like a pop-up country village in Disneyland inhabited by rich, white retirees saturated in perfume and make-up shopping for cowboy knickknacks, has the clockmaker who is in possession of an antique clock made in 1871 for King Frederick lll of Prussia. Sisters also has Lonesome Water Books where I found the Larousse Gastronomique for 12 bucks. And that’s about it. It’s worth it to go to Sisters, though, for the surrounding landscape glows with the yellow brilliance of country sunshine. The fields dotted with trees, cows and horses. Just drive through and don’t look back.

I am sure there is more to Bend than what we experienced, but upon first impression, Bend is an explosion of suburbia, only 15 years in the making. The jewel in Bend was recommended by Lauren Brooks and we will definitely go back. Joolz is a diamond in the rough. Owned by Ramsey Hamden and his wife Juli, whom the restaurant is named for, Joolz is a tiny bustling restaurant saturated in the colorful vibrance of the Middle East. We were hungry and we ordered several mezze plates to share. The lamb and beef meatballs were gently placed in a creamy pool of Romesco style sauce, spiked with a surprising hint of cinnamon. Fresh, crisp tabbouleh served pleasantly heavy on the mint went deliciously on a bit of pita smeared with Hummus on the Range-hummus with bits of elk sprinkled on top. We chatted with Ramsey, born in Beirut, for a minute as he was gathering our dishes. He told us that all of the meat he serves, including the elk, was raised and slaughtered within 30 miles of Joolz. His personal relationship with the ranchers extends all the way down to their ranch dogs. Go to Joolz and don’t forget to order the roasted cauliflower.

We stayed in the tiniest condo ever in Sunriver. During the summer Sunriver is packed with wall-to-wall families and golfers. Off-season, however, it’s a sleepy resort village with abandoned summer homes and meandering bike paths throughout the community.

We rented bikes and went on what I call the “Epic Bike Ride”. Adams brother, upon hearing about it, called it the Tour du Sunriver. What was suppose to be an hour or so of casual riding turned into a four-hour and 17 mile journey. We came across an unpaved path (feeling adventurous we followed it) that ran along the Deschutes River and led to Benham Falls, which really were not falls but were actually rapids. Beautiful nonetheless. The Deschutes has that classic river beauty. It’s everything you would expect in a river, glassy surface, rambling curves, vivid greens and blues, trees meeting its shores for a drink.

After off-roading for seven miles we headed in the direction of the Marina. By this time I was spent and my butt was starting to feel bruised. But I persevered with only minor whining, I think. Adam said it would be worth it, and it was. The ride to the marina strolled through open yellow meadows and wild marshland. Gorgeous and peaceful.

The next day was our last, and after an early check-out we headed towards the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway. Picking us up right outside of Sunriver, the road led us through the lakes and mountains of the Cascades. There are eleven lakes along this byway. We stopped at Devils Lake, not for the name, but because it was an amazing shade of neon green. As I snapped a few pictures near the shore, tiny black frogs hopped around at my feet. Yes, I did try to capture one or two with my camera, but they were so small that it just looks like black dirt, on brown dirt.

The road takes you through Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and my favorite, Three Fingered Jack-one of the oldest volcanoes in Oregon. Trailheads dotted this drive like Easter eggs laid out for a three-year old, they’re everywhere and are easy to find.

We are already anticipating our next trip down there. Next time hiking along the Cascade Lakes Byway is at the top of our list and dinner at Joolz, of course.

Cheers!


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It appears I was channeling Dr. Seuss when I was shopping for produce this week. I had no idea what to do with kohlrabi; I wasn’t even sure of what it was. But it was so neat looking that I had to pick it up. I still can’t tell you exactly what kohlrabi is. I was told it taste like broccoli and I read that it is in the turnip family. I found it smelled like strong cabbage and tasted like strong radish. Not my favorite, truth be told. I really wanted to like it, but that kind of radishy bite just doesn’t do it for me. To be honest, the only radishes I ever liked were gathered from the farmers market in Sanary-sur-Mer in Provence and served (by the sweetest French mom ever) raw after being soaked in water for several hours. They were creamy and crisp and had the flavor of the Mediterranean in November under their skins. It’s so easy to digress to memories of France….

The Chiogga beets, on the other hand, were fantastic. But, of course, I love beets in any form…except for that weird gelatinous stuff that comes out of a can.

If I ever try kohlrabi again I think I will soak it in cold water just like my friends mom did with her French radishes. I often do that with other bitter produce like radicchio and it always softens the bitterness without sacrificing flavor.

Purple Kohlrabi with Chiogga Beets and Watercress

You can peel the kohlrabi if you’d like. I just cut the thicker chunks off of the skin.

What you’ll need:

One bunch fresh watercress, washed

One Kohlrabi, thinly sliced (or cabbage, or radishes)

2-3 Beets

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut off the ends of the beets and place in foil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the beets, wrap with foil, and place in 350 oven for 30-45 minutes. You can cook them longer if you like them really soft.

In a large skillet warm several tablespoons of olive oil over medium and place thinly sliced kohlrabi in pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fry to desired crispness turning occasionally.  I cooked them until the ends were just turning a dark brown.

Place cooked kohlrabi on several layers of paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

When beets are cooked remove from oven and open foil. Once they are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to rub away their skins- not absolutely necessary unless the skins are thick or old.

Snip watercress leaves from stems and arrange on a plate or in a bowl.

Cut the beets in to quarters or chunks and sprinkle over watercress.

Cut the kohlrabi into bite sized pieces and sprinkle over watercress and beets.

Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Would love to hear what you all think of kohlrabi.

Off to Central Oregon this week so next post will be a bit late.

Cheers!

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