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Archive for November, 2010

There is something majestic about portabella mushrooms. Monochromatic and earthy, versatile and rich, the portabella lends itself to hearty dishes and simple fare. These mushrooms can grow as large as an adult’s hand, but I find them to somehow be tender and graceful, needing to be handled carefully and delicately.

Adam mentioned portabella mushroom soup and I spent the better part of a day or two putting the recipe together in my head. I wanted it to be simple, yet filling.  Brothy, yet substantial enough to be a meal. Stock Options beef broth was the natural choice. Add in a few caramelized shallots, fresh bacon and splash or two of cognac, and you’ll have a cozy meal for a cold, wet winters day.

One word of warning, there is a lot of butter in this soup. You’re welcome to cut back a tablespoon here and there, but you’ll take away from the richness the butter lends.

Besides, there is no such thing as too much butter, right?

Cheers!

Portabella Mushroom soup with Bacon

I can’t take full credit for this recipe as the basic guideline was inspired from a recipe found on Epicurious.

What you’ll need:

8+ tablespoons butter

4 shallots, thinly sliced

4 fresh thyme sprigs

1 1/2 pounds portabella mushrooms, stemmed and cut crosswise in 1/4 inch thick strips

4 strips fresh bacon cut crosswise into 1/4-inch chunks.

3 tablespoons Cognac

1-quart beef broth

1-quart water

1 cup dry white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pot over medium-medium high heat. Add shallot and thyme and sauté until shallots begin to soften. About 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until they caramelize. About another 5-10 minutes.

Place shallots in a bowl and set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the same pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until they soften. About 10 minutes. Add Cognac and stir for a few seconds. Stir in shallots and broth, water and wine.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

In a separate pan, warm last tablespoon of butter over medium heat and place chunks of bacon in pan. Sauté until cooked and toss in the soup for the last 10-15 minutes of simmering.

Discard thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a rustic Cote-du-Rhone and a chunk or two of crusty peasant bread.

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The quince is like an ugly dog. Not the most beautiful of fruit, and sometimes you’re just not sure what to make of them. But, in the end, after a little warmth and love, they inevitably win your heart over.

Another ancient fruit, the quince has been cultivated since the time of Aphrodite. Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Cotan all painted their ode to the distorted beauty of the quince. Gentle still life’s that capture the stoicism of the sitting green pome.

Inedible until cooked, quince has a tartness that is best served mingled with other flavors. I simmered chunks of quince in port wine laced with honey, rosemary, and freshly squeezed lemon. Served on top of lightly fried polenta, drizzled with a port reduction and Parmigiano Reggiano, a quick broil and a dash of coarse sea salt make these an intriguing and tasty appetizer.
The recipe took a little longer to put together than expected (I have a habit of not reading recipes all the way through before embarking), as the port and quince needs to simmer for 45 minutes. But Sunday morning smelled wonderfully porty in our house and, well, no one complained.

Cheers!

 

I adapted this recipe from one found on the  Cooking Light website. I was looking for an interesting use of quince that was more savory than sweet and found their Polenta with Port-Poached Quince & Blue Cheese inspiring. Next time I think I’ll add chopped prosciutto or pancetta to add a little protein and depth.

Port and Quince Polenta Bruschetta

What you’ll need:

3-4 lemons, freshly squeezed to about 3/4-1 cup

1+ cup tawny port

1/4 raw honey

1 or 2 rosemary sprigs

1-2 cups cubed quince. Cored and peeled. About 2 quinces.

Olive oil

1 16 oz tube of polenta cut in 1/2-inch slices

Salt and pepper to taste

Shaved reggiano

In a medium saucepan bring lemon juice, port, honey and rosemary sprigs to a boil. Add quince and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, or until quince is tender.

Remove pan from heat and let cool. Strain and reserve quince, discarding rosemary. Return liquid to the pan, bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until sauce is reduced to about 1/2 a cup.

Preheat your broiler.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium. Place polenta slices in a single layer, sprinkle with fresh black pepper and cook for 8 minutes on each side. Place rounds on baking sheet and spoon about a tablespoon of cooked quince on polenta. I found it easier to use my hands instead of a spoon to place quince on polenta rounds. Shave desired amount of parmesan on quince and broil for about 2 minutes. You want your cheese to be golden and bubbly. Place bruschetta on a plate or platter, drizzle with reduced port, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve warm.

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Some days you’re just lucky. Beauty falls in your lap and it asks you to make some pictures of it. That’s how I felt when Celeste and Estelle approached me for a few portraits they wanted made for their Grandmother. Oops, the pictures are for their Mom!

Office ladies by day, ballerinas by night, their unique beauty made it easy. We were blessed with a grey but dry morning, and a little tromping in the mud in the beautiful park across the street from their flat gave us backdrops to spare.

I’ve never spent much time with twins. Honestly, they’ve always weirded me out a little. I’m not sure why. I’ve never even had a Diane Arbus curiosity about them, which surprises even me. But spending time with Celeste and Estelle has changed everything. I find I’m curious about twins now, but not in a freak-show sort of way. They have their own language, and, I found, their own individual beauty. I knew Celeste first, and I when I first met Estelle I thought I was talking to Celeste. I truly couldn’t tell them apart, and frankly, that made me a tiny bit uncomfortable. Mostly, I think, it was because I didn’t want to offend one by mistaking her for the other. Social faux pas, as it were. It’s funny what a little education can change.

My interest in twins has grown into a desire to explore not just their similarities, but their differences as well. The way Estelle’s mouth tenses a little more the Celeste’s when she talks. Or how Celeste’s eyes has a subtle street-smarts gaze that I didn’t notice in Estelle’s. At the same time, their postures and willowy bodies are mirrored in each other.

I hope my photography did them justice.

Cheers!

PS If there are any twins out there interested in exploring the more unique backdrops of Portland, please send me a note!

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I have never had a Po’ Boy before. I’m not sure why. It may have something to do with my first introduction to the Po’ Boy being something I witnessed in a gas station convenience store. Pale white bread with something flesh-colored and pink pressed up against a moisture laced cellophane wrapper offending my eyes and my stomach as I hunted for gum.  Or maybe it was because with a name like Po’ Boy, I wasn’t able to identify it.  As we know, I was a very picky eater as a child. If I couldn’t identify it, it would not pass my lips. I still don’t understand orange cheese.

Roast beef, another of my least favorite foods (boy, I’m picky), was reportedly, but not necessarily confirmed, the first Po’ Boy topping. The story goes that, back in 1929, a couple of streetcar conductors, the brothers Bennie and Clovis Martin, invented the sandwich during a nationwide streetcar worker strike. They wanted to feed their fellow strikers free of charge so they made sandwiches using entire loaves of bread so there wouldn’t be any waste. It’s said that the name “Po’ Boy” came to be when the brothers saw a striker coming for some food, they would say, “Here comes another poor boy.” And it stuck.

Fortunately, the Po’ Boy evolved to take advantage of the abundant sea life (sadly, formerly) found off the Louisiana coast. With hot and smoked sausages taking a strong second as a local favorite. The key to the Po’ Boy is the bread. You can’t use just any roll, it has to be French. Otherwise, you’ve just made yourself a submarine sandwich.

The baguettes were calling me, and well, there really isn’t any bread more French than than a baguette, right? I got a little fancy with our Po’ Boys and “dressed” them. I blackened tilapia and smothered the baguette with homemade lemon parsley aioli, which cooled down the heat of the Cajun seasoning nicely. A sprinkling of mixed greens and thinly sliced tomatoes, and you’re eating N’awlins style….with a Pacific Northwest twist.

Cheers!

I was inspired to make Po’ Boys after “leafing” through the Gourmet Traveller website. Their version called for fried oysters. Yum!

Blackened Tilapia Po’ Boys

What you’ll need-

Olive Oil

Cajun Seasoning

Two tilapia filets

Half a baguette cut into four evenly sized sandwich chunks, and cut in half

For the lemon aioli

2 raw eggs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons roasted garlic

1 1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon chopped curly parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil in skillet over medium heat.

Rub Cajun seasoning onto both sides of your tilapia filets.

Cook tilapia for about 3 minutes on each side. Flesh should be starting to get flakey when you poke it with a spatula. Place cooked fish on a plate and set aside.

Lemon Parsley Aioli

Using your food processor, combine eggs, mustard and roasted garlic until smooth. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Pulse to combine.

With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the emulsion becomes thick and creamy. Pulse in parsley and salt and pepper.

Use aioli immediately, but you can store it in a tightly lidded jar for one to two days.

Cut baguette chunks in half. Smother bread with aioli, place greens and thinly sliced tomato on bottom half. Place blackened tilapia on top of greens and tomato and serve with a red ale. I prefer Laurelwood’s Free Range Red.

Delicious.

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When Adam and I have a day off together and the weather is clear, you’ll find us strolling Portland’s streets, exploring the neighborhoods and simply moseying the day away. On last weeks walk, unusually warm weather and a super bright sun led us to find some cooling tree cover in one of Portland’s oldest cemetery, Lone Pine Cemetery. Cemeteries truly are interesting places. Considering that there are hundreds of bones beneath your feet, and you are literally surrounded by death, there is a surprising bustle of life on the surface. Aside from the oldest known grave in Portland, Emmor Stephens who died in 1846, Lone Pine boasts a rose garden, an asylum, and trees as far as the eye can see. Everywhere we turned there were squirrels burying their winter nuts in the graves. Joggers, ancestry hunters, and yes, bridal portraits, the cemetery was alive with activity. I love irony.

I was more interested in leaves that day for some reason rather than headstones, but I’m intrigued by Lone Pine and think I’ll soon head over there for a little photographic exploration.

As usual, all roads eventually lead us to Powell’s for some book perusing and then to Bridgeport Ale House, it’s right across the street after all, for a happy-hour pint and a bite. The warm weather and long walk warranted a pint of Blue Heron, don’t you think?

We have a possibly unnatural love of cookies in our house. Despite my (general) dislike of desserts, cookies tend to be a weakness passion of mine (especially chocolate chip). Many of my childhood memories involve cookies. We had a drawer full of plastic cookie cutters in every holiday shape, and we’d find Mom rolling out Valentine’s Day hearts or Halloween cats on the kitchen counter and, on occasion, she’d let us decorate the cookies. The kitchen was her domain, after all.

A recipe in the current issue of Sunset Magazine inspired these thumbprint cookies. It was one of their clever ways of recycling Thanksgiving Day leftovers involving day-old cranberry sauce. I had a few baking apples rolling around and I thought I’d give these cookies a shot, with a twist, of course. I picked up some vanilla salt at Whole Foods and, itching to use it, I sprinkled a bit of it on the cookies before placing them in the oven. Truth be told, my sprinkling was a tiny bit heavy-handed on a few cookies making them more, shall we say, biscuit-like than cookie, but over all they turned out to be tasty little bite-sized apple pie (ish) treats. And Adam gobbled them up with almost as much enthusiasm as he did with my Ginger-licious cookies.

Ok, I did too.

I also want to send out a HUGE thank you to Food Press for not only featuring two of my images as Favorites, but for also choosing me as a Featured Blogger. Do check out their new site. Loads of food and blogging fun!

Cheers!

Apple Thumbprint Cookies with Roasted Hazelnuts

What you’ll need:

3 Cups diced apples

1 cup butter

1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups spelt or all-purpose flour

Splash of almond milk, or other milk, or water

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

3/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts

Fig jam, optional

Vanilla salt, optional

Preheat your oven to 350

In a stand mixer or food processor beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Add flour, cinnamon and salt. Blend. Add almond milk as needed to maintain a smooth batter.

Stir in roasted hazelnuts.

Using your hands, roll dough into 1 to 1-1/2 inch balls and place about an inch apart on parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Press a well into the center of the ball with your thumb. Spoon enough apple mixture to fill well. Top with a dollop of Fig jam and/or sprinkle with vanilla salt.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until cookies are a lovely shade of golden brown.

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I’ve had French Onion Soup only twice in my life. The first time, most appropriately, was during my last night in Paris. A friend of a friend of a friend (really) invited me to stay with her in her tiny apartment in Les Lilas in the 19th or 20th arrondissement. Karine’s apartment was deep in the working class neighborhoods of Paris. A short walk from the Mairie de Lilas Metro station, she lived near the end of the 11 line and where, I feel, the real Paris live. Little glamour, lots of graffiti on very old buildings, and with a beauty that traveled well below the surface of what I experienced in the heart of Paris.  In my journal from that moment I wrote, “Les Lilas is definitely a working class neighborhood. This is what I imagine Dublin would look like.” I have a photograph taken from her tiny kitchen window and the horizon is lined with rooftops and chimneys stacked against each other as far as the eye can see.

For my last Parisian meal, I met Karine in a little café in the Latin Quarter named Le Petit Pont. Jazz played in the background and the waiter, a gorgeous Parisian with long dark hair, was attentive and reserved. Sitting with a bowl of French Onion Soup in front me, a glass of wine and my Parisian friend, I felt settled. My month of traveling in France was coming to an end and I felt both melancholy and content. France was starting to feel like home. At the same time, I was looking forward to returning to my home in the States. As Joni Mitchell so accurately sang of Paris back in 1971, “Still a lot of land to see, but I wouldn’t want to stay here, it’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here”. I found I missed the U.S. and I longed for our unstructured, adolescent anything goes attitude.

Karine and I parted ways that evening. Although I was to stay in her apartment for one more night, I would sadly miss her in the morning before heading out to catch my flight. After dinner, she headed home and I decided to stroll the Quarter for a spell. The night led me to Caveau de la Huchette. Formally a meeting point for secret societies like the Templar and the Rosicrucian’s, the cave reinvented itself as the center of Paris swing. I wandered in and, ironically, caught an American jazz band playing. I wish I could remember their name.

And that is when the night got interesting.

Let me set the scene up for you a bit. I traveled in France for one month. I was hit on my first day in Paris by a kind Indian man, while eating lunch at his restaurant, who invited me to stay at his house in the suburbs. Thirty days go by and, thankfully, I was left alone to journal, take pictures and explore. Until, of course, my last night in Paris in a jazz club. Moments after walking in the door, a very round older Frenchman asked me dance and I said yes. He was nice, mostly, but sleazy and asked me how many French boyfriends did I have while traveling in France. I said none of your business, which led him to say, cue the French accent, “I don’t know where you’re staying, but you can come home with me tonight.” No joke.

Understandably, I decided to sit out the dancing (he asked me again and again to dance) and just listen the music for the rest of the night. I decided to leave while the joint was still hopping and I was followed by a young Italian who appeared to have been giving me the eye all night. As we walked towards the metro he told me he was from Milan and that he wasn’t sure what train to catch to get back to his hotel in Versailles. Being the helpful American, I gave him my best directions and then he said, cue the Italian accent, “Or I could come home with you.” Again, no joke. I thanked him and mumble something about having to catch my train and scurried off.

And that, friends, was my last night in Paris.

Cheers!

French Onion Soup

What you’ll need:

5 Cups thinly sliced onions. There was no way I’m going to hand slice five onions, so I used my food processor. The slices aren’t very thin, but it worked just fine.

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 quart beef stock. I used this brand, since I didn’t have any homemade.

1 quart water

1/2 cup dry sherry

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoon Cognac

4-6 rounds of hard toasted French bread

1-2 cups grated Gruyère and/or Parmesan

Warm butter and oil a large saucepan on medium low. When the butter is almost completely melted stir in onions. Cover and let cook for about 15 minutes.

Remove cover and add salt and sugar. Raise heat to medium and let cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. You want your onions to be a deep golden brown.

Remove pan from heat and stir in flour. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add stock and water and season to taste. Place pan back on burner and simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes.

Place toasted bread in bowls. Stir cognac into the soup and ladle over bread. Sprinkle generously with cheese and place under a hot broiler for few minutes. Soup will be ready when golden and bubbly.

Serve with a crusty peasant bread and a dry Rhone wine.

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Shall I start with the disclaimer? Veal is one of those things that gets people, justifiably, riled up. It is cruel and unusual punishment and seemingly absolutely unnecessary. What crazed farmer (apparently the Dutch) thought it would be a good idea to keep a sweet little calf captive and corralled away from his mother, unable to move or even stretch his legs just to eat tender meat? Interestingly, the commercial meat you eat from the major (non-natural) grocery stores and fast-food outlets (but my readers don’t eat fast-food, right?) isn’t raised much differently. Those cows are wallowing in their own filth, crammed in with other cows unable to move or function. Only difference is that the baby calf is put out of its misery sooner than later.

I am of the (very strong) opinion that if you’re going to eat meat it should be meat that is natural and healthy. The cows should be free to roam pastures and live their lives as freely as possibly, eating what they eat naturally: grass. Purchasing free-range meat is not only good for the cows, but it is good for the environment. Want to know what sort of damage factory farming does to your planet? Watch Food, inc. It’s no exaggeration. Want another reason? Your health. Have you taken a look around at our beautiful country? Have you noticed the number of (very) young girls developing way before they’re due? One of the culprits is factory-farmed meat. You can’t ingest an animal jacked up on antibiotics, growth hormones, and who knows what other sort of toxins and not see a direct effect on your health. So if you have a problem with veal then you should have a problem with un-natural factory-farmed meat. If you don’t have a problem with veal, you should still have a problem with factory-farmed meat.

Yes, I occasionally rant. Do forgive me.

Ok, here’s the disclaimer: this veal is free-range. You read me right, Free-Range. There is a network of family farms in the States, freeraised.com, that raise their veal humanely and compassionately. Their calves spend their days roaming the pastures with their moms, drinking her milk and are never administered hormones or antibiotics. They are slaughtered at 24-28 weeks. Around the same time your average lamb is slaughtered. And, yeah, it’s delicious.

What better way to experiment with veal than in a peasant stew. Ironically, the ratatouille recipe is adapted out of one of my favorite go-to cookbooks, Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean. Melissa Clark (who has a new book out, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite, that I must pick up) put this gem together eleven years ago and the pages of my copy are stained with eleven years of cooking for friends and family. I think I still have a scar on my arm from when I put way too much Tomato Fennel Soup in the blender to puree leading to an explosion of very hot tomato soup all over my kitchen, and me. Thank goodness there was a little wine on board to ease the pain.

Cheers!

Ratatouille with Veal Meatballs

What you’ll need:

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

8 garlic cloves, minced

2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes drained or 3 lbs fresh tomatos cored and diced

2 eggplants, cubed

2 yellow onions, chopped

1 cup dry red wine

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup chopped fresh basil

In a large stockpot warm your olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add all of the ingredients except for basil. Cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes. Add the fresh basil and cooked meatballs (recipe bellow) and cook for five minutes longer.

Veal Meatballs

What you’ll need

About 1lb ground veal (or other meat)

A few pinches fennel seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 and oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Place veal, fennel, salt and pepper in a bowl, oil your hands with olive oil and mix. Roll meat into small bite sized meatballs and place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss in stew.

Enjoy with the rest of the bottle of that dry red :)

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