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Archive for January, 2011

For all its wonderfulness, Portland is everything but diverse. Named (somewhere) the whitest city in the United States, there still stands an ugly symbol of segregation in North Portland. I haven’t seen it, and, frankly, I don’t want to, but I’m told the old “white side, black side” sign continues to rear its ugly head as a reminder of how bad things used to be. Sometimes I wonder if that sign is still obeyed.

I grew up in the Bay Area and, although it’s been eleven years since I’ve lived there, I find I still long for a city where you pass all shades of brown while walking down the street. Don’t get me wrong, there are people of color here (and there), but in pockets. Head deep into north Portland, and you’ll come across black neighborhoods. Head deeper into southeast, and you’ll find the Latino community. I know there are Greek, Italian and Indian (native and country) neighborhoods in Portland, I just don’t know where they are. Yeah, it makes me a little sad.

Surprisingly, there is a culture in Portland that very much has a presence. And all you have to do is wander into any Whole Foods, take a look around and you’ll find the beautiful faces of Tibet. I won’t pretend to know that much about Tibetans. I probably know about as much as you. What I do know, that you may not, is that their traditions are very much alive in Portland and the community here is very tightly knit. I also know a little bit of what it took some of them to get here and away from Chinese violent oppression. Stories that will make your stomach cramp up and your heart weep. Stories that I wish I could share with you, and although I am privy to some of them, it would be wrong for me to share without proper consent. Know this however, it is as bad as you imagine it to be.

Then there’s our friend Lopsang. A beautiful Tibetan who grew up in India with a British education, and who is one interesting guy.

We’re just getting to know Lopsang and his stories air more on the side of naughty British schoolboy than trekking the Himalayas for 40 days without food or water, but interesting nonetheless. He recently dreaded his hair and it reminded me of a personal project I started about a year ago: portraits of people in their environment. I’ve been so deep into food photography that this project sort of fell by the wayside, you can see where I left off here. But what better way to pick it up again than with such and interesting face such as Lopsang’s?

If anyone else in Portland is interested in less traditional portraits, send me a note!

Cheers!

 

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I have some friends that are on a special month-long diet that, among many wonderful things, such as eating more plant-based foods, less meat, and no processed foods, totally restricts the use of olive oil. The theory, I guess, is that you can get all the good fats you need from olives and nuts. Really? How many olives can you eat in a given day? How many olives would you possibly want to eat in a given day?

As we know, I am all for folks eating lots of veggies, less meat, and less processed foods. Heck, I think just eliminating processed foods from one’s diet will change everything. At least to start. But eliminating olive oil? I just can’t get behind it. In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, that is going against more than seven thousand years of human history. Why do you think the Egyptians placed vessels of olive oil in tombs of royalty? Why did Homer call olive oil “liquid gold”? Why, after more than seven thousand years, are we still consuming olive oil in its purist most unrefined form? Not to mention that we are constantly learning of new health benefits? A list that continues to grow longer, I might add.

Instead of writing the longest post ever on the benefits of olive oil, I offer you a teaser and a link. The folks at The Global Gourmet wrote an excellent and eloquent article on the history and benefits of olive oil that I cannot, nor need to, improve on.

It begins, “Homer called it “liquid gold.” In ancient Greece, athletes ritually rubbed it all over their body. Its mystical glow illuminated history. Drops of it seeped into the bones of dead saints and martyrs through holes in their tombs. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the people’s of the Mediterranean: it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power. The olive tree, symbol of abundance, glory and peace, gave its leafy branches to crown the victorious in friendly games and bloody war, and the oil of its fruit has anointed the noblest of heads throughout history. Olive crowns and olive branches, emblems of benediction and purification, were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures: some were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.”-www.globalgourmet.com

Do read the rest.

What I will give you is, as my friend Ryan, who has worked kitchens in New York, stomped grapes in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and who taught me how to cook a perfect sausage that is never dry, put it, “This cake is really good. You should be proud.” And that, my friends, is a compliment I will take.

Cheers!

Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary

Adapted from saveur.com

What you’ll need~

4 lemons

2 1/3 cups of sugar

Butter for greasing

2 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp vanilla extract

4-5 eggs (I used 5 because my eggs were so small, but darn cute!)

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Coarse sea salt for garnish

Trim about 1/2 inch off the tops and bottoms of two lemons.

Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a 3-4 qt saucepan and add lemons. Let boil for 2-3 minutes remove from heat and drain.

Repeat process two more times with fresh water.

Place lemons, 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water in your saucepan over medium-high heat and cook for about 30 minutes. Stir often to help your sugar dissolve.

Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 350 and grease a 10” cake pan with butter. Dust with flour and line bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder baking soda and chopped rosemary. Set aside.

Remove cooled lemons from pan and cut in half. Using a sharp knife scrape the insides of the lemons out, discarding seeds. Place pulp in your food processor and pulse until it is a chunky purée. Add remaining sugar, flour mixture, vanilla and eggs and process until nicely blended. Add olive oil and process until combined. If you find the batter to be too thick (you want to be able to pour it into the pan) add a splash of water. About a 1/4 cup max.

Pour batter into your greased pan and bake for about 40 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through cooking time. Use a toothpick or fork to test center of cake. It should come out clean.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in pan.

As cake is cooling, whisk lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Remove cake from pan and place on a plate or cake platter. Using a pastry brush, brush glaze over cake. Garnish with coarse sea salt and serve to all of your admiring, olive oil eating friends:)

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Today was going to be a good day. I woke up, made some tea, starting tidying up the kitchen for this morning’s shoot, and wham! Migraine. Yeah, migraine.  My body’s way of saying slow down, or I hate you, or something I haven’t quite figured out yet. These little treats starting appearing in my world about five years ago. Thankfully they are not as frequent as they were say about a year or so ago, but they still suck. What’s exciting about my migraines is that I get the auras. Flashy, jagged, broken glass-like lights in my vision just powerful enough to pretty much blind me for about an hour. Once or twice a month one of these fun-filled migraines will pay me a not so little visit. Nausea then kicks in followed by a fantastic headache that will last pretty much through the rest of the day. Aren’t I lucky?

The only solace that I could possibly find in this little shop of horrors is that many believe Picasso suffered from the same sort of migraines. If you suffer from auras, and you spend some time with his work then you will see exactly what I am talking about. There’s a certain point somewhere after his Blue period that you begin to notice a certain geometry in his paintings and drawings. Right angles, triangles, jagged, broken glass like shapes. And then there’s the Cubist period. Almost undeniable, in my opinion. There’s no proof that I’m aware of. No notes in a journal, or words spoken on the subject by a close friend. It’s all speculation, really. And by no means, am I an expert on Picasso, but, well, it’s nice to have a little camaraderie with one of my favorite artists of the 20th century. Someone I can commiserate with, if you will, on a visual plane. Literally.

I don’t always do this, and believe me, I can’t always do this, but, at times, once the auras have passed, I sometimes continue to plow through the day. Damned be the headache and fatigue, some days I just have to keep going. And today has been one of these days. I had mushrooms to stuff, by God! And so I did.

Ugly white mushrooms stuffed with bison, pecorino, fresh breadcrumbs and cilantro had to be made and they did not disappoint. Earthy, salty, and just slightly crunchy, these little guys should be popped in your mouth whole and followed by a swig of a rustic Rhone red.

Be sure to share.

Cheers!

Stuffed Mushrooms with Bison

Adapted from Saveur.com

I found twisting the stems off the mushrooms and gently using your thumb instead of a knife worked well to remove the broken stem bits still attached to the inside of the mushroom.

18 + large white mushrooms

Olive oil

1/4 Marsala

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 cup grated pecorino romano

1/4 lb ground bison

1 clove minced shallot

smoked paprika

4 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove and coarsely chop mushroom stems. Reserve caps and put aside. Warm oil in a large skillet of medium heat and add chopped stems. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

Slowly add Marsala and let evaporate. About 2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in breadcrumbs. Place mixture in a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

Using the same pan, place on medium heat and add a little oil. Add bison and chopped shallots and sauté until cooked. Sprinkle to taste of smoked paprika. About 3-5 minutes. Add bison mixture to breadcrumbs and mushrooms, stir and let cool.

Stir pecorino romano and cilantro into the mixture.

Place mushroom caps on a parchment lined baking sheet and spoon filling into the caps. Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until stuffing is golden and caps are browned.

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Oceanside, Part Deux

For those of you who just can’t get enough of Oceanside (we sure can’t), here are a few more images from our trip.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Despite summers spent in Hawaii (it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, Mum is from there), when I think of the beach I think of craggy cliffs, freezing gray ocean, and cool, misty Northern California summers. I grew up fishing with my dad on the cliffs at Muir and Rodeo beach. My sisters and I running barefoot on the rocks and feeding chicken bones to the seagulls. We’d all be bundled up in our hoodies, but we always had to stick our bare feet in the ocean. Kind of a ritual with my dad, always greet the ocean with your toes. Even if they want to fall off afterwards like ice cubes.

This is why I fell in love with Oceanside. It had everything that I yearned for in a beach. And this trip did not let us down. A thunderous ocean that you watch at a respectful distance. The horizon eluding us somewhere behind the thick blanket of cloud, fog and ocean spray. Seagulls playing in the crazy wind catching currents as they shifted wildly. The waves crashing on the shore with a fierce passion only a winter storm could bring. I absolutely love it.

Forced to stay inside, Adam and I lounged in our jammies, sipped tea, read, played games and nipped on glasses of scotch. Our idea of a perfect blustery Oregon weekend. On our second day there, the winds and rain calmed a bit and Adam and I stepped out of our cabin and onto the beach. A small handful of folks wandered the shore with blissed out dogs running like mad and greeting strangers.

Others, like Adam, combed the beach for agates and sea glass. A long-standing tradition with Adam, his mom has boxes and boxes of her son’s childhood ocean treasures. Within an hour, Adam had a sack of stones that likely weighed in at 3 pounds. I participate here and there, picking up stones if I happen to see them, but I find I gravitate towards funky shells and the polished bones of some long dead seabird. And some very odd sea creatures.

Our last day on the coast always leads us down the curvy, cliff-hugging highway 101 to Pacific City. All roads eventually lead to a pub, and Pacific City boasts the 16 year-old Pelican Brewery. Great food, fantastic service, a view of surfers (usually) surfing and, on Friday, probably the best beer I’ve ever had. Anywhere. MacPelican’s Wee Heavy Scottish Ale, an unbelievably delicious, creamy, dark amber, robust, ever so slightly sweet and possibly too easy to drink beer. After we ordered a glass each, Adam noted the alcohol content of 8.9%, and at 12:30 in the afternoon a heavy lunch started to sound much more appealing than the bowl of veggies I had intended to order. Hence, blackened chicken sandwich with bacon and beer battered fries. With full belly’s and cozy heads we thought it would be best to pop across the street to Stimulus for a bit of caffeine before we hit the road. Just enough to keep us alert for the rainy drive home.

Cheers!

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I probably shouldn’t be writing this post at the moment. I have a pint of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout sitting next to me and who knows what babble may come out of my fingers. Alas, it’s really, really cold outside, and when it’s this cold, I always crave Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. For whatever reason, it has become a long-standing tradition with me. Something about the dark, creamy just slightly sweet flavor subdues even the most biting of winds. That and cozy socks. Another reason to be drinking yummy beer tonight? It’s our first night of our little vacation. Tomorrow we head west to Oceanside to snuggle up in our little cabin on the beach. So tonight I write….with beer…

This morning I got up early to tidy up the house and, more importantly, to bake muffins. I wanted Adam and I to have heathy-ish hit-the-road breakfast so I turned to Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, as I always do, for baking inspiration.  And Kim never lets me down. What could be more healthy than molasses bran muffins with amaranth flour? Exactly.

As usual, I tweaked the recipe here and there, mostly because I wanted to use what I had on hand. That really is one of my favorite challenges. Reading a recipe and working out how it might work with ingredients that I have on hand. But I digress. Blame the beer.

Kim’s recipe calls for a prune puree that you make by simmering it with freshly squeezed orange juice. I didn’t have any prunes, but I did have frozen blueberries. Intriguing, no? I also had a couple of blood oranges and a pink navel orange lying around, so I used those for my juice.

These muffins turned out perfect. I was a little nervous about the blueberry substitution, especially since, as we know, I don’t always succeed with substitutions in baking (see Apple Tartlet…fail) but, to my pleasure and surprise, it worked! They were perfectly moist, lightly sweet and nutty, and with just the right amount of fluffiness.

If you haven’t picked up Good to the Grain, by the way, DO IT. You will not be disappointed. Did I mention that my copy is signed by Kim?

OK, I hope this slightly tipsy post was mildly entertaining for you to read. If not….blame the beer….

Cheers!

Blueberry Molasses Bran Muffins

Adapted from Good to the Grain

What you’ll need~

1 cup orange juice from about 3 oranges

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Dry mix:

1 1/2 cups oat bran

1/2 cup amaranth flour

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 tablespoons rapadura sugar, or dark brown sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2-teaspoon kosher salt

1/2-teaspoon cinnamon

1/4-teaspoon nutmeg

Wet Mix;

3 cups coconut milk, or buttermilk

1/2-cup molasses

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 egg

Zest from one orange

First, make your blueberry puree. In a small saucepan, bring blueberries and orange juice to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes. Pour steeped blueberries and juice in a blender and blend until smooth.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Sift all of the dry ingredients is a medium bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, gently warm your coconut or buttermilk. In a small bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients together with 1/2 cup of your blueberry puree.

Stir your wet mixture into your dry mixture until well blended.

Either butter your muffin tins or use paper muffin cups and spoon batter into the cups. Batter should just barely be mounded above the edge of the tin. Sprinkle with oat bran and nutmeg.

Place muffin pan in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes rotating it halfway through.

Remove muffins from tin and place on their sides to cool. Placing muffins on their sides will help to prevent the muffins from getting soggy as the cool.

Serve with blackberry jam and earl grey tea.

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Next week Adam and I go on our annual pilgrimage to the sleepy coastal town of Oceanside, Oregon. This will be our third year celebrating his birthday there and I cannot wait. When winter falls, Oceanside is virtually abandoned. Summer homes lay empty and locked against the sharp ocean winds. The tiny café closes at 3. The few folks you do see are the light sprinkling of year-round residents, or people who come to Oceanside longing to walk their dogs on a quiet beach.

Adam and I are an off-season kind of a couple. We tend to go out in the middle of the week, and rarely gravitate towards large people attracting events. We like quiet and subtly. Oceanside in January is just that.

The meticulously clean cabins we like to stay in are practically right on the beach. In the evenings we sip wine and watch the sun slowly make its decent into the horizon, play a game of chess or cards, then fall asleep each night to the sound of crashing waves.

There is only one restaurant in Oceanside and they make the best salmon cakes (more salmon than cake) I’ve ever had. Wanting more restaurant options means driving for at least 45 minutes, so last year we decided to rent a cabin with a kitchen and bring food to cook for our meals. This year we’ll do the same. We haven’t decided on a menu yet, but this soup would be perfect to warm us against the cold grey ocean winds. There is just a hair of spice from the red pepper flakes I tossed in, and the bright butternut squash orange is like a bowl of sunshine right when you need it.

Cheers!

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is adapted from two recipes in Amanda Hesser’s Essential NY Times Cookbook: Roasted Squash Soup with Cumin and Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter. I used one as a guide, and pulled an idea or two from the other. One of the recipes called for half a cup of cream. For some reason, my stomach is very opposed to warmed or cooked milk, so I substituted coconut milk for cream. The coconut milk transformed this soup into a wonderfully Indian style bisque. I wish I had made naan bread to go with it!

What you’ll  need~

1 large butternut squash

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or other herb

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 1/2 cups chicken broth

2-3 cloves roasted garlic

1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

1-2 pinches red pepper flakes

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Using a sharp knife, cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise. I stabbed the squash in the middle and cut down like I was cutting open a lobster. Turn the squash around do and the same thing in the other direction.

Scoop out seeds and place in a bowl. Brush olive oil onto each squash half and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck fresh herbs into squash cavities and place squash cut side down onto the foil.

Roast until soft and tender, about 45 minutes.

Rinse squash seeds under cold water and discard all the leftover goop. Place seeds on a paper towel and pat down to dry.

Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toss seeds in skillet with 1/2 teaspoon cumin and some salt until nicely browned and crisp.

Scoop squash flesh from shells and place in a pot. Add chicken broth, roasted garlic, champagne vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender then use it to blend the soup into a purée. Otherwise, blend soup in batches in your blender, then return soup to the pot.

I find that coconut milk tends to separate and get clumpy in the can, so I like to gently warm it up in saucepan before using.

Stir in coconut milk or cream and bring to a gentle simmer.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm and garnished with squash seeds.

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