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Archive for July, 2011

This is what happens when I go to the farmer’s market. My eyes get wide, my senses go into overdrive, and I can’t focus. For some reason, I always find myself there when I have no idea what I’m going to cook. I always figure, and I am sure I am not alone, that inspiration will find me. And she does, eventually.

But what happens first, is that I’m in a booth such as Groundwork’s (quickly becoming my favorite thanks to Chefs Paul and Jobie of DOC), and I stare. I stand in awe of all of the gorgeous organic produce totally overwhelmed and very likely salivating. Exactly like a kid in a candy store. Then, I leave the farmer’s market as quickly as I got there with a bounty of veggies in my basket and about a dollar left in my wallet. They should issue blinders.

As much as I have complained about the cost of produce (I admit am prone to the occasional rant) at the farmer’s market, there are so many reasons to go. The produce is unlike anything you find in a grocery store. Knowing that that crate of artichokes was picked, thrown in the back of a truck, and then displayed for sale for you in a matter of hours, and taste like it, is worth the extra fifty cents. Where else can you shake hands with the farmer who still has dirt under his fingernails. And, well, it’s an experience like none other.

Thanks to the Market to Menu feature where I make pictures of chefs gathering produce for their kitchens for Eater PDX, I’m beginning to become more intimate with the market and the farmers who sell their wares there. Yes, it can get pricey and you can easily go broke (and yes, I still have a problem with that), but, and this is the hope, that those of us who can support the farmers market, do, and that will drive down the prices making it more affordable and accessible for those who can’t shop there.

I can dream, can’t I?

Cheers!

Shaved Summer Squash with Dill

When I gathered these ingredients I had no clue what was going to come of them. I flipped through Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day and came across her Shaved Fennel Salad and thought “perfect!” My version has a bit more going on, but turned out delicious and bright, nonetheless.

Inspired by Super Natural Every Day

2-3 small or one large summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced

1 patty pan squash thinly sliced

1 carrot shaved

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved

Juice from one lemon

Olive oil

Salt

A heaping handful of fresh dill, finely chopped

A couple of handfuls fresh arugula

1/4 pound cappellini pasta, cooked and cooled to room temperature

A handful tiny purple potatoes, cooked and cooled to room temperature

1 shallot, thinly sliced and lightly caramelized

Pepper to taste

Pecorino Romano, shaved

Fennel Pollen, optional

~

This is an optional first step:

Place arugula in a bowl of ice water and put in the fridge for about an hour to cut the down on the bitterness. It also makes for a clean, crisp leaf.

Toss squash, carrot and fennel in a bowl with lemon, olive oil, dill and salt. Let sit and marinate for about 20 minutes.

Toss the arugula and pasta in a large bowl.

Serve topped with potatoes, shallots, shaved pecorino, a turn or two of freshly cracked black pepper and a gently dusting of fennel pollen.

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We’ve been eating this jam for a couple of weeks now. Super simple and gleaned from, you could probably guess it, Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. I know, I know, I should probably expand my cookbook repertoire, but it’s a damn good cookbook, the photography is gorgeous, and, as far as baking goes, the book suit my needs and inspirations. Her recipes are hearty and rustic, with just enough sweet. But not too much. Besides, I just love Kim. Sweet, kind and generous, she’s now a mom to three. And yeah, she really knows her shit :)

I thought I’d toss in a few more pictures from our California visit. My friend Heather is going to kill me for putting this photo of her up here, but she just doesn’t realize how beautiful she is.

My Beautiful friend, Heather & Light fixtures from Gather in Berkeley

Cheers!

So Simple Raspberry Jam

Inspired by Kim Boyce’s Strawberry Jam recipe in Good to the Grain

I suggest using a fairly large pot when warming this jam on your stove. Adam walked in to the kitchen as I was cooking and started giggling at my mess. Raspberry splattered everywhere.

This jam, by the way, is excellent on a slab of cultured butter on toast.

What you’ll need~
3 lbs raspberries, washed

1/2-3/4 cup sugar (Kim calls for 1 cup, but use your judgment. My berries were plenty sweet on their own)

A candy thermometer

~

Set up an ice bath on your counter by filling a large bowl with ice and a cup of water. Place a small bowl next to the larger one.

Measure 1/2 cup of water and your sugar into your large pot and let sit for a minute or so to let the mixture combine.

Bring the sugar to a gentle boil over medium high heat, do not stir, until it is bubbling across the surface. About 5 minutes.

You want your bubbles to be bubbling gently and evenly and to be around the size of quarters. If it starts to color, swirl the pan and add your fruit. You don’t want your syrup to caramelize.

Add your berries and stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium heat for 15 –20 minutes until it becomes jammy in consistency.

Towards the end of cooking, place your candy thermometer in the pot until it reads 210 degrees F.

Remove from heat and pour the jam into your smaller bowl. Be sure to use a spatula to scrape out every bit of it.

Place the small bowl in the larger bowl with the ice bath and give it a couple of stirs to allow the heat to escape.

Place a sheet of plastic over the surface of the jam so it is touching to prevent a skin for forming.

Once your jam is completely cooled, pop it in your fridge overnight. In the morning, spoon your jam into funky jars and enjoy (and share!). The jam should keep for 2-3 weeks in the fridge.

An Old-Fashion and a repurposed leather belt bench

St. George Spirits Distillery in Alameda

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California is one of those places I have a love-hate relationship with. I grew up in the Bay Area, but ran screaming, when I felt like I just couldn’t breathe anymore, to Texas in 2000 searching for open space and big skies. I love the California coast, Big Sur, Monterey, Sebastopol. I love San Francisco, although, whenever I’m there I wish it were Hitchock’s San Francisco in 1958. I hate that California has gotten so crowded and the vibe so hectic. I hate the highways and crazy traffic. I hate the harsh demanding angle of the sun in mid-summer. And I hate that so many people who I love live there.

Eliana, my 2 year old niece

It took my sister Suzy with her family, our folks visiting and a fair amount of organizing on her and my other sister Kathy’s part to bring the west coast Avila’s together. It was a hot Central Valley afternoon and I got to visit with folks I haven’t seen in more than 10 years. It was loud (in the best way possible), there was much wine, Portuguese conversation and food flowing freely. I spent much of the time holding back the tears and simply watching everyone interact and talk. Let’s hope it’s not another 10 years before I see everyone again. Maybe I can get them all to move to Oregon…;)

Cheers!

The Cousins

Dad

The Brothers

Figs from my Uncle Tony's Farm

Uncles

Cousin Mark and my best friend when we were wee kids

Suzy and Elli

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Strawberry Pie!

About a week ago I turned to Adam and said, we need some fruit in our world. There’s a little hiatus, I find, between fall (apples!) and the summer fruits that I love and the influx of California fruit in the stores that was making me crave Oregon berries with a passion.

I have this habit of waiting until seasonal fruit is, well, just that. Seasonal. It’s much more a selfish act (and the love of anticipation) then it is being a locavore. Although there is some of that too :) It’s about that first bite of a Hood strawberry in the beginning June. You will never ever eat a strawberry so sweet and tart and overflowing with syrupy, succulent juices any other time of the year. Even in May, from California.

And then there’s the anticipation. It’s like knowing you can only get a certain meal at a certain restaurant, and no other. There’s a dessert I had in France way back in 2004. A friend of mine took me to Café Angelina in Paris for a Mont Blanc. Even then, I wasn’t much of a dessert person, but her words, “you will only ever find this dessert here, in this café,” thrilled me to the core. The idea that if I ever want that Mont Blanc again means that I would have to travel to this little café in Paris, and probably only in November, caused me to look at the world and eating a little differently.

It made me consider the value and respect, and even worship the French have for their food. And why we Americans (generally speaking) don’t? Is it overabundance? Why, when we have so much amazing foods of significant quality at hands reach, that people of means still shuttle their car through the fast food drive through? It’s a conundrum.

Back to the berries. We wait. We wait all year long till the rains slow and the markets start to glow red and smell sickly sweet. We picked up a half flat of Hoods and nursed them slowly. Two days later I had a farm shoot in Roseburg, and my gracious hosts sent me home with a whole flat of strawberries and a whole flat of raspberries.

Ask and you shall receive.

Cheers!

Strawberry Pie!

I followed Kim Boyce’s recipe for Spelt Pie Dough from Good to the Grain which involves a technique called fraisage that helps ensure a flaky crust. There a few extra steps than your typical crust. Feel free to use what ever crust recipe turns you on. For all intents and purposes, however, this is a basic everyday strawberry pie recipe.

I also replaced the recipes use of shortening with more butter.

What you’ll need~

For the dough:

Dry Mix:

1-1/3 cups spelt flour

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Mix:

2 sticks plus two tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1/2 cup or so ice water

For the pie:

About 3 pounds of strawberries, halved (mine came out to be 4-5 cups)

1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet your berries are

1/2 cup cornstarch

Squeeze of half of a lemon

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Finish:

1 egg

A few pinches of raw sugar

Spelt Pie Dough:

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Cut the butter into quarter chunks and add to the dry ingredients.

Rub the butter with your fingers breaking them down until they’re the size of peas and crumbs. Do this quickly to help ensure a flaky crust.

Add 1/4 cup of ice water to the mix and use your hands to just barely bring the dough together. The dough should be in “mostly one lump, with a few shaggy pieces.” If the dough feels too dry, add one tablespoon of ice water at a time.

Now for the fraisage:

Dust your work surface with flour.
Transfer your dough to your work surface and pinch off about two tablespoons worth of dough.

“Push the heel of your hand down toward the counter and away from you. You want to smear the dough, flattening and elongating the butter.”

Repeat with the remaining dough and then separate into two equal sized balls.

Wrap separately in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

~

Combine your berries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon and vanilla in a bowl and set aside.

Take one half of your chilled dough out of the fridge.

Flour your work surface. Press the dough into a round disc and roll out your dough to about 14 inches, or large enough to loosely fill your pie dish.

Gently press the dough into your pie dish leaving a bit of slack to allow for shrinkage during baking.

Spoon your berry mix into the center of the of the dish.

Remove second ball of dough from the fridge and roll out the same way as the first, but slightly smaller.

Place second disk over berries and gently press down into the fruit with your hands.

Trim edges of dough as necessary.

Crimp and pinch the edge of the dough to seal the pie.

Freeze your pie for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375

While the pie is freezing make your egg wash. Whisk the egg until all the yolk is combined and set aside.

After the pie is done freezing, remove from freezer and brush with egg wash.

Sprinkle to taste with raw sugar.

Cut slits around the center of the crust.

Bake your pie for about an hour.

The pie is done when the top is golden brown and the berry juices are bubbling.

Let cool for a bit before serving. The pie is delicious warm, but I found it was fantastic cold the next day, just pulled from the fridge. No fork needed :)

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Wow, as I was starting to write this post, I realized that we have stumbled upon my blogiversary. Has it really been a whole year? Goodness. So much has happened over this year and I suppose a bit of reflection is in order. After being a photographer for more than 15 years, I finally found my niche. Food, and the people and culture who embrace it. I’ve found that I almost always have my camera in my hand, and when I don’t, I feel naked. I’ve found that since slowing down and photographing food, I’ve become more aware and intimate with light than I’ve ever been. I’ve found that my passion for food and cooking burrows straight to my core, and when I have a busy week and I’m not in a kitchen, I feel ever so slightly off and out of balance. I’ve found that one of my most favorite things in the world is to have friends sitting at our tiny kitchen table, wine in hand, as I cook a feast for them over conversation and dirty aprons.

Since starting this blog, I’ve made new friends, met chefs and food folk all over the world and in our fair city, and I’ve learned how to cook. I mean really cook. I’ve always loved to cook, and could, with enough ease and comfort, throw a few things together in a pot or make a recipe come alive. Leek Soup has gently, and naturally, nudged me to, in my exploration of food and light, to take it a step further. I find I now intuitively visualize how flavors may meld when brought together in a pan. I find that lately I’ve been using cookbooks less and less and my own inventiveness more and more. I’ve also found that I have a long way to go.

There are some very basic elements of cooking that I have yet to attempt. This post, I am almost embarrassed to say, is for all intents and purposes, a bit of a confession: I have never roasted a whole chicken. That’s right folks, I am 39 and half years old, and up until a few days ago, I have never roasted a whole chicken. For those of you who have read Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw, know how embarrassed and ridiculous I must have felt when reading his rant about cooking in America. Or lack there of. He suggests, more or less, that home Economics should be brought back to high schools. That every kid should graduate with basic knife skills, be able make an omelet, and roast a chicken. I.e. the most rudimentary of the basic kitchen skills. I have never roasted a chicken.

It turns out that roasting a chicken is pretty much like finally sitting down and reading the Grapes of Wrath. A classic book so daunting with meaning, so heavy with history and seemingly grandiose (more than 600 pages) turns out to be so simply written and entertaining you wonder why the hell you didn’t sit down and read it ages ago.

Same goes for the roast chicken. I thought it was going to be trying and scary and that I would undoubtedly dry the bird out. What a fool I was. It it one of the simplest things to cook and it turned out so surprisingly tender and juicy, dammit, I cooked a perfect friggin’ bird.

Cheers!

Roast Chicken with Fava Beans

We forgot to pick up kitchen twine, but Adam had this trick up his sleeve gleaned from a Tibetan cook: you poke a hole in the chicken’s flap of fat at the hole of the carcass, shove one leg through the hole and wedge the other leg below the first. And voila, your chicken is trussed.

Sadly I’ve misplaced the final image of my roasted chicken. So you’ll have to take my word for it that it turned out perfectly :)

What you’ll need~

One 3-4 pound chicken, innards removed

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

~

Fava beans, hulled

Olive oil
Dried tarragon

Salt and Pepper

~

For the Chicken:

To get a crisp skin, it’s best to let your chicken air dry for a day or two. Simply rinse your bird, inside and out. Use paper towels to pat dry the whole chicken inside and out and place it on a plate. Set the chicken in the fridge and let it be for about 12 hours, turn and let sit for another several hours.

Remove the chicken from the fridge about two hours before you plan on roasting it. You want your bird to be at room temperature before you cook it.

Preheat your oven to 325. Rub oil and salt and pepper all over the inside and outside of the chicken. Place on a baking sheet or roasting pan.

Roast your chicken for about an hour and half, or until your thermometer reads 165. Our thermometer was broken so I just eyeballed it. Adam said another trick to tell doneness is to lift your chicken and let the internal juices spill out. If they’re clear, your bird is done.

For the Fava Beans:

Warm your olive oil up in a skillet. Toss fava beans in with tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until beans turn bright green and are starting to burst out of their skins. Remove from skillet and serve warm with roasted chicken, a chunk of crusty bread and a glass of viogner.

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