Archive for October, 2011

Where do I begin? Change is in the air and I couldn’t be happier. The first thing I’d like to share is that Adam and I are engaged. Well, we’ve always been engaged, sort of. What I mean is that it’s© Dina Avila always been understood. I knew Adam was the one the moment we met, and I dare say he felt the same about me. There was no popping of the question, no down on one knee (ha!). I honestly cannot imagine Adam doing that and I think we would find ourselves holding our bellies with laughter if he did. But now, we have a ring. A ring from the early 50’s that belonged to Adam’s beloved Granny whom, I sadly, never met. I’m not a diamond girl, but the diamond in this ring is tiny and subtle. It’s just right. But more importantly, the ring belonged to someone that Adam loved dearly.

Other good news is that I have shed my part-time job and my retail slave days are behind me and I swear I will never look back. I’m diving into a fulltime career of freelance photography and the water is warm and welcoming. Yes, I’m nervous, but my excitement and motivation eclipse that. It’s only been a few days, but lately? I’m waking up happy. I’m not dreading the day, I’m not exhausted and anxious by the thought of work, and I can feel the fires of my passion rekindling.

Damn it feels good.

It reminds me of my university years when I lived and breathed (including quite a bit of darkroom chemicals) photography. The Saturdays where I would spend 12 hours in the darkroom (I’m a perfectionist) at school working on a print. I feel like I’m back. The bits of my soul that were dying and blackened from that dreadful job are waking up rejuvenated and raring to go.

© Dina Avila

So Cheers! to change and love and happiness and to following your heart and your passion!

Cast Iron Skillet Apple Tarte Tatin

Adapted from The New York Times Essential Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

The crust on the tart is so flaky and buttery and French. I used a smaller skillet than was recommended in the recipe, but feel free to bake your tart in the full 10-inch skillet.

What you’ll need~

For the dough:© Dina Avila

2 cups all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon salt

2 sticks of cold butter cut into small chunks

1 large, or two small egg yolks whisked together with 2-4 tablespoons of cool water

Stir the flour and salt into a large bowl.

Add the butter and rub and smash the butter with your fingers until only tiny chunks remain.

Add the yolk mixture and stir.

Using your hands, form the dough into a bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Until the dough is firm yet workable.

For the filling:

4-6 tart apples such as Granny Smith

© Dina Avila

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/3 cup sugar, I used raw, but the recipe calls for granulated

2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

1/2 of the tart dough (freeze the other half or make two tarts)

Wash, quarter and core your apples. You can peel them if you like, but I didn’t.

Toss the lemon juice with the apples and set aside.

Warm your skillet on low heat and add sugar.

Once the sugar begins to melt, stir until all of the sugar is melted and is just beginning to caramelize.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the apple slices, peel side down and arrange symmetrically or haphazardly, like mine :) Sprinkle the butter onto the apples.

Place pan over medium heat and let to cook until the apple juices are nearly evaporated. About 20 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Place a rack on the bottom third of the oven and your oven to 375 degrees.

While the apples are cooking, generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a round disk.

Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. My dough was about 1/2 inch thick, but that’s because I need to do push-ups.

Place the round onto your apples and trim with about a 1/2-inch overhang.

Tuck the edges of the dough around the apples and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Until your dough is soft golden color.

Remove from the oven and let settle for about 10 minutes before you dig in.

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila


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It’s been a long time coming and I am so pleased and thrilled to share it with you! The incredibly talented Kathleen Shannon of Jeremy and Kathleen and Braid designed all of the elements and layout. Wow, right? My dear friend and the cutest computer geek in the world, Robert Venturini helped me put it all together (ok, he did all of the work). I am indebted to them both for doing such an incredible job! Please let me know what you think! And do tell me if anything is buggy or weird!

There are of lot of (good!) changes happening this week and I will share all with my next recipe post.


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Man is it gorgeous outside! I don’t know what us Nor’westers did to deserve such a perfect fall (I’m ignoring the likely possibility of climate change/global warming), but I’m taking it! So here’s a quick post for you because I’m really feeling the urge to be out in the beautiful crisp autumnal sunshine.

© Dina Avila

I can’t imagine a more perfect meal to go with today’s weather. I came across this salad while flipping through this month’s issue of Sunset. Adam and I have been eating a lot of stews lately and it was starting to feel heavy and redundant. When I spied Sunset’s fall green salad with apples nuts and pain d’epice dressing, I  knew it was the perfect antidote.

For those of you in other parts of the country suffering from lesser weather, I will do my best to appeal to the weather gods to send some warmth and sunshine your way.

I’ll even do a little dance :)


Fall Green Salad with Apples and Walnuts

Adapted from Sunset Magazine

I served this with a spicy chicken apple sausage but you can easily keep this vegetarian. The original recipe called for orange juice and zest. I omitted those and replaced it with a splash of champagne vinegar.

What you’ll need~

3/4 cups walnuts

2 cups rustic bread torn into bite-sized pieces

4 tablespoons walnut oil© Dina Avila

1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

1/2 teaspoon each, cinnamon and ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon each, nutmeg and ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon each, kosher salt and ground black pepper

About 4 cups mixed salad greens

1 tart sweet apple, thinly sliced


Preheat your oven to 350°.

Toss bread crumbs with a tablespoon of walnut oil and place on one half of a baking sheet.

Place walnuts on the other half of the baking sheet.

Bake in oven for about 12 minutes, stirring breadcrumbs and walnuts halfway through, until your breadcrumbs are golden.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Coarsely chopped cooled walnuts and set aside.

Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons walnut oil with vinegar and spices.

Toss with salad greens, apple, nuts and croutons.

© Dina Avila


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© Dina Avila

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© Dina Avila

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Like many Portlanders I have a list. A very long list of restaurants and eateries around town that I’d like to visit. We’ve all had the conversation, “Have you been to so and so?” and you respond emphatically, and perhaps a tiny bit embarrassed, but definitely triumphantly, “No, but it’s on the list!”. I say it, and I hear folks say it all of the time. Especially here in Portland where restaurants, really good restaurants, open up weekly.

Olympic Provisions was on my list, however, I’m more than a little bit embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t been there before Tuesday night’s Portland Food Adventures. House made salamis and cured meats, a pastry chef who is light handed when it comes to sugar and sweet, rustic cozy atmosphere, an amazing wine selection (a master sommelier is an understatement). What was I thinking? It’s everything I love and more! On the other hand, I honestly cannot think of a better way to explore a new (new to me) restaurant than with Portland Food Adventures.

There is something special about these dinners that I haven’t quite put my finger on. The energy at the table is always warm and electric and filled with anticipation. The folks that attend these events are simply lovers of food and good conversation. No snobbery here.

I was lucky enough to be seated next to the owner of Olympic Provisions, Michelle Cairo. What a treat! She was charming and gracious and shared hilarious stories of growing up in a Greek family in Utah. If you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you have an idea of what Michelle’s world was like. Greek columns, goats on a spit, and the obligatory drunk priest passed out in the front yard. Michelle, if you’re reading this, I still think you should write a memoir ;)

We had birthdays and an anniversary. There was much toasting :)

Celebrating 8 years together

Olympic Provisions is a family affair. Michelle is one of the owners and her brother, Elias, is the master salumist. Their mom and cousins help out on the business end, and their father’s influence (he made everything from scratch including salami) helped inspire them. If you need more enticement to visit Olympic Provisions, Alex Yoder is the chef. Shy, humble and exceptionally talented. He cut his teeth in kitchens like Castagna and Clyde Common and brings a very simple and focused palate to Olympic Provisions. As Michelle put it, Alex cooks what he wants to eat. No pretense, just simple and straightforward food.

And because of Chris Angelus and Portland Food Adventures I got to experience six courses of, exquisitely paired, Olympic Provisions perfection.

Alex Yoder and Michelle Cairo

Gift certificates to Chef Alex Yoder's local favorites and what walked home with. Photo courtesy Chris Angelus



If you haven’t read my previous PFA experiences then here’s the gist:You sign up for the PFA mailing list (I’d suggest it, because tickets go fast), you get excited about what’s up and coming (next month is Cocotte!) you shuffle a little money towards Chris, you eat an amazing multi-course meal, and you get a stack of gift certificates to local joints favored by the chef. It’s a hard life isn’t it?

Hope to see you at Cocotte!


First Course: Saucisson de Arles & Rioja Salami

Second Course: Amelia's (pastry chef) Focaccia, Bucheron, Fig Jam paired with Edith Piaf house cocktail

Third Course: Roasted Radicchio with Cruccolo Cheese. Ugly but delicious :)

Fourth Course: Seafood Salad w/ Slow Cooked Baby Octopus paired w/ Terradora di Paolo di Tufo

Fifth Course Roasted Pork Loan with Parsley Pistou paired with Domaine Montpertuis Counoise

Last but not least: Chocolate Hazelnut Torte paired with Domaine La Tour Vielle Banyuls Reserva

The full moon greeted us that night....and general merriment.

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I had it all worked out in my head (and on paper). This was going to be a “welcome to my new blog!” post, but, as life and delays will happen, we’re not quite there yet. So, in honor of my almost new blog, (I realized, much too late, that I probably should have made a leek recipe of some sort, huh?) Well, I don’t like to be predictable (read: didn’t actually occur to me), so instead I offer you roasted carrot soup. Scratch that. It’s actually charred carrot soup and oh my lord was it good.

© Dina Avila

I got the idea to push the roasting of the carrots (and onions, too) from a memoir I’m reading called Day of Honey by Annia Ciezaldo. Annia travels from New York to the Middle East with her Lebanese husband and immerses herself in the discovery and understanding of the local food cultures. A fantastically written and engaging book.  I’m barely on page 111 and it’s seems like she’s lived several lifetimes.

In the book she writes about how Lebanese cooks make a dish called Mjadara. When making this dish, the cook caramelizes the onions so deeply that they are on the verge of charring. She says, “look away for just one moment, and it burns…” Pushing the caramelization takes this simple peasant dish to another flavor level. It turns it into something you think about days later. Something you crave.

As I was roasting my carrots and onions, I thought about that passage and decided to let them roast longer than the original recipe intended. I roasted them until they were charred and tender (but not burnt!) and until the whole apartment smelled of fall. It did not disappoint. I found the char on the carrots helped balance the sweetness of the caramelization. The smoked paprika grounded and added depth the stew. The bonus is that this stew is simple to make and versatile.

Maybe I’ll attempt Mjarda next time. Or perhaps leek soup :)


Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil Stew with Sage Biscuits

Adapted from Amanda Hesser’s Essential New York Times Cookbook

What you’ll need~

For the stew:

1 1/2-2 lbs carrots

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Black pepper

© Dina Avila

1 onion, roughly chopped

1-2 teaspoons smoked Spanish Paprika, more or less to your liking

1 cup red lentils, rinsed

5 cups chicken broth

Heat your oven to 450°.

Place the carrots on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan.

Toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and a grind or two of black pepper

Roast for about 20-30 minutes.

Add the chopped onions and roast for another 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how charred you’d like it.

Remove the pan from the oven and, when the carrots are cool enough to handle, dice in 1/4 inch chunks.

Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan and add the carrots and onions and paprika.

Stir for about a minute.

Add the lentils and broth and bring to a simmer.

Stir occasionally for about 25 minutes. Until the lentils are very soft and start to fall apart.

Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

For the biscuits:

I must have been tired when I read this recipe because I accidentally flipped the baking powder and baking soda quantities. I salvaged it as much as I could, but the biscuits tasted more like Irish soda bread than biscuits. Adam loved them, by the way.

What you’ll need:

2 cups spelt flour

2 teaspoons baking powder© Dina Avila

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in to 1/2 cubes

1/4-1/2 cup fresh sage, chopped

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Heat your oven to 450°.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a large bowl.

Add the butter and using your hands, smash it and blend it into the mixture until it becomes crumbly.

Stir in the sage and the buttermilk just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Lightly flour a work surface.

Flour your hands and form the dough into a ball.

Press the dough in to a square that’s about 1/2 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out dough and transfer to a baking sheet.

Brush the top with your melted butter and bake until golden.

About 12-14 minutes.

© Dina Avila

I decided after taking this pic to pop them in the oven for a while longer.

© Dina Avila

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