Archive for December, 2011

© Dina Avila

It’s New Year’s Eve and I thought it only appropriate to share a cocktail with you. A riff on Heidi Swanson’s Blood Orange Gin Sparkler over on 101 Cookbooks. Unfortunately, Adam and I are out the door, off to see the Wizard (no, really) and I don’t have time to type up the recipe for you.

In lieu of a recipe I offer you all the best for 2012. May your year be blessed with good tidings, love that has no bounds, wealth in all things beautiful, star-filled skies, soft ocean breezes and lots of delicious food!


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© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila


I thought I’d offer you something completely different from the holiday fare you’ve been eating for days or even weeks now. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and leftovers from both, there are often a lot of redundancies in food and what better way to shift your focus from sweet potatoes and ham then to travel to Lebanon for some traditional Foul.

Foul, pronounced: fool, is a hearty, garlicky fava bean and chickpea dish saturated in blessed olive oil (yes, I know it’s ugly).  There are many variations and recipes, but Foul traditionally hails from Egypt. It is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and is often eaten scooped out of a bowl with flatbread for breakfast with yogurt, cheese or a fried egg on top. Be prepared for some messily oily and herby fingers.

The idea of making foul has danced around the back of my mind for sometime now and for whatever reason I never got around to making it. I was finally inspired to make foul after reading Annia Ciezadlo’s beautifully and poignantly written memoir of living as a journalist in the Middle East, Day of Honey. I highly recommend this book. If your even mildly curious about the people, food and culture of places like Beirut and Lebanon then buy this book. Annia offers a very intimate glimpse into a world few of us understand. A world devoted to family and tradition and often disrupted and molded by war and politics. She also includes recipes gleaned from the beautiful people and families she grew to know and love. I’ve started with Foul Mdamas and I intend to explore the others. I promise to share.

Find the book, sit down with a cup a tea, and read.


PS I’m playing with my layout today and I’d love to know what you think. I know a few of you (Liz!) skip my writings and go straight to the photos so I thought I’d present pictures first, words and recipes second. Please let me know what you think!

Abu Haidi’s Foul Mdamas with Herbed Flatbread

From Day of Honey, Annia Ciezadlo

Annia recommends using the small, dried Egyptian fava beans that are no bigger than a black bean. I used dried fava beans found at Whole Foods, and they worked fine. Although, I suspect Egyptian fava beans would offer a more delicate flavor. A trip to the Halal store may be in order. Darn :)

For the Foul~

What you’ll need:

1 cup dried fava beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender

2/3 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender

1-teaspoon coarse sea salt

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

Juice from one lemon

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

1/2-teaspoon cumin

1/4-teaspoon paprika

Optional adornments: fried egg, peppers, yogurt, chopped tomatoes


After the beans are cooked, place in them in two separate small saucepans with about a 1/2-inch of water. Bring to a simmer.

Place smashed garlic and sea salt in a large bowl and use a pestle to smash them into a paste.

Pour half of the lemon juice over the garlic and let sit for about 10 minutes. If you want mellower garlic, let sit for longer.

Ladle all of the fava beans and half of the chickpeas into your bowl with a bit of the cooking liquid.

Using your pestle, mash some of the beans with the garlic.

Pour in half of the olive oil and salt to taste.

Make a well in the middle of the beans and add the rest of the chickpeas.
Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice and dust with cumin and paprika adding more to taste.

Serve with flatbread.


Herbed Flatbread

From Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

For the flatbread~

 What you’ll need:

Olive oil

1 package active dry yeast

1-tablespoon honey

1/2 cup amaranth flour

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1-tablespoon kosher salt

Olive oil for brushing

Dried herbs of your choice. I used oregano, thyme and tarragon.


Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil.

 In another bowl add honey and yeast to 1 1/2 cups warm water.

Stir and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Add the flours and salt to the yeast and stir to combine.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.

Form the dough into a ball and place in your oiled bowl.
Cover with a cloth and let rise until doubled in size. About 2 hours.

Place dough onto your lightly floured surface and fold it into itself a few times as you deflate any gas bubbles.

Form the dough into a ball, cover with a towel and let rise for about an hour and a half.

Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Place the dough on you floured work surface and divide into eight equal parts.

Gently roll out each dough, one at a time, into a circle that will comfortable fit in your pan.

Brush the top with olive oil and dust with herbs and salt.

Transfer the dough to your hot pan, oil side down and let grill for about 3 minutes.

While it’s grilling, brush the other side with olive oil.

Flip and cook the second side for about 3 minutes.

Place the cooked flatbread on a baking rack or plate and repeat the above instructions with the other balls of dough.

Serve warm.

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Ho Ho Ho!

Wishing all of you a wonderfully Happy Christmas and a beautiful, peaceful, successful, thrilling and fulfilling New Year!

© Dina Avila

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Unless you love to eat, drink, read and hike, Portland really isn’t a town for tourist. The touristy attractions are limited to handful of beautiful gardens, OMSI,  the Tram (?), and Powell’s. Brewery and distillery tours we can do. Long hikes in the Gorge, no problem. But we have (thankfully) no Fisherman’s Wharf, no Pike’s Place or Space Needle and no Disneyland. We have gorgeous bridges to gape at, dense forests to get lost in, micro breweries, and restaurants like no other town can boast of. And we have ghosts.

© Dina Avila

Portland has a seedy underbelly of a history, with Shanghai tunnels hidden below city streets and bars, and hundred-year old buildings where spirits wander the halls, move things around, and generally go about their business along side the living. I’m sure many of you don’t believe in ghost, and that’s OK. No one will judge you. I, for one, do. I’ve had my experiences, but mostly it comes down to that feeling in my gut. A sense that I’m not alone and feel a definite vibe or presence when entering a room. A feeling I had yesterday when wandering the rooms and halls of the historic Pittock Mansion with Adam’s family.

© Dina Avila

I’ve lived in Portland for five years and this is the first time I’ve stepped foot through her doors. The rooms were beautifully decorated for Christmas and there were lots of people milling about and exploring. This house is simply beautiful. Built between 1914 and 1919, Henry Pittock was a pioneer who sought his fortune in Oregon where he met is wife Georgiana. Read more of their history here.

© Dina Avila

Yesterday I was drawn to the details of the family and their home. Their photographs and paintings. These may give you a tiny glimpse into their worlds, but I intend to go back (I’m a bit obsessed with it now) when there are fewer people there and when the house has shed its Christmas wrap.

© Dina Avila

Hopefully the ghosts will welcome me yet again.

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

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Photograph of the Day

© Dina Avila

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I hadn’t planned on making these cookies for a blog post, but they turned out so good that I felt it would only be fair to share. Adam and I are going to a Spanish themed dinner tonight at our Chef/Geologist friend’s house and these not too sweet cookies seemed like an appropriate offering. They are surprisingly simple and quick to make, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think there was a stick of butter in each morsel.

© Dina Avila
These pictures are shot more informally than usual. My kitchen is my studio and I usually lay everything out with deliberation and intent with my camera secured to my tripod. Today, I just popped on a fast lens and shot free hand with the cookies resting in their traveling receptacle. Quick and easy just like these cookies.


Olive Oil Saffron Cookies

I gleaned this recipe from Mark Bittman’s blog. I only tweaked it a little bit by adding a hair more salt than the pinch he recommended and by replacing the orange zest and Grand Mariner with lemon zest and whiskey.

What you’ll need~

A small pinch of saffron threads

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 olive oil

2 eggs

Zest from one lemon

2 tablespoons whiskey

Lavender sugar and or coarse sea salt for dusting, optional

Preheat your oven to 350.

Add one tablespoon of boiling water to a pinch of saffron in a medium bowl. Swirl the water in bowl around and let sit for about a minute.

Stir the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Using a stand or a hand mixer, add the sugar and olive oil to the saffron and beat until light. About 1-2 minutes.

Add the eggs and beat until the mixture gets creamy and fluffy.

Beat in the lemon zest and the whiskey.

Stir in the wet mix to the dry mix.

Drop spoonfuls (about two teaspoons) of the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden.

Dust with lavender sugar and or coarse sea salt.

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

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I had an early morning shoot today and not thinking ahead, I arrived fresh from the shower with sopping wet hair (tucked into a tidy bun), to St. Jack’s patisserie. It’s 29 degrees out. I know that’s not cold for some of you…but it’s pretty cold for us. While shooting the outdoor environmentals, (hoping that my hair won’t freeze and that I couldn’t possibly get pneumonia, right?), I thought about this soup waiting for me at home. Thick with hearty beans and bursting with winter vegetables, brothy enough warrant the pleasurable need for crusty bread to sop up the juices. A perfect soup to come home to on a brisk winter’s day.

© Dina Avila

I had more food pictures for you, I really did. But something happened and I haven’t quite figured out what. I was in a hurry yesterday and I either uploaded the images to a strange and remote location, or not at all. Instead, I offer you a glimpse into yesterday’s Christmas tree hunting adventure with Adam’s folks, and, fortunately, at the very least, the soup.

© Dina Avila


Kale and Pumpkin Ministra

Inspired by a recipe in Food and Wine

The original recipe calls for butternut squash pasta and gently wilted kale. I decided I wanted a heartier and richer flavored soup, so I used some of stash of fancy Peruvian Christmas Lima beans in place of the pasta and roasted the veggies in the oven.

What you’ll need~

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 small pumpkin, or squash of your choice, seeds rinsed and reserved and cut into quarters

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled

1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped

4 cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper

1-2 cups beans, cooked

Parmesan for shaving

Heat the oven to 375.

Toss the pumpkin and onion with half of the olive oil, a generous pinch of salt, a couple of grinds of pepper and the crumbled dried sage. Place on half of your baking sheet.

Place in the oven and bake until the pumpkin is tender. About 30 minutes. Be sure to stir the onions here and there so they don’t char too much.

Toss the kale with the rest of the olive oil, the reserved pumpkin seeds and sliced garlic.

After about 15 minutes into cooking, add the kale to to the other half of the baking sheet.

Stir the kale every 5-10 minutes until it’s nice and crisp. About 15 minutes.

Once the kale is cooked and the pumpkin is tender, remove from the oven and set aside until the pumpkin is cool enough to handle.

In the meantime, warm chicken broth in a large saucepan and add the beans. Add the kale and onions.

Scrape the pumpkin meat out of its skin, and cube up the meat as best as you can. Toss into the broth.

Let simmer gently for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.

Serve warm with a generous serving of parmesan shavings on top and some crusty bread for sopping on the side.

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila

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