BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for February 2009

Dinner 911: Turkey Bacon and Sauteed Bok Choy Salad with Orange Dressing

with 5 comments

Wendy's Beautiful Salad

I was thrilled when my dear Wendy called me in a panic from San Francisco tonight. “Help Laura! Dave will be home in a half hour and I need to make dinner.”

“Ok, we’ll do this,” I replied, the adrenaline pumping. “What do you have in your fridge?”

Salad, veggies, turkey bacon, beets and goat cheese. Great, roast beet salad. No, the beet had gone bad. Here was our solution:

-Fry up the turkey bacon. Sautee your bok choy greens in the leftover grease.

-Prepare a salad bowl with lettuce mix, chopped carrots and broccoli, dried cranberries, hard-boiled egg and goat cheese. Toss in the bacon and sauteed greens.

Then Wendy said she had fresh oranges. That prompted this dressing, probably the best part of the recipe. I drew inspiration from one we made at the magical Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca:

-1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
-1/4 cup olive oil
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-little honey if it needs sweetness
-1-2 cloves of chopped garlic
-salt and pepper

I felt so useful! Why is it so much easier to help other people plan their dinners (and lives!) than it is to figure out your own situation? The power of objectivity, I suppose.

Written by baltimoregon

February 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Mardi Gras Pizza

with one comment

Wood-Fired Pizza with Andouille Sausage, Oregon Bay Shrimp and Creole Sauce

Wood-Fired Pizza with Andouille Sausage, Oregon Bay Shrimp and Creole Sauce

We made a rare midweek restaurant visit tonight. The eclectic and locally-focused Fireworks Restaurant in Southtown Corvallis lured us in with a Mardi Gras menu and live music by Gumbo, a surprisingly talented, animated Americana band. I hope to recreate Chef Intaba’s Cajun Pizza: wood-fired whole wheat crust topped with andouille sausage, delicate Oregon Bay shrimp, zesty Creole tomato sauce and mozzarella. I can’t get enough of those tiny, slightly briny pink shrimp. They’re never tough like their jumbo cousins. I need to make more salads with them.

Written by baltimoregon

February 25, 2009 at 1:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

“Baltimoreans Have Long Memories”

with 2 comments

Our beloved Abell Avenue in Baltimore

Our beloved Abell Avenue in Baltimore

In this week’s City Paper restaurant review, I love the way Mary K. Zajac describes how Baltimoreans cling to their landmarks, even though those that are long gone.

Baltimoreans have long memories. They refer to buildings called “The Civic Center” and give directions based on long-gone structures, confusing newbies in the process. (“The YMCA? It’s over where Memorial Stadium used to be.”) But this historical memory is a harmless nod to the past and part of what puts the charm in Charm City.

Folks totally referred to my Y as the Memorial Stadium YMCA, even though the former Orioles staidum was demolished in 2001. The old harborfront Baltimore News-American building meant more to folks than the recently-folded Baltimore Examiner in the same location ever did. When you ask for directions, what former icons do you still hear locals referring to?

Written by baltimoregon

February 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

A Simple Celeriac Soup

leave a comment »

I didn’t know what to do with the bowling ball-sized celeriac (celery root) I had in my crisper. Then I stumbled upon this Puree of Celery Root Soup recipe on the popular Seattle-based food blog, Orangette (The author Molly Wizenberg has a book out I want to read). The subtly flavored soothing soup went down almost as easy as baby food. I added extra celeriac and broth, threw in a potato, substituted Greek yogurt for skim milk and topped with grated parmesan (a requirement for most winter soups). The recipe comes from the New York Times, by way of The Red Hat Cookbook. Try it! You’ll like it. I just love celeriac in soups. Mild celery flavor, with hearty potato-like texture and heft.

Celeriac
Celeriac/Flickr Creative Commons/by rachel is coconut&lime

dsc02066

Written by baltimoregon

February 24, 2009 at 12:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Pleasure of Parmesany Polenta, Topped with a Toothsome Ragout

with 4 comments

dsc02065

Borlotti (Or Rather Pinto) Beans in Tomato Sauce with Creamy Polenta

For the rest of winter, I pledge to make more polenta: hand-stirred, coarsely ground corn made creamy with unsalted butter and a generous grating of parmesan cheese. Resist buying those ubiquitous fat tubes of prepared polenta. It’s not hard to make–really just yellow grits. Just sit by the stove with a book for 30 minutes of patient stirring.

This stick-to-your ribs tangy tomato sauce and polenta dish, from Heirloom Beans by Vanessa Barrington and Steve Sando is a real keeper. Pinto beans were a surprisingly fitting substitute for the borlotti (or cranberry) beans I couldn’t find. They have a similar speckled exterior that disappears upon boiling, though they cook up softer than cranberry beans. The sauteed fennel and grated carrot gave the tomato sauce a real sweetness that married well with the polenta.

Any other polenta dishes to suggest? I’m hooked. I’ll probably next tackle Mark Bittman’s polenta breakfast pizza.

Serves 4 to 6

Written by baltimoregon

February 23, 2009 at 2:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Where Every Day is a Sheep & Wool Festival

leave a comment »

dsc00031

A new lamb just born at the Oregon State Sheep Research Center
A new lamb just born at the Oregon State Sheep Research Center

Who doesn’t love sheep, and especially their little baby lambs? Well, it’s lamb-birthing season here in Oregon, the surest sign that spring is soon to come (though we might finally get those dreaded dreary weeks of rain before then. It’s been an unusually mild and dry winter.) Oh, and did I mention the crocuses are starting to bloom here?

I witnessed my first live lamb birth today at the Oregon State Sheep Research Center, just a few miles down a rural road from us. It’s a real rite of passage here, as school groups and families folk to the farm every late February to witness the births. Those ewes really pop those babies out within minutes, remaining standing to lick their newborn lambs clean immediately after the birth. Makes you realize childbirth is a much more instinctive animal, and less medically catastrophic, event than we humans have made it out to be. Nor did these ewes require any human assistance in guiding the lambs out of the birth canal. Once a leg slips out, the lambs basically climb their way out.
Speaking of sheep, I’ve been cleaning grass seed, hay and dirt out of a bundle of freshly shorn wool, in preparation for an intro to wool spinning workshop I’m doing at the OSU Craft Center. The process reminds me of friends picking the stems and seeds out of a mound of kb before they roll a joint. But really, the repetitive back-and-forth of carding wool with brushes and then spinning is its own kind of drug, inducing a meditative state. I hear they teach mental hospital patients to spin. Hope it quiets my mind too, though frustration and impatience often sets in when I set out to master a new technical skill.

Written by baltimoregon

February 22, 2009 at 3:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Silly Rabbit. What, You Chicken?

with 11 comments

dsc01991
Hope the rabbit carcass isn’t too gruesome (see before and after pictures below). But if you can’t engage with your meat in its natural state, you shouldn’t eat it, right? For me, it’s become almost a reverent experience to butcher a whole bird or beast. Especially when you meet the farmer who raised it and slaughtered it, with care, the day before bringing the fresh meat to market.

This “Mustardy Braised Rabbit With Carrots” recipe nudged me to finally try the meat I’d been eying from “My Pharm” in nearby Monroe. The farmer Julia also specializes in vivid green leeks, which we needed for the recipe. With the carrots, broth, wine and herbs, they braised into a rich, savory sauce. The meat was tender and succulent, but rather boney. We still prefer whole roast chicken to rabbit, and even free-range ones are cheaper then bunny.

I won’t make rabbit again anytime soon, but I’m glad I tried. It’s amazing we didn’t have it in Baltimore, what with all the bunnies hopping around our apartment’s front yard, especially at night, tempting us to consider them for dinner. We had a superb rabbit ragu sauce at Simpatica dining hall in Portland last fall. My few other rabbit experiences were not pleasant though. I still gag thinking about those gefilte fish-like ground rabbit logs served to us at a youth hostel in Paris, when I was there for a school French exchange trip.

Any rabbit recipes or memories to share? Or do you, like us, still prefer the other white meats? Rabbit does have slightly more protein and less fat then chicken. Any other health or environmental benefits of rabbit over other meats?

dsc02008dsc02012

Written by baltimoregon

February 21, 2009 at 3:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Timberline Lodge: Depression Stimulus $$$ Well-Spent in Oregon

leave a comment »

Timberline Lodge/Flickr Creative Commons/by Joe Leeteerakul

Timberline Lodge/Flickr Creative Commons/by Joe Leeteerakul

We took advantage of a recession deal and snuck away for the night to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Weekday lift tickets there are now $20 off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (thanks Willamette Week recession busters guide) Instead, we got two free tickets included with our room. The bored waitstaff eagerly leapt to attention when we entered a vacant dining room for lunch. It was poignant to stay at the stately Lodge, hastily constructed by WPA workers between 1936-38, amidst this current depression. You should recognize the eerie stone structure from the movie, The Shining.

It’s also unreal to have such good skiing conditions so nearby. It snowed most of Tuesday and we had the tranquil powdery slopes to ourselves. Nestled in the national forest, Timberline is small and thankfully lacks the touristy development of Colorado and Utah, though I found the skiing about as good. Taking the Magic Mountain lift up to the open bowl above the treeline was turly sublime. The snow-capped mountain and grey-white sky merged as one, as we skied down the edge of the world. In the summer, you can take the Palmer lift up to the top of Mount Hood, for glacier skiing. But that’s all snowed in now. A building near the start of that lift was completely buried in snow.

Well, I got my day of skiing in at least, which is more than I’ve done in several years. Of course I forget my camera, though:(

Mt. Hood-Timberline/Flickr Creative Commons/Joe Leeteerakul

Mt. Hood-Timberline/Flickr Creative Commons/Joe Leeteerakul

Written by baltimoregon

February 19, 2009 at 1:30 am

Valentine’s Day on the Farm

with 4 comments

Mocha Brownie Torte with Raspberry Coulee

Mocha Brownie Torte with Raspberry Coulee

We really need to start cooking in for Valentine’s Day. We know restaurants exploit the Hallmark holiday, usually charging a premium that makes the meal cost more than it’s worth. But we couldn’t resist a chance to return to our favorite local farm, which had a dinner tonight though it is closed for the off-season through March.

Gathering Together has an informal ambiance: mismatched plates, they don’t replace silverware between courses, etc., but the food couldn’t be better and features the freshest local meats and produce. Meat tonight included a “Crispy Sweets with Honey Mustard Dip” appetizer. No, those sweets weren’t a succulent vegetable, but tempera-fried veal brains (the thalamus). The grey matter was moist and tasty, similar to sweetbreads (pancreas). Most memorable was the beet “ravioli” salad with chevre, orange, mizuna and pistachios. Instead of pasta, thin slices of beet sandwiching a lump of the goat cheese formed the ravioli. A playful trompe d’oeil, hmm?

It also revived the spirits to dress up in an actual dress and heeled boots. I put on some real make-up for the first time in months! Fashion is about the last thing one worries about in Oregon. Though I might have a wardrobe crisis when I return to New York next month.

Beet Ravioli

Beet Ravioli

Crispy Sweets

Crispy Sweets

Written by baltimoregon

February 15, 2009 at 1:19 am

Pretty Frugal Fungal Feast

with one comment

Gnocchi with Oregon black truffle and black chanterelles

Gnocchi with Oregon black truffle and black chanterelles

How lucky we are to live next door to two wise and kind mycologists (forest mushroom experts). We learned from them about this affordable Fungal Feast the Cascade Mycological Association hosted tonight at Lane Community College in Eugene. We managed to snatch up the last two tickets for the dinner off the waitlist.

The meal didn’t disappoint. The pungent white truffle-infused butter and bread might have even been my favorite part. When put in a jar with a ripe truffle, the fat in the butter naturally absorbs the truffle aroma and flavor, without even making contact with the fruit. The gnocchi appetizer, with the black truffle, asparagus and black chanterelle (trumpet) mushroom cream sauce was our favorite dish. Though after reading Barbara Kingsolver, I shudder at eating asparagus outside of their precious and fleeting spring season. A buttermilk panna cotta topped with syrup-bathed oyster mushrooms surprisingly worked for the dessert. Unfortunately the crusted cod with blacked-eyed peas and chanterelles was bland. It just didn’t work as a dish.

But it was a festive meal and a learning experience for the hospitality and culinary students at Lane Community College. The executive chef at the nearby King Estate Winery planned the menu and took off work to oversee the students in the kitchen today. Hopefully I’ll get back to Lane soon for reporting for my Hechinger community college fellowship. Maybe there’s a story that would get at my dual interests in food and education?

Written by baltimoregon

February 13, 2009 at 12:38 am

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: