BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for April 2009

Tamales for the First Time

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dsc02656Texcoco native and veteran tamales maker Maria Ortiz demonstrates how to knead the masa dough.


Then we soaked dried corn husks for five minutes before spread their surface with the risen masa dough. Be sure to get extra wide, unbroken husks, simply wrapped in cellophane in a stack of five dozen, from your local Mexican store.

The grocery store ones are often cracked and too small to properly wrap. You can also substitute banana leaves, parchment paper or even aluminum foil for the husks. Then you just spread the dough across the top half of the husk and put a tablespoon or so of your filling in its middle. We used shredded chicken and pork with the two salsa and made a third Rajas-style one (my new favorite!) with sliced poblano pepper strips and fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, jack cheese and a sprinkle of the aromatic herb, epazote (found in Mexican stores, it cancels out the gas-creating properties of cooked beans). I want to grow the stuff in our garden (hey, Michael Pollan does). Mexican food goddess Diana Kennedy has a “Tamales Con Rajas Y Queso” recipe I’d like to try.

dsc02647The hour and a half the tamales had to steam went by faster than we expected. We actually all had time to try some before the four hours were up. Everyone went home with a bag of tamales to share, and we still managed to raise money for the new free community dinners planned for low-income residents in South Corvallis. Using a church kitchen meant we couldn’t serve alcohol, so I made the traditional beverages of tart Jamaica (hibiscus) tea and limonada instead. Now I just need to practice making tamales again at home. But the process was definitely demystified. You just need a posse of folks to help you fill and wrap. (See Maria Ortiz’s tamale recipe below):

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April 28, 2009 at 1:06 am

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Strawberry, Rhubarb and Banana Crostata

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Looking for something different to do with your rhubarb this spring? Try this Italian crostata recipe. It comes from the Tra Vigne Cookbook, Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant. The toasted aniseed in the crisp really compliments the tart rhubarb flavor. Be sure to try to use extra ripe red bananas, which are more custardy than their yellow cousins. The polenta made for a dense, cookie-like crust. But it was still a bit crunchy, like undercooked rice. Any suggestions on how to soften the polenta? I added vanilla, ginger and cardamom to the recipes, all flavors that subtley enhance that rhubarb flavor. Remember that rhubarb acts as a thickener here to sop up the berry juices. If you omit the rhubarb, add a thickener, like tapioca pearls. Here is the recipe in full:

Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Banana Crostata

Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello

Prep Time:
40 min
Inactive Prep Time:
hr min
Cook Time:
1 hr 0 min
4 to 6 servings



  • 1 1/2 cups pastry flour (1/2-pound)
  • 3/4 cup polenta (1/4-pound)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • Large pinch fine salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


  • 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 full pint basket large, ripe strawberries, about 1 pound, hulled and halved or quartered
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 orange, zest freshly grated
  • 1 lemon, zest freshly grated
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Vanilla gelato or sweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the topping, measure the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, baking powder, and anise seeds into a food processor or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse for a few seconds to combine.

Add the butter and pulse or mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the egg into the well and toss the egg and flour together lightly and thoroughly with your fingers until evenly mixed. The mixture will not adhere in the manner of a dough but will clump together if pressed in your palm. Set aside until needed.

To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Turn mixture into a 2 quart shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the filling in an even layer. Do not press down. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch the drips and place in the oven.

Bake until the juices are bubbling up around the topping and the top is crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve warm with gelato, if desired.

Chef’s note: If you choose to bake the dessert in individual dishes, cut the baking time by about half.

Written by baltimoregon

April 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

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Ethiopian for Earth Day

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Ethipian cabbage and chickpeas on homemade injera bread

Ethiopian cabbage and chickpeas on homemade injera bread

How privileged we are to be friends with a chef! Intaba dazzled us with an Ethiopian feast when we gathered at the home of our adopted grandmother for an Earth Day pot luck today. She made her own fermented buckwheat flour injera bread, which we topped with savory braised cabbage, chickpeas and spinach, spicy chicken wat and a lentil stew. Delish! She got most of the recipes here (from RecipeZaar). It seemed appropriate to honor the cuisine of a nation often beset with famine due to droughts and war.

I made a citrusy green spinach salad that seemed a bit bland beside the well-spiced fare. My dessert, a “Strawberry, Rhubarb and Banana Crostata,” got much better reviews. More on that tomorrow. And we toasted the evening with fruity gin and tonics, the signature drink of our host.

The Oregon State organic growers club farm

The Oregon State organic growers club farm

Earth Day is certainly celebrated more here in green Oregon than it was back east. Here it’s a week long celebration, like Carnival. The Oregon State organic growers club had a big kick-off event at their farm this afternoon, encouraging the guests to help them plant 10,000 onion and leek seeds. You should see the abundant variety of produce they sell on campus later in the season. Then there was their chicken tractor. It just pulled on my heartstrings. I want one. But next year. Just breaking into gardening is more than we can handle this summer.


Then the first of the spring Wednesday Farmers Market was held downtown for the first time today. It’s old location, at the Benton County Fairgrounds, was a closer bike ride from our house. But this new location is much more festive and will draw larger crowds, promoting development and revitalization downtown. Plus, it’s now held in the late afternoon and evening to encourage folks to head to the market, then picnic or dine at a surrounding restaurant. They’re having new food vendors too, including grilled gourmet pizza’s from Newport’s Pacific Sourdough. And unlike some farmers markets, at the ones in Corvallis and Albany, regulations exist to insist the produce sold comes from the six surrounding counties. The OSU organic farm inspired me to pick up some leek seeds there.

new Wednesday downtown market

new Wednesday downtown market

Everywhere you look, there are signs of spring, and more importantly, gardening, here in Corvallis. It’s contagious. You want to go dig around in the dirt yourself. What’s the worst that could happen? Even the young ones have green thumbs here.

And speaking of Earth Day, hear are some tips for reducing your “cookprint” in the kitchen. There’s always more we could do.

community youth garden

Written by baltimoregon

April 23, 2009 at 1:18 am

Turning to Turnips

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Turnips/Flickr Creative Commons/By michael.newman

Turnips/Flickr Creative Commons/By michael.newman

Maple-braised turnips with their greens

Maple-braised turnips with their greens

I just cannot get over how sweet these radish-sized Tokyo white turnips are, even just sliced and eaten raw. I picked up some of these beautiful orbs at Gathering Together Farm and would encourage you to do the same. Make sure they have fresh, crisp greens attached and cook them! Turnip greens are so tangy and flavorful. I adapted Ivy Manning‘s “Maple-Glazed Turnips and Carrots” recipe (see below) from The Farm to Table Cookbook, omitting the carrot and adding sliced green garlic, the greens, a sliced radish (oh so similar to a turnip) and a sliced potato or two. Given their high water content, turnips and radishes are so succulent to bite into when cooked. And remember those mountains of greens quickly wilts when cooked, losing much of their volume.

Why aren’t turnips well-loved? There was that song, “Everyone Hates Turnips, But Grown-Ups Always Eat Them…Kids Are Much Too Smart to Let a Vegetable Defeat Them,” in my 8th-grade play, How to Eat Like a Child. The problem is most turnips aren’t fresh and then are boiled to gray mush. Get yours young and use them quickly. They get that acrid flavor as they age, Ivy Manning says. With an abundance of fresh turnips here, I’m also eager to try Bryant Terry‘s recipe for “Roasted Turnips and Shallots With Turnip Greens Soup.” Stay tuned. And Terry also stresses to get your turnips young. Young! Just like you like your women or your baby micro-greens.

Maple-Glazed Turnips and Carrots

4 servings

12 ounces young turnips, 2 inches or less in diameter (and saute in the greens at the end)

1 large carrot, peeled

1/4 cup chicken stock or water

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon grade A or B maple syrup

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Scrub and peel the turnips and cut into quarters or sixths, depending on their size. Slice the carrot at an angle into 1/2-inch-thick-pieces.

2. Put the vegetables and stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until the turnips are barely tender, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the butter and maple syrup. Stir to coat the vegetables and continue to cook uncovered until the vegetables are glazed and beginning to caramelize around the edges, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

From The Farm to Table Cookbook by Ivy Manning

Written by baltimoregon

April 21, 2009 at 12:13 am

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Rhubarb: There’s a Reason We Call it the Pie Plant

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Those crisp, ruby red stalks of rhubarb have arrived at our local farmers markets. I’m gaga for the pie plant, which marries best with strawberries in sweet desserts. But every year I try to attempt unusual rhubarb creations. No more. This plant really belongs in pies and crisps.

I made a wheatberry salad with rhubarb-mint dressing (see below) for the seasonal Ten Rivers Food Web recipe contest. The goal is to use as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible in your recipe. I didn’t win one of the prices for the top three dishes, but I did at least get a shout out for even using locally grown recipes. I had also entered this contest last winter with my chickpea-leek soup. I’ll enter again with the fall contest. Maybe third time is the charm?

But really I’ve concluded that rhubarb’s place is in desserts. I do recommend keeping it crisp through a sweet macerating marinade rather than fully cooking it, as I have done before with this New York Times recipe: “Crisp Rhubarb in a Sweet Broth” (page 2). Later this week, I’ll be cooking and posting about a “Strawberry, Rhubarb and Red Banana Crostata” I’m making from the Tra Vigne Cookbook. It’s a crisp/cobbler made with polenta and toasted anise seeds. Stay tuned!

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Written by baltimoregon

April 19, 2009 at 11:58 am

Chef Naoko: The Best Bento Boxes Around

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I am in love with the Bento boxes Chef Naoko prepares, using only the freshest local and organic ingredients, for lunches served  at her cheery downtown Portland cafe. Tokyo native Naoko Tamura’s ultra-natural cooking philosophy had intrigued me since reading this article. And the food certainly lived up to expectations. It’s a tad pricey because you pay for the locally-farmed ingredients. But the quality far exceeds your run-of-the-mill Bento box. My first trip I had this Farmers Veggie Box with a toothsome homestyle braised cabbage, kabucha squash and soft tofu in tomato sauce dish, a tangy seaweed-topped salad with a gingery vinaigrette and treasures like miso-glazed adzuki beans, wilted sesame spinach and a sweet tofu cube. Even the rice, dotted with millet and black sesame seeds, stood out.
I splurged on second trip back to Chef Naoko’s cafe this week. Who knows how much longer she will have these tempura-style fried local Willapa Bay oysters in season? They were served with a sweet brown tonkatsu sauce and the most remarkable tartar sauce, believe it or not. The mayonnaise base was accented with green onions and homemade pickles. I can’t wait to go back. Japanese and other Asian cuisines are pretty well represented here in the Pacific Northwest. Too bad the Japanese-Americans here were treated so poorly during World War II. This state needs all the precious ethnic diversity it can get. Now if we could only get Chef Naoko to open a sister cafe in Corvallis.
Fried Oyster Bento

Fried Oyster Bento

Farmers Veggie Bento (cabbage and kabucha squash braised in tomato sauce)

Farmers Veggie Bento (cabbage and kabucha squash braised in tomato sauce)

Written by baltimoregon

April 17, 2009 at 12:48 am

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Oregon Radio Debut: The KBOO Food Show

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Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy, of Beast bistro, featured in Meatpaper's Spring 2009 "Pig" issue (Photo by Alicia J. Rose /Flickr Creative Commons)

 (Click here to hear the archived show.)

I love the power of the unadorned human voice. And so I increasingly find myself gravitating towards radio, perhaps our most enduring, flexible and irrepressible forms of media that continues to thrive in this digital age. I spent two nights blindly fumbling through Pro Tools to sloppily edit my first produced radio piece on the new Emergency Food Pantry on-campus here at Oregon State. It will debut tomorrow during my second time co-hosting the monthly KBOO Food Show! Join me:

Announcing the April 15 KBOO FOOD SHOW: Meat Matters (Tune in at 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST on 90.7 FM in Portland, 100.7 FM in Corvallis, Hood River at 91.9 FM or live-stream  at
Maybe you already ate less meat for environmental, ethical or health reasons. Or has the recession made you forgo choice cuts of steak and lamb? Perhaps you’re a former vegetarian now at peace with consuming local, sustainably-raised meats (especially bacon)? Regardless, we know meat matters concern you, vegan and carnivore alike.
On Wednesday’s show we’ll hear from:
•     Sasha Wizansky, the co-founder/editor of Meatpaper, the visceral arts and ideas magazine that probes meat culture. Meatpaper is donating a free subscription to the third person to call (503) 231-8187 after the interview!
•    A “State Meat Working Group” formed to help more small farmers process their livestock, given Oregon’s shortage of USDA-inspected facilities.
•    The new Emergency Food Pantry at Oregon State University, the only known on-campus assistance site in Oregon where volunteers serve their fellow students.
•    Miriam Widman’s 89-year-old mother, on working for butchers and the black market for meat during World War II.
Poppy would be proud! Speaking of my beloved grandfather, it is he who inspired this obsessive love of interviewing folks and recording their stories. See my “Racing and Recording Against Time” essay here.



Written by baltimoregon

April 15, 2009 at 1:07 am

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