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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for April 2009

The Simplicity of Shish Kebab

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dsc02453Perhaps finding a $5 Weber grill at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and all this splendid spring weather, inspired me to make shish kebab. Plus we had wanted to try locally-raised, grass-fed Cattail Creek Lamb, which is abundant, but expensive in these parts. When the quality of the meat is this good, a simple marinade is all you need. I used this simple Lamb Shish Kebab recipe reprinted on Culinate, from the Perfect Pairings cookbook by Evan Goldstein. Fresh thyme and oregano brought out the smokey, earthy flavor of the tender meat. And broiled it. I didn’t have charcoal and didn’t feel like bothering to clean the rusty old grill.

Written by baltimoregon

April 6, 2009 at 11:44 pm

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So Much Difference a Year Makes

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Our new fig tree

Our new fig tree

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Hard to believe all that has happened just one year since our wedding day, 04.05.08. Get married, leave a job, buy a house, move cross-country, Obama is elected, the economy tanks, all within the course of this year.

We celebrated the day by planting an Oregon Prolific fig tree, and a white Asian pear one, in our unkempt yard. Ah, the sweet allure of a fig tree. I’ve longed for fruit trees here, though we’ll have to wait for them to bear fruit, and hopefully we won’t read too much into the symbolism if these fragile trees don’t survive. Still, I think planting something for every anniversary is a nice way to mark your relationship through the years.

It was also a glorious day here, with a high of about 72 degrees, warm enough to quickly dry clothes outside and lure a novice gardener to dig around in the dirt. I’ve now planted sweet peas, lots of herbs and some lettuce starts from our neighbor. I dug up one of our old-lady flower beds to make way for the vegetables. If it isn’t edible, I’m not that interested in learning to grow it. I also had the fortune this weekend to discover the gem that is our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Where else can you get a $5 albeit rusted Weber grill, 50-cent tomato cages and irrigation tubing for making hula hoops. And all the money you spend goes directly to support the charity.

dsc02442dsc02428 As for our anniversary dinner, we far more enjoyed the turkey picadillo I cooked at home tonight than the overpriced meal we had at Corvallis’ yuppiest restaurant last night. Big River boasts high-ceilings and shabby-chic elegant ambiance, but the food was rather unremarkable, basically the menu descriptions sounded better than the reality.

We tried a Dungeness Crab Salad appetizer unusually paired with cara cara oranges, shaved fennel, green olives and Green Goddess dressing. The oniony, achiovy-laced dressing was the best part.dsc02395 But spring is here, so no complaints. Just a nice reminder that the cooking is often better at home. Here’s to another lovely year of cooking for and with you, my dear.

Dungeness Crab Salad

Dungeness Crab Salad

Written by baltimoregon

April 6, 2009 at 12:58 am

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Around the Bend, It’s Bleek

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On the road outside Bend (Cascade peaks: I can't tell if the Three Sisters or Mt. Washington from the photo)

On the road outside Bend (Cascade peaks: I think those are two of the Three Sisters in the background)

After the night at the snow-locked Santiam Pass cabin, we headed to Bend for a quick one-night getaway. Snowshoeing had tuckered us out, so we took it easy, preferring to be pampered there, not even making it to the Mount Bachelor ski resort, the main attraction that lures winter tourists.

Still, with its sky-high unemployment rate due to a housing boom gone bust, the Bend businesses and hotels seemed eager to have our business. Bend’s Deschutes County in February had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the state.  And the metro area’s jobless rate is one of the country’s worst, which is particularly poignant since just two years ago construction and tourism jobs were plentiful in the outdoorsy paradise formerly named one of America’s best places to live. Bend’s leisure amenities–skiing, hiking, kayaking, rock-climbing, etc.–are what lured the Cessna plant there. Upon graduation, my sister almost went to work for a hedge fund that chose to headquarter its office in the adult playground that is Bend, just because they could.

Though the height of spring break season, we had no problem snagging a last-minute room at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis Hotel, a Catholic school the Oregon beer barons converted into a cozy chalet in 2004. But it’s so much more than just a hotel. The school’s former gym is a living room-style yet spacious movie theater, where we caught the filmed-in-Oregon teen vampire flick, Twilight. And we soothed our sore-from-snowshoeing calves and heels in the bathtub-warm, open air soaking pool, the site of the school’s former chapel. Mosaics of Jesus performing certain miracles greet you when you enter the pool. And a room-service root beer float there reignited our obsession with that childhood dessert.

dsc02310dsc02308We had a hearty brunch at The Victorian Cafe (but bring your own real maple syrup for the pancakes) and an average dinner (good Steelhead rainbow trout-like fish sandwich but watery lamb stew) at the Bend Brewing Company. The downtown Deschutes Brewery Pub was packed (locals night burger specials, not the spring break crowd), but we still managed to sneak in on the last tour of the actual Deschutes Brewery that afternoon. As the 7th largest (I think) microbrewery in the U.S. and one of the Oregon behemouths that is still well-crafted with local character, the free brewery tour is not to be missed. And Deschutes treats you to generous samples in their taproom, including rare ones not available by bottle such as Oregon’s 150 Ale, a lambic-like blackberry and marionberry-infused brew to celebrate the state’s sequestiential.

A Deschutes brewer working a batch of Green Lakes Organic Ale.

A Deschutes brewer working a batch of Green Lakes Organic Ale.

Fresh hops.

Fresh hops.

But the dry high desert clime and nouveau-riche air of Bend made us happy to return to our more humble and verdant Willamette Valley. Corvallis is starting to feel like home.

Written by baltimoregon

April 3, 2009 at 1:02 am

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