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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for April 2009

Passover in Oregon

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This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza), which just happened to be organized by Carolyn's Harvard classmate.

President Obama hosted his history-making Passover seder at the White House, and we were invited to two here in Oregon, that most secular of states where there are more Buddhists than Jews (but lots of Jew-Bus).

Homemade rye matzo

Homemade rye matzo

The first invite came at a matzo-making party I attended with my chef friend Intaba. She’s teaching me to make all the Jewish breads. It’s really a wonder more folks don’t make their own matzo instead of subsisting on the Manischewitz boxed-stuff. You just mix two cups of flour to one cup of water, don’t let it sit more than 18 minutes and then bake at 400 degrees. But I realize, who has time to make matzo when preparing the other dishes for the seder feast?

For our first seder, I prepared an unusually savory carrot and sweet potato tzimmes, accented with fresh thyme and chopped green onions. I’d make this side dish year round. That the veggies are roasted with lots of butter doesn’t hurt. I also made a Sephardic version of charoset, blending dried figs, dates, apricots and raisins together with the traditional apples and walnuts. It got rave reviews and the fruity paste spread nicely on matzo.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Fruity charoset

Fruity charoset

We’re constantly impressed by the kindness of practical strangers, and neighbors, here. We had only met the host of the Wednesday night seder once, and there we were comfortably reclining around her table until 11 p.m.

But our Friday night hosts, Slow Food Corvallis president Ann Shriver and her husband Larry Lev, both of OSU’s agricultural econ department, we met back during our first weekend in Corvallis. I made the matzo ball soup for that meal. Let’s just say the balls were a tad rubbery and marked with my fingerprints, rather than in perfect spheres. Still tasted good though. Ann prepared a feast: Moroccan chicken tagine (see recipe below), purple cauliflower and potato puree, grilled asparagus and Greek salad. Larry’s simple Ashkenazi-style charoset was sweet and delicate: peeled and grated apples, chopped walnuts and pecans, a bit of grated lemon peel and dashes of wine, cinnamon and sugar. Ann indulged us with a cheese course (featuring a prize-winning hard Tumalo goat cheese from Bend) and a delicate ginger-dark chocolate mousse served, with a fresh whipped cream cap, in demitasse cups. It was an informal, secular, social justice-minded seder. We didn’t even go back to the haggagah after the meal. Very reminiscient of the McCandlish-Friedberg seders growing up. I was right at home! Next year in Corvallis, right?

Moroccan chicken

Moroccan chicken

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Olives (from Ann Shriver)

Here’s the recipe I promised you. It’s not difficult but does require a lot of time and planning. Believe it or not it comes from an ancient “Food and Wine” magazine that someone gave me about 23 years ago. The article is by Paula Wolfert who is a pretty well known chef of Moroccan food.
First you need to make the lemons, at least 7 days in advance (14 is even better.)
I use the regular thick skinned lemons. I wonder how it would be with Meyer lemons? Anyone have experience with those?
7 day preserved lemon
2 ripe lemons
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Olive oil
Scrub the lemons and dry well. Cut each into 8 wedges. Toss with the salt and place in a 1/2 pint glass jar with a plastic-coated lid. Pour in the lemon juice. Close tightly and let ripen in a warm place for (at least) 7 days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. To store, add olive oil to cover and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Marinated chicken with lemons and olives (Tagine Meshmel)
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
3/8 tsp ground cumin
pinch of powdered saffron (I used a pinch in the marinade and another good pinch in the stew, and I used whole, not powdered.)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 cinnamon stick (I used a couple of shakes of ground cinnamon instead)
pieces of chicken–thighs and breasts, but I cut the split breasts further into two pieces (I used 5 split breasts and 6 thighs, and removed the skins to make the dish less greasy.)
2 1/2 c. grated spanish onions (~2 large)
1/4 c chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 1/2 c. green greek-style cracked olives (I used a mix of green and black ones from the co-op, and I didn’t bother pitting them)
16 wedges of preserved lemon, pulp removed, peel rinsed, and sliced thinly
1/4 to 1/3 c fresh lemon juice, to taste.
1. In a large bowl combine the ingredients up to and including cinnamon, plus 1/4 c water. Roll the pieces of chicken in the mixture, cover and refrigerate overnight in the fridge, or for an hour at room temperature. (The recipe calls for using the chicken livers. I did not do this. I think it would make the dish taste quite different.)
2.  The next day put the chickens, livers, and marinade into a large pot. Add 1/2 c of the grated onion, the parsley , coriander and 2 c water. (I also added a good pinch of saffron to the broth.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
3. (If using), remove the livers from the pot and mash them to a paste and reserve. Add remaining 2 c grated onion. Continue to cook, partially covered, for another 1/2 hour or so, until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Cover with foil and keep warm.
4. Add the olives, preserved lemon (and reserved liver paste, if using) to the sauce. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. If you haven’t removed the chicken skins, you may need to skim off the fat at this point. Add the lemon juice (and salt to taste–but I didn’t add any as I found it quite salty enough.), pour over the chicken, and serve (I actually let it sit in the sauce for an hour or so covered with foil in a warm oven, before we ate it.)
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Written by baltimoregon

April 13, 2009 at 1:43 am

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“This Is Just to Say”

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Fallen plums from our neighbor's tree last October

Fallen plums from our neighbor's tree last October

The end of today’s “This American Life” was a tribute to William Carlos Williams’ sparse, perhaps unfeeling “This is Just to Say” poem. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a non-apologizing apology, which contributors from Sarah Vowell to Shalom Auslander riff on in their own versions of the verse. But I mostly love it for its simple evocation of the powerful temptation represented by those crisp, cold plums. As President Obama once said, “The flesh is weak.”

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of
New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of
this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent
of the publisher.

Written by baltimoregon

April 13, 2009 at 12:52 am

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Thanksgiving Turkey in April

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Turkey Picadillo

Turkey Picadillo

When Sunday night dinner stumps you, it’s a treat to discover bags of still flavorful shredded Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer. We sure got a lot of life out of that bird. I had wanted to try Turkey Picadillo, this sweet-and-sour saucy Latin American stew, ever since spotting it among The Oregonian’s suggestions of what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. But it’s a tangy and soothing dish to make anytime of year. Of course, this Spanish mincemeat is more traditionally made with shredded beef or pork. Try chicken, too. For a kick, this recipe recommends adding chipotle en adobo and capers. But I hands-down recommend The Oregonian one I tried:

Turkey Picadillo

Published November 25, 2008

Makes 4 servings

This slightly saucy Latin American stew can be served over rice or (for a real treat) right on top of fried potatoes. Picadillo makes a tasty taco or burrito filling as well.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3½ cups shredded leftover turkey
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (one 16-ounce can)
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup roughly chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

Instructions

In a large, deep frying pan heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cumin and chili powder and stir to coat the vegetables with the spices.

Add the turkey, tomato sauce, chicken broth, salt, pepper, raisins and olives to the pan. Stir to incorporate the ingredients and then bring to a simmer. Cook the picadillo over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Serve hot or refrigerate the picadillo, covered, for up to two days. Reheat before serving.

From Laura B. Russell

Written by baltimoregon

April 7, 2009 at 12:51 am

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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

20080405_mccandlish_stone_wedding_0368-202

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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