Archive for May 2009
There’s nothing like raw, simple, vegetal foods once the weather warms. Simple dishes, though they’re never quite that easy to prepare. But ceviche-style is my new favorite way to prepare scallops and the fact that the dish doesn’t require cooking is a plus. I tried this Cured Bay Scallop Salad recipe from Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon, one of Portland’s hottest (yet relatively unpretentious) restaurants. Sliced paper thin, the crisp radish, cucumber, apple and red onion slices accented the mellow lemon juice-marinated sea flesh. Red paper flakes and fresh mint slivers really made the plate jump.
And Ivy Manning inspired the other two courses I made (and I say courses because I never seem to have my dishes ready at one time). I want to cook my way through her book. On our radio show she referred to kohlrabi as a vegetable that even intimidates classically-trained chefs and tends to “die a lonely death in the crisper.” But these green Sputnik-shaped vegetables (in the broccoli and cabbage family) are delicious and versatile if you know how to prepare them. We made Ivy’s Kohlrabi Slaw, which is adapted from The Farm Cafe in Portland. Peeling the kohlrabi is key to get at the bulb’s sweet flesh, a crispy cross between broccoli stalk and sweet young cabbage. The rice vinegar and fennel seeds are key ingredients here. Still, I substituted toasted anise seeds and got the same deliciously spciy licorice accent.
And don’t throw out those collards-like kohlrabi greens. They’re an added gift. Again, I followed Ivy’s simple recipe that pairs the greens with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Just be sure not to overcook them! And it’s the fresh local ingredients that really make these dishes shine.
Who would have thought that something potentially harmful would be edible? Yes, stinging nettles sting, like mild poison ivy, but when cooked, they have an herbacous, spinach-like taste and consistency. Spinach has a sweeter and more complex flavor, but when Mother Nature offers up such bounty for free, I’m always up for trying it. Foraging rules! Just don’t pick them when they’re going to seed, as I almost did today.
Also, don’t mistake them for wild blackberry vines. It’s easy to do. At least that’s not a lethal mistake. Chef Intaba pointed the nettles out to me in Willamette Park this afternoon. They have two opposition leaves (rather than the blackberry’s three and look very similar to lemon balm.
We cooked the soaked nettles into our spaghetti carbonara, made with house-cured bacon from a half a pig Intaba just butchered herself. Instead of parmesan, we dusted the pasta with the sharp aged and local Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Brindisi. We topped our salad with Intaba’s house-smoked pecans and frizzled leeks and edible pansies, redolent of wintergreen, that I didn’t even realize I had in my garden.
The meal provided nice closure to a Memorial Day of wine-tasting at Chateau Lorane just south of Eugene. The Willamette Valley’s big wine tasting weekends center around Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. I really fell for Lorrane’s Baco Noir, more rich than any pinot I’ve had. All the other wines seemed like water next to this voluptuous Baco, which painted the glass with deep purple. I only know the difference between good and bad with wine. But with this one, I could sense there was something special going on.
And be sure to stop at Our Daily Bread bakery and restaurant in Fern Ridge on Highway 99W between Corvallis and Eugene.They make a mean marionberry scone.
We finally dined al fresco at home tonight, on our new recyclable resin (ie. cheap) table and chairs from Bi-Mart. Don’t let its small Wal-Mart appearance deceive you. This worker-owned store is a wonder of the Pacific Northwest. Bi-Mart is where I purchased my shellfish digging license, got waterproof boots, the lawn furniture and supplies with which to preserve food.
After my recent interview with Ivy Manning, I keep turning to her Farm to Table cookbook for inspiration. We made her refreshingly zesty Watercress, Snow Pea and Shitake Mushroom Stir-Fry. I substituted peppery mustard greens for the watercress (since they both have bite) and added tofu to make for a more substantial meal. We also had a springy salad and served the brothy dish over short-grain rice studded with millet, a trick I learned from Chef Naoko. Our friends brought a growler of oatmeal stout from local microbrewery Block 15 to chase down the meal. (Note to self: take advantage of Block 15’s special Sunday $7 growler refill rate). Then rhubarb bread, coconut ice cream and “blueberry teas” for dessert (a McMenamin’s-inspired concoction of Amaretto, Grand Marnier and hot Earl Grey tea…which is surprisingly evocative of the fruit). Ah, spring.
Just can’t get enough of that astringent yet oh so sweet, ruby red rhubarb. It’s a tonic old souls swear by, and so I’m freezing a big bag of it and cooking up a storm with the scarlet stalks. You’ve got to make rhubarb spritzers, and with or without alcohol, they are just as intensely refreshing.
Then Dan reminded about the rhubarb bread I made once from a recipe I clipped from The Sun’s food section. But so many recipes got misplaced in the move. I’m still working on a recipe archiving system. Which ones are bookmarked on Delicious? Which ones are hard copies? So I settled on this rhubarb bread recipe I found online instead. It didn’t disappoint, though I wish I’d chopped my rhubarb a bit more finely. I substituted hazelnuts for the walnuts, adding nutmeg and cardamom and diced crystallized ginger on top. All those aromatic pie spices really complement rhubarb’s tangy flavor.
I’m just loving my adventures in Radio-land. I’m still in awe that such distinguished food folks have agreed to come on the show. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Portland-based chef and food writer Ivy Manning, whose Farm to Table cookbook is one of my new favorites. Click here to listen to the archived show.
Our local foods special also featured an interview with the Portland Farmers Market director on expanding access through the new Sunday King neighborhood market. We also talked to local chain Burgerville about their campaign to highlight local (but not organic) foods on their menu. After the show, I got a chance to taste firsthand the Yakima, Wash.,-grown asparagus Burgerville is promoting this month. It was delicately fried, tempera-style, and served with a garlic mayonnaise dipping sauce. But the Burgerville promotion also includes an asparagus and tomato melt sandwich on the menu. Doesn’t that less than local tomato cancel the asparagus out? The Burgerville COO said their tomatoes are from California but could some be produced under sub-slavery conditions in Immokalee, Fla.? Could enough Burgerville customers say no to out-of-season tomatoes to make the company change their policies?
Hat tip to Culinaria Eugenius for reminding me to make my own herb flower vinegar before it’s too late. I immersed trimmings from flowering rosemary, thyme, chives and sage plants, plus some dill and lemon peel, in a white wine vinegar bath. Make sure to use a jar with a non-reactive, non-metal cap. The vinegar sits at least a month in a cool, dark place and then it’s ready to use.
I’ll be learning more techniques on flavoring vinegars and oils in my Master Food Preservation class later this month.
I’d really like to make a pure French-style tarragon vinegar, but the tarragon start I planted is rather puny. Mom used use it in a (Silver Palate, I think) tarragon chicken salad she often made. Any suggestions on how to promote more vibrant growth? What keeps tarragon happy?
We had ground lamb in the freezer from Bald Hill Farm just down the road. So I recreated the sesame-crusted meatballs we feasted on last week. Take a pound of ground lamb, chop lots of mint, parsley, dried figs and green garlic, beat in an egg and grate in orange zest. Serve with a minted yogurt sauce. Here’s a version of the recipe from Gourmet Magazine here. They were aromatic, crunchy yet moist on the inside. But Dan still prefers his lambs in stews or more saucy, curry-like creations.