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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for June 2010

Rabbit Kidney: Like Faintly Urine-Flavored Encased Pate

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There's a reason Julia Sunkler sells this organ meat as pet food.

Kidney Yakitori: Looks a little too good to be true. At least the dog loved it.

Let’s just say this enthusiastic “nose to tail” eater has hit her wall.  I have reservations, Anthony Bourdain. Andrew Zimmern, you’re too bizarre for me. Fergus Henderson, I can’t quite swallow the whole beast.

Tongue is no problem, whether from a cow, lamb or duck. Liver, cheek, jowl and belly I love. But kidney, at least rabbit kidney, I now know I do not. It’s one piece of offal that was pretty awful. I won’t be eager to try any animal’s kidney (lamb is used for steak and kidney pie), faintly urine-flavored and -scented as it is, again.

Why did I try it? Well, I got into rabbit for a recent article and perhaps the onslaught of criticism I received emboldened me to try some more rogue fare. I sauteed up some rabbit liver, which surprisingly tasted just like that of a chicken’s and made a delicious pate. Then I saw an episode of Treme, where the feisty but reckless chef Janette plates up rabbit kidney skewers and lamb neck when a Who’s Who of NYC chefs (David Chang, Eric Ripert) come to dine in her beleaguered post-Katrina New Orleans restaurant. And I saw Julia Sunkler had kidneys at her My Pharm stand, but in a big bag packaged for pet food. I asked her to set a pound aside for me next time she did slaughtering. It’s all about making the most of the animal.

A sweet soy marinade wasn't enough to mask the faint urine flavor. Not that I know what urine takes like.

But the dogs can have ’em. James Joyce had it right, describing his protagonist’s dietary habits in Ulysses: “Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs, fried hencod’s roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” Kidneys are just pretty gross. Even the soy tamari-honey-sesame oil-garlic-ginger marinade didn’t do much for their off-taste and mushy, gooey consistency. Perhaps it’s better chopped up in a stuffed than roasted whole? You wonder how many toxins you pick up with waste eliminating organs such as the liver, pancreas and kidneys, anyway. Still, when you think about it, kidneys are less gross than intestines (chitlins, tripe, and more commonly, sausage casings) that we seem to consume with relish. After all, urine is sterile. So check it off my list. Now onto chicken heart?

Rabbit liver virgin no more.

Chopped rabbit liver.

Written by baltimoregon

June 27, 2010 at 2:05 am

Trashed Strawberries Are Our Treasure

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Salvaged berries from the Boones Ferry Berry Farm discards at the end of the Corvallis Farmers' Market Saturday.

From the mouths of babes: Little George digs into the ones at the GTF stand.

I’m not shy. I have no trouble engaging complete strangers in conversation. Maybe that’s why I interview people and entertain in the front of the classroom for a living.

But still I felt awkward going from stand to stand at the farmers’ market Saturday, asking for donations for the cooking and canning classes EMO’s Interfaith Food and Farms program runs to help folks stretch their tight  budgets and learn to make delicious meals with food bank staples.

Then I happened to ask Boones Ferry Berry Farm (near Woodburn) if they had any mushed or overripe berries we could have to cook up into jam. They gave me their “trash” bag, chock fill of syrupy, slightly squishy berries that smelled and looked delish, though were perhaps not quite pretty enough for discriminating consumers. But no one would know the difference when they cooked down into jam.

Fellow master food preservers (and dear friend) Rebecka now heads this cooking class, working closely with Jamming for the Hungry’s Sara Power (who was also in our Master Food Preserver Program). Chef Intaba previously ran these classes when I first moved to Corvallis. These are my girls! That’s where I met Norma, my good friend from Texcoco, Mex., and the mother of three adorable children: Jerry, Michele and baby Dennis.

Sara demonstrates her jam recipe.

Jerry patiently waits to make jam.

We  made low-sugar strawberry  jam (and took jars home), strawberry smoothies with yogurt and silken tofu (a food bank staple that often befuddles folks) and a fresh strawberry vinegar for a vinaigrette I helped demonstrate. See the recipe below. I also mixed the vinegar with seltzer for a bracingly tart drink that might be good with simple syrup. Like those Asian drinking vinegars popular at Pok-Pok or old-fashioned shrub drinks. But buyer beware (of stomach ulcers apparently) with the “vinegar cure.”

Also, if your jam is starting to foam if you cook it, we learned that adding a pat of butter helps, and may keep the jam from turning gray. I still might go strawberry picking next weekend, perhaps at nearby Greengable Flower Farm, where they are $1 a pound.

Strawberry Vinegar
Yield: Makes About 2 cups
Active Time 15 minutes
Total time: 1 1/4 hours

1 pound strawberries, trimmed (3 cups)
2 cups white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider, rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar…anything but dark balsamic or plain distilled white vinegar)

Pulse berries in a food processor until finely chopped and very juicy. Transfer to a bowl and add vinegar. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar, discarding solids (don’t strain if you prefer a thicker, pulpy dressing). Keeps in the fridge covered and chilled for a week.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Fresh strawberry vinegar.Strawberry Vinaigrette for Mixed Greens Salad
1 cup olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup strawberry vinegar (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
A drizzle of honey to sweeten it up
salt and pepper to taste

Blend ingredients together in a blender, or just shake in a covered jar or beat until mixed and smooth.

Yield: About 1 3/4 cups

*Note: Traditional vinaigrettes have a ratio of 3 parts oil (or other fat, such as warm bacon fat) to one parts vinegar (or other acid, such as citrus juice)

Written by baltimoregon

June 21, 2010 at 1:24 am

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Food Carts Galore

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Eugene's new pod in Kesey Square downtown.

Hopefully this fair-weather, intermittent blogging will become more regular again, now that my spring classes have come to an end. Plus, after one of the rainiest June’s yet, it’s finally sunny in Oregon, so I have no excuse not to write about the bounty finally revealing itself in our gardens and farms. Now we have the al fresco dining scene to look forward to, too, and what defines outdoor eating more than mobile food carts?

Portland is world-renown for its ubiquitous carts and Eugene is trying to grow its base of them. Even in Salem and Bend have food carts. But restrictive regulations means Corvallis has next to none, apart from those who vend at our two weekly farmers’ markets. But folks, including a local crepe stand, are hoping to change that. I plan to follow the issue for KLCC.

There in Eugene today for a news meeting, I ventured over to the new pod for lunch. My indulgent Cuban sandwich (with braised local pork belly) from The Nosh Pit lived up to its reputation. For you stoners out there, on late nights the cart even plans to serve a burger on a glazed cruller from the new Voodoo Donuts just ’round the corner. Dropping by Voodoo everytime I’m at KLCC could become a bad habit I start justifying out of love for my husband. The Neapolitan one I had today (old-fashioned chocolate cake doughnut topped with strawberry sugar and marshmallows) could become a new favorite.

Speaking of fatty food cart fare, look no further than to the SE Hawthorne pod in Portland. I had wanted to try Potato Champion ever since glimpsing on a chalkboard list of favorite spots at Naomi Pomeroy’s Beat. But I was underwhelmed. Maybe I didn’t order right, getting the PB&J (Thai peanut and raspberry sauce), which sounds gross as I retype it now. Next time I’ll try the poutine or a truffled or anchioved sauce. Then for dessert there’s the neighboring Whiffie’s fried hand pie cart, the winner of the Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile fest this year. I prefer my fat calories for in the form of fries. But the savory-sweet Hawaiian ham and cheese was a nice savory-sweet compromise.

Beast's favorite spots.

Fried food rules here: The famous Potato Champion cart in Portland's SE Hawthorne pod.

Don't forge the fried hand pies at neighboring Whiffie's.

Written by baltimoregon

June 16, 2010 at 1:06 am

Wild, Wild Strawberries

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Tiny wild strawberries foraged in a grassy meadow at Lumos Winery in Philomath/Wren.

The strawberries are just starting to ripen and will hopefully come on in full force once these lingering gray rainy days in Corvallis stop. Though now that I’m writing this from swampy, 90 degree North Carolina this weekend, I appreciate the crisp and refreshingly cool Northwest.

Many are the strawberry recipes I plan to plow into when I return. I especially anticipate roasting over-ripe berries (I remember Ivy Manning some oven-roasted strawberry preserves recipe). Then this strawberry tiramisu tickled my fancy. And then there’s my favorite: good old fashioned strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Unfortunately, most of the berries I planted won’t yield much this year. I’ve only managed to sneak a ripe one or two. Most of the blossoms are supposed to be plucked off the first year, to improve future harvests. Most berries plants and fruit trees force delayed gratification on you.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a meadow just studded with these fragrant ruby orbs at Lumos Winery near Philomath on Memorial Day. While wine-tasting, I plodded out there in search of the nearly extinct Fender’s Blue Butterfly that lives among the Kincaid Lupine in a rare open stretch. But I’m ashamed to say that from a distance, the precious butterfly looked more plain and moth-like. But the berries underfoot soon captivated me. It’s hard not to smoosh them as you walk since the wild berries grow so close to the ground. The tiny berries are tart yet sweet, with more concentrated flavor and perfume (even when not fully ripe) than our conventional varieties. You’d have to pick a ton of them, though, to have enough for a recipe. Maybe I could gather enough to make that Italian wild strawberry liqueur.

Wild strawberries underfoot.

I planted some wild ones earlier this year, but now I want more. Why don’t we rip up the grass and cover the lawn with wild strawberries? It would be the perfect union of horticulture and wild-crafting. A fusion of gardening and foraging is my ideal. There’s nothing like stumbling upon something valuable growing freely in the wild.

Strawberries integrated into the landscaping in front of a Corvallis home.

Written by baltimoregon

June 4, 2010 at 8:21 am

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