BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for July 2010

Food as Poison, Garlic as Medicine

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Garlic from the garden, harvested before we left on the 4th of July: delicious, antiseptic medicine.

The offending Kani Salad with Heart of Palm and Mango. I mean, who orders that? Can't you just see the vomit-inducing bacteria on the pink, less-than-fresh pieces of imitation crab?

During this second summer hiatus, there’s so much food I consumed and want to tell you about: smokey barbecued ribs and craft beers in Asheville, N.C.; farm fresh micro-greens and local fruit juice pops at the tiny Penn Park market in Charlottesville, Va.; corned beef and pickled tongue sandwiches with health salad (kosher slaw) and half-sour pickles at Ben’s Deli in Queens; and most memorably the alluring foods we encountered on our recent trip to Brazil: the pillowy, ubiquitous pao de quiejo, the tropical fruit sucos, the pork part-studded feijoada chased by candy sweet-tart capirinhas; the melt-in-your-mouth rare rounds of rump roast (picanha) carved table side at a fine churrascaria steakhouse; the cold agua de coco sipped from machete-lopped young green coconuts along the wide beaches in Rio.

Sopa De Ajo (Con Flor De Calabaza if you have them): Mexican version of Jewish "penicillin" soup, a soothing and light dinner on the night we returned.

When has garlic, like this soft-neck bulb from my garden, ever let you down?

But unfortunately food poisoned me that final afternoon in Rio. To make matters worse, the offending meal wasn’t even memorable. I should have realized the imitation crab sticks in my salad (which I don’t even much care for) tasted less than fresh. After a trip of magical meals, the restaurant in question was forgettable, a nondescript Portuguese-Italian cafe with a yellow awning on Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva whose name I can’t remember, just down the road from the excellent Jobi (if only we’d lunched there one more time instead!). The draw of this nameless cafe on our last day was the outdoor seating. And after a week of heavy eating, I craved salad, even though some members of our party avoided raw veggies, given they chance they were washed in less than perfect water. Two salads with “kani” and that ubiquitous heart of palm caught my attention. “What’s ‘kani’?,” we asked the waiter, in butchered Portuguese. He returned with a pathetic-looking crab stick on a plate. So why did I spring for the “Salada de Kani com Manga”? The other ingredients appealed to me. Heart of palm, mango, buffalo mozzarella from the water buffalo they actually have in Brazil (not as good as the Italian variety, though), lettuce, corn, peas. The salad was unfortunately bland, with a plan olive oil and white vinegar dressing. I ate most of it anyway. Dan ate a tad of it, but avoided the now-suspect kani. Why didn’t I trust my instincts?

The poisonous salad, before tossing.

A little over an hour later, my stomach cramped up. I didn’t even connect the pain with the salad at first. I had a spot of lichi-flavored, probiotic-rich frozen yogurt (the stands are popular on Rio’s trendy streets). Then we shared just one last acai shake (blended with banana) while Dan ordered a sandwich for the airplane. Little did I know I would soon throw this all up in the bathroom of Rio de Janeiro’s surprisingly sparse international airport. That evening there, as we waited several hours for our overnight flight out to Atlanta, the stabbing cramps came in painful waves. I doubled over and squatted to contain the pain, as if almost in labor. Clutching the toilet, I whimpered on the floor of the public restroom, unaware of my surroundings. Luckily, I seemed to get much of the poison out just before our flight. I drank Coca Cola and gulped down some Pepto, ibuprofen and against my better judgment, some anti-biotic Flagyl given to Dan as a last resort from some upstanding Continental Airlines pilots. I discontinued the meds after three doses, per my father-in-law’s recommendation, but they seemed to help at the time. Hell, I would have taken morphine or heroin or anything that wouldn’t kill me, as delusional as I was with pain at that point.

Given my symptoms the Delta crew didn’t want to let me on the flight, but the prospect of spending the night in a grungy hotel (or worse, hospital) near the airport seemed unbearable. I somehow rallied just before the flight. I held a hot water bottle against my sore belly and Dan soothingly massaged it throughout the flight. In about 24 hours, I was mostly better, with some residual soreness/trapped gas deep buried deep in my abdomen. When we returned home, I made a cleansing Sopa de Ajo recipe with two heads of fresh garlic from my garden, a recipe we learned from the excellent Seasons of My Heart cooking school in Oaxaca. It’s rumored to protect against stomach trouble:) I’ll make it again with flor de calabanza if I find these zucchini blossoms at the market!

I returned home to uncover carrots and new potatoes in the garden: simple, trustworthy foods for a burned stomach.

How thankful I am for my health. And once again, this adventurous eater is chastened. The acrid horse chestnuts, the rabbit kidneys and now this suspect salad. When will BaltimOregon learn her lesson? Food, which is such a vehicle for pleasure for me, can also be poisonous. I now vow to eat more cautiously (but no less enthusiastically)  in the coming year. Eating isn’t sport. Maybe this new mindset will help me finally shed that weight I’ve accumulated these past few years as well. How to diet without really “dieting”? Portion control, I suspect. Stay tuned.

Written by baltimoregon

July 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

Food Factory Miyake

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Seaweed Salad with tiny, salty Japanese sardines (those little dots are eyes).

This one-man food factory slices up some ultra-fresh fish, including local Maine shrimp.

A refreshing sushi meal really started to appeal to me, with all the heavy eating we’ve been doing during this month of travel. We especially loved the food we had in Portland, Maine: the pillowy Sicilian slices at Micucci’s Italian grocery, the crispy duck fat-fried fries washed down with the Allagash wheat beer/homemade lemonade shandy I custom-ordered at Duck Fat, the addictive, buttery financiers from Standard Baking Company, the fine lobsters and steamer clams you crack open at any seafood joint. What we didn’t realize is that Portland is also great spot for sushi.

Micucci's stellar pizza.

My parents raved about Food Factory Miyake and I couldn’t wait to check it out. Chef and owner Masa Miyake is a one-man “food factory,” churning out inventive maki rolls, nigiri and sashimi combos in his 25-seat brick storefront space (with a Chinese takeout-sized kitchen). But diners misunderstood the restaurant name, so now it’s just Miyake. And apparently a second ramen-focused restaurant is in the works.

For lunch, the $15 sampler is the way to go. It began with a mesclun miso salad with grape tomatoes. Next, instead of the standard chalky miso soup, we sipped on bowls of sesame oil-and-scallion-dotted, umami-rich dashi broth. Then came a hamachi (yellowtail) scallion roll, topped with grated daikon (perhaps, I couldn’t identify it) and garnished with beet-red micro-greens (amaranth, maybe?). But first, I now remember, our waiter (who blogs at brought us an amuse-bouche of delicately fried butterfish.

The hamachi roll.

Lagniappe butterfish.

For those squeamish about raw fish, try the Spicy Maine shrimp roll, coated with plenty of Japanese Kewpie mayo. In fact, our waiter recommended using Kewpie (because of its higher egg content) to make your own lobster rolls. He also punches up his lobster rolls with fresh tarragon (take that, Dad!). Miyake does its own version of a lobster sushi roll that’s drizzled with truffle oil, but weren’t looking for food that chichi. My mother-in-law also enjoyed her Salmon Lady roll with seared salmon and umeboshi plum paste. Also, tuna takaki appetizers may be a dime a dozen, but the pink gems are gorgeously presented in a salad here.

And if the sushi doesn’t fill you up, there’s always the old-school Tony’s Donut Shop (my father-in-law’s favorite). Though I hear the glazed chocolate cake donuts taste even better fresh-baked, at 6 a.m., on a frigid, Maine winter morning.

Tuna Takaki Salad.

Sushi sampler.

Written by baltimoregon

July 20, 2010 at 7:56 am

Berries and Curd

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Bon Appetit's Lime Tart with Blackberries and Blueberries.

Ivy Manning's strawberry shortcake with lemon curd cream.

Okay, okay, I finally posted something pretty and tasty for those of you made squeamish by my last blog post. Berries and tart citrus curds (tangy egg yolk puddings) should be less controversial. Well, not curd perhaps. For a shortcut with the above strawberry shortcake dessert, I might recommend buying some store-bought lemon curd. Instead, I stood over a hot stove (in last week’s heat wave, which even swept northernmost Maine) for 30 minutes, constantly whisking the thickening curd slowly heating in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. But stirring that zesty curd into freshly-whipped whipped cream made for a memorable, albeit rich, shortcake. The citrus in the cream and orange zest in the homemade biscuits (I would add chopped crystallized ginger next time, too) complimented the fragrant local Maine strawberries.

The berries are ripe at the Small Farmers' Project site in Eugene.

It was sad to leave my blueberries, just now ripening on the cane.

Then just two days later, curd turned up again in a berry dessert tonight at dear reader Judy’s house. She made a magnificent lime curd tart with blackberries and blueberries that looked just like the picture that ran with the recipe in Bon Appetit! With no whipped cream, this fruit tart was a considerably lighter dessert, the perfect conclusion to a barbecue on a warm summer night. Best of all, the latter curd takes less time to make, requiring a mere six minutes of whisking instead of 30. This one calls for gauging the curd temperature with an instant-read thermometer, but both curiously instruct you to press plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd while it cools? Does that just ensure it has a smoother texture? That’s one recommendation I ignored. Here’s a good step-by-step guide to making curd from Bon Appetit. I’ll have to ask Portland cookbook author Ivy Manning why the process she outlined in The Farm to Table Cookbook took so much longer.

Speaking of berries, check out my recent radio piece on rare black cap raspberries, which a group of Latino farmers is reintroducing in the Northwest. I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to make black raspberry ice cream before we ran out of town. Let’s hope there’s an even larger crop for us to bake and can with next year!

Written by baltimoregon

July 10, 2010 at 9:39 pm

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