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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

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Local Strawberries: Worth Waiting For (Now Could We Just Get Some Sun)

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Finally succumbed to fresh strawberries from the greenhouses at Denison Farms at the Corvallis Wednesday Market. They’re still tart due to lack of sun but more vivid than the still-good organic clamshell Driscolls from California I caved for at the welcome oasis of Metropolitan Market while camped out at Seattle Children’s Hospital last week. My uncovered berries in the garden are just flowers that haven’t yet produced, though I did pick a few samples from nearby test plots on OSU’s campus.

The strawberries and some neglected spinach inspired an impromptu lunch today. I macerated the strawberries (with a touch of sugar) in balsamic and black pepper, chopped up some sweet sugar snap peas (also from Denison’s), crumbled some Rogue Oregon Blue on top and dressed the greens with a balsamic-honey-shallot-Dijon-olive oil vinaigrette. All it lacked was some toasted hazelnuts for crunch. Here’s to strawberry season! I can’t wait to take Theo back to pick strawberries at organic Fairfield Farm near Southtown.

Written by baltimoregon

May 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Gefilte Fish “Muffins”

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The gefilte patties, poached in tangy court bouillon.

The perfectly-formed patties, pre-poach.










We finally hosted our first (and last) seders in Oregon…next year in Jerusalem (I mean Maine). I never did learn to make gefilte fish from Dan’s Bubbe, who passed away when we were back East in January. I only grew up with the Manischevitz-jarred version, which my father relished doused with horseradish and chased with a tall glass of V8. (Note: this year, I concluded the all-natural Yehuda brand is superior to Manischevitz, which, gasp!, apparently contains MSG).

I never grew up with homemade gefilte fish. And after making it from scratch again this year, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort for the most (unfairly) reviled Passover food. This year, I poached homemade gefilte, in a tart court bouillon. The Pacific Northwest patties were made from salmon and haddock/cod (which I substituted for halibut). Perhaps I should have sprang for fresh Chinook over the frozen standard wild Alaskan Coho I got at Trader Joe’s. Somehow salmon doesn’t taste quite right in gefilte to my palate. But it looked pretty in the perfectly-shaped pink patties this year. The haddock/cod (or halibut) flavor is undetectable in the presence of salmon.

Poaching didn’t add enough over the bake-in-muffin tins short-cut I’ve taken the past two years. If you want an easy way to prepare your own gefilte, this is one way to go. You could try any combination of fish in the following recipe. I would also keep the addition of lemon zest, chopped fennel frond and matzo meal (I thought all gefilte fish was made with matzo meal) from Jenn Louis’s recipe.

Salmon Gefilte Fish from Judy Bart Kancigor’s Cooking Jewish (adapted from Marlene Sorosky)

Vegetable cooking spray

2 medium-size onions, cut into  1-inch pieces

5 medium-size carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup curly-leaf parsley leaves

3 pounds skinless salmon, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 large eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup sugar, or to taste

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to  taste

2 teaspoons freshly ground  black pepper, or to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 standard muffin cups. (I don’t grease the pop-out silicone ones I use).

2. Place the onions in a food processor and pulse until they are minced. Transfer the onions to a very large bowl.

3. Process the carrots, celery, and parsley until ground. Add to the onions.

4. Process about two-thirds of the salmon, adding 1 piece at a time through the feed tube, until ground. Add the processed salmon to the onion mixture.

5. Process the remaining salmon, adding it through the feed tube. Then add the eggs, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper and process until well blended. Add this mixture to the onion-salmon mixture and combine well.

6. Divide the salmon mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the top feels set when touched, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the fish cool in the muffin cups, then unmold and place on a bed or greens surrounded with thinly sliced cucumber, a few grape tomatoes, and horseradish. (If the “muffins” are prepared ahead, remove them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.)


Written by baltimoregon

April 16, 2012 at 12:27 am

Chicken Feet

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It's so carnal to chop the claws off the parboiled human-like feet. And use a paring knife to cut off the black claw pads.

Leg of lamb apparently isn’t kosher. I learned so much while bragging to my husband’s grandmother that I was making her grandson lamb for a seder. I thought the whole lamb was fair game for Passover. Apparently, the leg is too close to the hoof. But chicken feet are sound? I’ll never understand that logic. Don’t even get me started on the prohibitions against bugs on organic produce.

I wanted to make from-scratch chicken stock for matzo ball soup, so what better time to finally try making stock from chicken feet. I turned to a local source of pastured poultry, Afton Field Farm. They only had one bag of the feet left from last year’s processing. Restaurants buy them up for chicken broth. Unfortunately, the feet were freezer-burned because their claws ripped through their plastic bag. That’s why they’re hard to store. I’ll have to go back for fresh ones when chicken slaughtering begins end of May.Prepping the feet is a bit of a potschke. You must par-boil them, chop off the claws at the joint and, with a paring knife, remove any blackish remaining claw pad. The process gets you in touch with your carnivorous–almost cannibal-like–side, given that peeled chicken feet somehow resemble human hands.

But the collagen-rich broth was delicious and as gelatinous as Jello when refrigerated (is that Manischevitz suspends its jarred gefilte in?). I diluted it with peppery chicken-back stock so nothing tasted out of the ordinary. Chicken backs are another great cheap source of stock.

Simmer the prepared feet for several hours.

Strain the stock, and snack on the feet if that's your pleasure. Apparently, babies like them.










The chicken feet stock reminded me so much of wonton soup broth. I had always thought that broth got its richness from  the pork wontons. But now I know it must be from the chicken feet many Chinese restaurants use for broth. If you are eating chicken feet stock out already at restaurants, shouldn’t you try this frugal culinary secret at home? The process does infuse one’s kitchen, hands and clothes with chicken essence, as if you’d doused yourself with chicken oil. Just how braised a ham hock makes one feel you’re sweating pork. It’s all about becoming one with your food.

See, Mikey likes it.

Written by baltimoregon

April 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Buckwheat Cookies

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I’ve been experimenting with buckwheat flour, thanks to the 5-lb. bag I scored from Open Oak Farm (my winter C.S.A. source) at a fill-your-pantry event last fall. I’ve made several variations of buckwheat crepes (or galettes)–all good, except for this version where I subbed a leftover blueberry stout for the I.P.A. the recipe calls for. Keep it simple. I made thick, pillowy buckwheat pancakes from Simply in Season cookbook, by Corvallis locavore Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Then, flipping through the massive new Essential New York Times tome, I stumbled upon a recipe for “buckwheat cookies.” These crumbly morsels truly are the revelation Melissa Clark describes. Or as Amanda Hesser puts it in her head note about the cookies, “If it’s engaging flavor and not too much sugar, you have found the holy grail. These cookies, which are great with tea, taste like sweet wet stone–in a good way, I promise.” Spot on. Delightfully pebbly, I would add. Who knew wet pebbles could taste so right. The buckwheat flour (actually not wheat  at all, but a relative of sorrel and rhubarb!) provides a tangy, mineral quality.

I added a pinch of ground cardamom to the recipe, which married well with buckwheat’s flavor. In fact, the crumbly texture of these buttery cookies very much reminded me of the magical Honey-and-Cardamom Cookies I discovered years ago, reviewing The Spice Bible for The Sun. The texture also reminded me of my late grandmother McCandlish’s beloved spicy cheese straws (with their added Rice Krispie crunch). Lots of butter must be the common denominator there.

Next in my buckwheat adventures, I’ll have to try Italian buckwheat polenta and the pasta they call pizzoccheri. I’ve still never made good ole’ Kasha Varnishkes with buckwheat groats and farfale, but my husband says he can’t stand the smell. Buckwheat can have an aroma off-putting to some. But not to this soba-loving gal!

Written by baltimoregon

March 28, 2012 at 2:05 am

Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA Dispatch: Month One

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Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA: Month 1 Box

Omnivorous flexitarian that I am, I still find myself in an off-again, on-again, feast or famine relationship with pork. It’s not the Jewish background: my Friedberg grandparents had their kosher friends over for ham. I’ve learned that meats as unctuous as pork–and all meats really–are best experienced as a condiment (with a nod to Thomas Jefferson and Chinese cuisine), used to compliment and flavor the fresh vegetables and whole grains that make up a bulk of one’s plates. Meat is a precious and rare resource, a great source of protein and sustenance that creates environmental challenges we can’t ignore. We should pay more for animals raised in a humane and Earth-friendly way, and eat less of that meat, with more reverence. With that spirit, this spring I signed up for our first (three-month) meat C.S.A.

First, I tackled the delicate duck breasts from Evergreen Creek Farms in Philomath. Brad promises me duck legs in April, so I can try my hand at confit.

Next time, I'll cure duck proscuitto. This time, just went with fennel-and-lavender-studded "Roasted Duck Breast with Bourbon-Braised Italian Prunes (I used cherries instead)," from Seattle chef Jason Wilson of Crush, included in Ivy Manning's standby "Farm to Table Cookbook."












At first, $80 a month (a $240 check) seemed a lot for three months of meat. But GTF charcuterie wiz Brad Burnheimer promised 10 lbs. of fresh cuts, sausages and bacon, from free-roaming heritage pigs. I picked my first box at Gathering Together Farm on March 2. Enclosed was the note:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by baltimoregon

March 27, 2012 at 12:10 am

Buckwheat Cakes (along with Crispy Burnheimer Bacon)

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Buckwheat Crepes (from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian") with Balsamic Plum Sauce (Made by KLCC's Jes Burns) and Sour Cream...and buckwheat flour grown and milled by Open Oak Farm in Sweet Home

Why don’t I cook with buckwheat more? I love soba noodles and (yes, mostly gluten-free, but that’s besides the point) buckwheat crepes. My sister, Elaine, and I once even did an ice-skating routine to the tune of “Buckwheat Cakes, Buckwheat Cakes, Along with Crispy Bacon.” I’ve had a lovely bag of buckwheat flour from Open Oak Farm in Sweet Home nagging at me all winter. So today I took the plunge, inspired by a buckwheat crepe recipe in Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.”


Crispy Burnheimer Bacon.

But first, we fried up some bacon (actually Italian bacon–tesacured with fennel, red wine and garlic) received this week our first installment of the scrumptious Burnheimer Meat Co. fresh cuts and cured meat CSA (more on that in a later post!). Then I griddled the crepes in the leftover bacon grease. We topped them with maple syrup and tangy balsamic plum sauce made by my KLCC colleague Jes Burns. Not bad for a simple Sunday breakfast.

Written by baltimoregon

March 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm

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Sweet Tamales for V-Day!

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Sweet pink tamales for Valentine's Day.

My dear friend Norma surprised us today with sweet pink tamales for Valentine’s Day. They had plump raisins and/or dried cranberries inside. Though savory ones are more common, it appears “tamales de dulce” is traditional for Christmas and Easter. Norma, from Texcoco, Mexico, is the niece of Maria, who taught that wonderful tamales-making class for Slow Food Corvallis a few years back. Speaking of Baltimore and tamales. When available, I think I prefer the moister banana leaf versions. Last spring, an OSU student was selling banana leaf tamales at the Co-op…wonder what happened to her. We’ve also had some banana leaf ones here made by a friend of a friend who works for Spring Hill Farm in Albany.


Parchment packet salmon.

In addition to the pink tamales, we had some pink wild salmon for Valentine’s Day. I cooked it in parchment packets for the first time. I used the salmon with sake recipe from Molly O’Neill massive tome, One Big Table. Next time, I might try this seemingly more aromatic one from famous Seattle chef Tom Douglas. Tomorrow, I’ll give sweet, almost 8-month-old baby Theo his first bite of salmon. He loves sardines, surprisingly. So far, the kid is as omnivorous as his mother.

Jicama ravioli (on left) with smoked salmon.

We try to avoid the restaurant rush and $$$ on Valentine’s Day now, but we did have a lovely multi-course meal at our beloved Le Patissier Sunday night. The most interesting thing to me was jicama ravioli with smoked salmon. The Belgian farmhouse ales in the pairing were intriguing. But by far the best thing I’ve had at Le Patissier of late is the C.B.L.T.A., a croissant B.L.T. with avocado and a basil mayonnaise. I’m trying to not make a habit of the indulgent sandwich.

The indulgent croissant blt with avocado.

Written by baltimoregon

February 15, 2012 at 12:43 am

Soupah’ (Could a Been a Chowdah’) Bowl

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Better get my BlogtimOregon on again already. One meager post in January–here’s to keeping up with New Year’s resolutions. We made the Silver Palate’s ever-reliable “Chili for a Crowd” for the game. This is not your everyday chili. It’s got a unique Dijon mustard-olive-dill-Italian sausage-enhanced tang. We served it with two versions of cornbread: a maple syrup-enhanced one and another with whole kernels, inspired by the Baltimore food blog Coconut & Lime. Added some polenta to the mix to amp up its texture. And we chased it down with Oregon Trail Brown Ale, fresh from the 2.5-gallon beer pig.

Too bad I didn’t realize how appropriate chowder would be this year. Food52 had a cute Manhattan vs. New England Clam Chowder breakdown. Ironic that Manhattan wins hands down in my book. With a coughing baby needing attention, I barely watched a minute of the game. I don’t pretend to care about football, or any professional sports for that matter, but it’s hard to ignore America’s second biggest food holiday, worts (spelling intentional, prounced “wert” my KLCC editor reminds me) and all.

Written by baltimoregon

February 6, 2012 at 1:06 am

Dining in Chi-Town, with Twitter as My Guide

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Chicken Balti Pot-less Pie, Minted Peas and Pleasant Farms-grown winter greens salad with shaved fennel and grapefruit (thanks Kevin Pang!).

I knew nothing about Chicago’s food scene. I’d only spent one night here before, on our summer 2008 cross-country drive en route to Oregon. And after traveling with six-month-old and teething Theo for the past three weeks, needless to say, I didn’t have  time or energy to research our food options in advance of our 48-hour layover here.

Of course, I knew Grant Achatz’s Alinea, but they’re booked up through October. I did manage to get a call for a spot off the wait-list, but the 3-star Michelin molecular gastronomy temple doesn’t permit children under age 14. So I turned to Twitter. I desperately directed-messaged Chicago Tribune “Cheap Eater” Kevin Pang for a baby-friendly, non-touristy, affordable spot, accessible from downtown. Within minutes, he directs me to Bar Toma, the new wood-fired, locavore pizza/gelato/pastry/espresso joint from Tony Mantuano, of Spiaggia restaurant and Top Chef fame. Pang won my trust. I devoured my La Quercia proscuitto with arugula and mozzarella pizza, chasing it with a Manhattan-like cocktail and then a local Heiffeweizen, an over-tired Theo finally asleep on my chest in the Ergo.

Bar Toma pizza and local weisse beer.

So I took Pang’s recommendation for the best new restaurant of 2011 to heart. The erstwhile Baltimore dwelling, former Bronx teacher, gritty journalist in me is drawn to revitalizing neighborhoods like Bridgeport (an immigrant enclave once known as “Hardscrabble”), a semi-vacant former stockyard zone on Chicago’s South Side. Plus, I was headed to Bridgeport anyway, to scope out the new Chicago headquarters and large Iron Street Farm of Will Allen’s Growing Power (more on that industrial oasis, with its vermiculture, tilapia tanks whose waste nourishes hydroponic kale plants and oyster-mushroom growing bales later). All I can say is, everyone on the #9 bus acted like I was crazy when I asked how to get to the farm on Iron Street. As Theo and I strolled past a Pepsi bottling plant, a man I asked for directions asked if our car had been impounded.

We were more confident, with a determined hunger, on our subsequent walk to Pleasant House Bakery. I wasn’t away of the humble restaurant’s gardens I must have passed, where they source much of their kale for delectable creamed-spinach-like and mushroom pies. I’m running out of steam here, but the tomato curried Chicken Balti pie, with a side of sweet minted peas, was divine. If only I’d had room for the sausage-encased, battered Scotch egg, a British delicacy I’ve never tried, which I also regret passing up at Ping’s Cafe in Vancouver. Chefs and co-owners Art and Chelsea Kalberloh Jackson couldn’t have been more hospitable when our car-seat and stroller barged into their cozy space. It turns out 3 pm on a Saturday, between the lunch and dinner rush, is the ideal time to dine there with a baby. If I was childless, I’d have had my food delivered I to Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar. Instead, I washed it all down with a homemade spicy ginger ale and then a coffee and brown-bagged a Two Brothers barley wine from Maria’s to take back to the hotel. And fortunately Theo once again fell asleep on my Ergo-ed on our long walk down Halstead back to the Orange line.

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January 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm

The Elusive Peter Chang’s China Grill in Charlottesville

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Cumin lamb, braised bok choy with tofu skin and Guandong-style boneless duck at Peter Chang's China Grill.

I just got a disturbing annual report from WordPress that says I’ve managed to blog all of seven times in the past year. Here’s my 8th attempt at a post, staring down the midnight, here comes ominous Mayan 2012 deadline. 2011, with a turbulent pregnancy, new motherhood and a slow computer clogged with my huge, disorganized audio, photo and video files, somehow got away from me. I commit to do better in 2012. I’ll make baby Theo‘s afternoon naps my new blogging time.

The new year finds us visiting family in Charlottesville, home of the celebrated Peter Chang’s China Grill. The “disappearing chef” himself appears to be staying put in Thomas Jefferson’s university town, where he’s had a continuous run at the former Wild Greens cafe space in the former Barracks Road Shopping Center since March. (Speaking of C’ville restaurant news, did you hear The Tavern, an institution with a questionable food safety record, has closed? I say good riddance.)

Chang’s is known for authenic, hot and numbing Sichuan fare. We’ve eaten there twice and particularly loved his eggplant dishes, spicy dan dan noodles and fragrant, Uighur-inspired cumin lamb. Dining at the restaurant this trip, we had eggplant deliciously dry-fried with no residual grease, like crisp French fries. The numbing Sichuan peppercorns atop make it too hot for some. We had our favorite tender cumin lamb. And I wanted to try a duck dish. The smoked duck at the neighboring table was temptingly served Beijing kaoya-style, but with fluffly baozi-style buns (think David Chang’s unctuous pork belly buns) instead of bland pancakes. But the neighbors said to order sweet Guandong duck instead so we did. It had a pleasant, if unspectacular, sweet-and-sour sauce. The rectangles of fried duck were boneless, which made for smoother eating. And we started with Shanghai-style scallion pancakes, a nostalgic taste of China for me. Except they were unusually puffed up like Indian pooris. I once made Eileen Yin-Fei Lo’s pancake recipe, with lard, but my technique needs perfecting. Here’s to making more Chinese scallion pancakes in the new year, as I post this just as the clock strikes midnight!

Scallion pancakes puffed up like poori at Peter Chang's.


Written by baltimoregon

December 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm

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