BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

No Precious Olympia Oysters at Olympia’s Waterfront Budd Bay Cafe

with one comment

Robb Walsh’s Oyster guide: Olympia’s are the morsels on the bottom row (

I am admittedly a food snob. Still, I can feast like a king on a tangy, umami-bomb of Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, a steal for about $4.25 each. Of course, you can cook simple, delicious meals at home for less. But when we spend $60 or more on a meal for two, we expect it to be good. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case tonight in Olympia.

En route to Seattle (on rainy, Thanksgiving-traffic-clogged I-5), on a whim we stopped for dinner in the charming capital city of Olympia on the south Puget Sound. We considered Trinacria, a supposedly stellar red sauce and homemade pasta joint whose name (the term for “Kingdom of Sicily”) reminded us of an Italian deli we loved in Baltimore. Then we got a hankering for oysters, reading that the petite native species has been revived here. The obvious Oyster House seemed too touristy. We wanted to eat oyster burgers and shooters at the Fish Brewing Company pub, but alas, no minors–no one under 21–not even a five-month-old baby who subsists on breastmilk–are allowed on the premises. Just like at our beloved Squirrel’s Tavern in Corvallis. Having kids does limit your choices. We were directed instead to Ramblin’ Jacks, which had a hip vibe but alas no oysters (just fried pickle chips) on the menu.
Sometimes you just become too blinded by a quest for something like oysters. We should have been content with wood-fired pizza at Ramblin’ Jacks. We would have had a great meal at the brewery, if not with child. Somehow we found ourselves at the dated seafood and brunch-focused Budd Bay Cafe only because they had pan-fried oysters on the menu. The excessive Christmas decor and cloying Christmas music should have been a sign. They didn’t have oysters fresh enough to serve on half-shell, just the pan-fried “Pacific Northwest” variety. Their salmon was King, but farm-raised. Discerning diners know better out here. Budd Bay’s was hardly a locavore, but rather a Sysco-inspired, menu. I just no longer have a tolerance for white tablecloth, country club-style food that is expensive, bland, uninspired and often inedible. Touristy waterfront seafood restaurants are often the worst offenders. You go to these restaurants–the Lobster Trap in Maine, Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depot Bay, Ore., the Rusty Scupper in Baltimore, Jake’s in Hull, Mass.–with such expectations. The menu items tempt–the fish descriptions sound so fresh–you have the illusion it was just plucked from the water outside the restaurant’s window. But the dishes generally disappoint. Usually, the seafood is fried and the chowder’s too unctuous, thick and creamy, so you leave feeling a little sick and so wishing you’d spent your $60 elsewhere.
So we wasted our one meal in Olympia. Somehow I just felt cheated, because I told the hostess-owner we were there to try to the local oysters. So I felt betrayed when we weren’t served the local delicacy. Sure, they were Washington-raised oysters, but they were the much larger, less delicate and briny Pacific variety. And they weren’t even that fresh. They were the last oysters left in the bucket, bathing in a sludgy liquor. She went to retrieve the container when I asked if not the local Olympia oysters where they were from. I know I seemed like the characters in Portlandia who ask in a restaurant about the source of their poultry, abruptly getting up to go visit the local chicken farm. But this is what I care about. I want to know what species of oyster I’m eating and where it was raised. I expect it to be fresh. I wanted to vote with my dollars and my tastebuds for the Olympia oyster, to support ecological efforts to revive the Pacific Northwest’s only native species. But sadly out-of-touch restaurants like the Budd Bay Cafe, who care more about boasting waterfront views than sourcing quality local ingredients, just don’t get it.

Written by baltimoregon

November 28, 2011 at 12:42 am

Chanterelle Chicken Marsala

with 2 comments

Chanterelle Hungarian Mushroom Soup made last fall

How I’ve blogged in my head these many months, but somehow, sleep-deprived as I am with a four-month-old (haven’t blogged since Theo’s birth), it’s hard to dive back in. So I’ll ease in. Here’s a short post. Make Chicken Marsala with the gorgeous wild chanterelle mushrooms in peak season here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m thrilled to expand my wild mushroom soup and wild mushroom pasta repertoire. These meaty mushrooms were the the perfect sub for the shiitake, cremini, oyster blend Emeril calls for. Yes, Emeril, cringe I know. Normally, I shy away from Food Network celebrities. My mother-in-law says his recipes are too involved. But this one is delicious and easy. Don’t buy Emeril’s packaged Creole seasoning. It’s easy to make the spice blend at the end of the recipe. Leave out the two pats of butter at the end, as we did. But you must use dry Marsala wine. I hadn’t touched our bottom since the unctuous Papardelle with Hazelnut Cream recipe from Lincoln’s Jenn Louis I made last year. Serve your Chicken Marsala with Trader Joe’s gummy, addictive Harvest Grains Israeli couscous and quinoa blend. It made for an easy enough, memorable weeknight meal.

Written by baltimoregon

November 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Sushi-Making Revelation

leave a comment »

So that's how you press tiny cucumber rolls.

I love homemade sushi, but it’s somewhat of a pain to make with a bamboo roller. Tonight, we discovered an easier alternative. You simply mold the sticky rice into these wooden maki presses and then push down with a block to create the perfect well for your filling. Add some more rice on top, push the block through the frame, and voila! A perfect sushi rectangle. The nori easily wraps around the filling and sticks. And it’s much faster and cleaner-cutting than the bamboo roller method.
There’s a smaller press for cucumber-roll size rectangles–so that’s how they roll those perfect little squares. For inside-out rolls, you wrap the roll in cellophane and then use your bamboo roller. But this defeats the purpose of using nori to keep the sticky rice off your fingers.
We also got learned how to make nigiri (open slab-style sushi) tonight. The teacher Sylvia Yamada said the trick is to first shape the sticky rice base to resemble a big garden slug:) Our Bangladeshi friend Christina held the event as a fundraiser for a Catholic Sisters of Charity school for very poor children (families live on $25 a month) in her hometown of North Laksmipur. It’s always nice to eat well for a good cause!

Much easier than bamboo roller (still necessary with plastic wrap for inside-out roll).

New method much easier than the bamboo roller.

Written by baltimoregon

April 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Jo’s Motel near Crater Lake

with 2 comments

Crater Lake in winter: we had the pristine views all to ourselves, even during Spring Break week.

It’s spring break here, but we did not fight the crowds during our wintertime trip to Crater Lake. Oregon’s only national park (with free entry!)–and apparently the country’s deepest lake (almost 2,000 feet deep)–is more popular with summertime campers. But the park’s also a 7,000-foot high wintertime wonderland through May. The snow-covered lake views also seem more spectacular. Cross-country skiers like to circle the lake’s entire 33-mile rim. But we’re not intrepid outdoors-folk, and I’m 27 weeks pregnant, so snowshoeing is our preferred kind of low-commitment sport. Plus, it doesn’t require a roof rack to transport the minimal equipment.

Jo's Motel: Cozy lodging and great source of organic co-op-style food in Fort Klamath.

Fortunately, we had clear views of the lake, which clouds and snowstorms obscure half the time this time of year. The 3-mile road to Rim Drive was closed, however, due to avalanche risk (gulp!). We played it safe and took the easy, well-compacted snowshoe route up to the top. And what a pristine view we had all to ourselves when we arrived at about 6 p.m.

The plentiful organic groceries at Jo's Motel in Fort Klamath.

Lodging options are limited this time of year. We were thrilled when our friends recommended Jo’s Motel in nearby hard-up (practically a ghost town) Fort Klamath. Innkeepers Robin and Jim (who used to live near Corvallis) offer an unlikely oasis of organic foods and homey accommodations, with no phones or Wi-Fi but all the free classic DVDs you could care to rent. We had the peaceful retreat to ourselves and could have stayed a third night free had Dan not had to get back. You can get a suite with a kitchen and cook up items procured from Jo’s well-stocked (if not expensive) grocery, but we came to relax. So Robin and Jim cooked us up organic eggs, hash browns, sausage and creamy, fair-trade hot cocoa for breakfast. They also grill up free-range burgers and serve salads tossed with Jo’s tangy house balsamic-blue cheese vinaigrette. Their fermented dill pickle slices reminded me that a good pickle makes a sandwich or burger. Jo’s Motel is the place to stay when you head to the Lake.

Written by baltimoregon

March 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Soup Swap, Part Deux

with 4 comments

The Moosewood Cookbook's Brazilian Black Bean is now my go-to soup swap soup.

Of course I meant to blog about the first impromptu soup swap I had back in December, but we all know how much I’ve been blogging these days. Starting again is like drafting that first post, when I couldn’t even type out complete sentences. Still, I’ve missed the daily discipline of blogging. I hope to recommit to this daily (hell, or at least weekly) practice these last four months of my pregnancy.

Ladle your soup into yogurt containers for swapping. Or glass canning jars. Just be sure to leave extra head-space. Contents expand (jars can crack) when frozen.

Fortunately, I can draw inspiration from the second soup swap I attended today, skillfully arranged by Chef Intaba through Slow Food Corvallis. All the participants brought six quarts of soup, and then we traded. We returned home with six different kinds of soup to eat right away or store in the freezer (if you can find the space! That’s why folks invest in chest freezers here.) You come home with such variety, instead of tiring of that one big pot of soup that sits in the fridge ignored for a week. Portland-based food writer and radio producer Deena Prichep aptly captured the conviviality of these events in her soup swap pieces for The Oregonian and OPB.

Rule #1 of hosting a soup swap, I’ve learned the hard way now, is to only prepare one type of soup. I made the mistake of preparing one to share and another one to share with guests during the event. Baltimoregon, when will you learn to put all your eggs in one pot?

For both swaps, I made Molly Katzen’s standby Brazilian black bean soup from her Moosewood Cookbook (see recipe below), recommended to me years ago by Dan’s aunt Amy. Most Brazilian black bean concoctions–think feijoada–involve smoky pork, but the Moosewood recipe is, of course, vegetarian. It’s bright and citrus-y, punched up with orange juice, diced tomatoes, cayenne and cumin. I even used locally-grown Black Valentine beans from Matt-Cyn Farms.

Such events really showcase ethnic and culinary diversity. Slow Food Corvallis president Ann Shriver made an Ethiopian lentil soup with spicy berbere sauce. Several attendees made lentil soups, made with green French lentils that don’t get so mushy when cooked. One participant stressed lentil soup’s low-glycemic index, which she turned to when facing the risk of gestational diabetes while pregnant.

Ethiopian lentil with fiery berbere chile paste.

Another woman of indigenous Mexican descent made a healthy version of posole. Chef Intaba drew on her Jewish heritage with her grandmother’s split pea soup. We won’t tell anyone she subbed her own smoked pork belly for the flaken, which her bubbe stewed for hours in the pot. Another swapper offered potato-leek soup with German butterball potatoes to represent her heritage. A West African chicken and peanut soup served during our meal was also memorable. Now we have a fridge and freezer full of soup to get us through the week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by baltimoregon

February 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Muhammara (Another Great Red Pepper Dip!)

with one comment

Paula Wolfert's Muhammara.

How I’ve missed blogging, but somehow haven’t been up it. I’m halfway through my first pregnancy, pregnant with a boy(!) we just learned. That might explain why I didn’t have too much morning sickness and always felt like eating first trimester? Unfortunately, second trimester has surprisingly so far been more of a slog.

But I wanted to write to sing the praises of muhammara, another great roasted red pepper (with walnuts and pomegranate) dip that apparently hails from Syria. I fell in love with this recipe we just had from Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. Dan’s former department chair prepared it as part of a delicious Middle Eastern spread she put together for a visiting economist from Turkey. Shawna and her husband, Rolf, sure know how to entertain. They’re especially known for their Scandinavian delicacies–gravalax, pickled herring, fresh currant-infused aquavit, home-smoked duck. Rolf is from Sweden. He even grows pinot noir grapes, which he bottles into a coveted “Grapes of Rolf” vintage. A case or two of his wine has been known to woo job candidates here.

Back to muhammara. Like avjar, it has an addictive tang that pairs so well with pita and goat cheese or feta. If you, like me, try to avoid imported bell peppers this time of year (apart from the carbon footprint, they have that off, less-than-fresh taste), just substitute jarred roasted red peppers instead. Why bother roasting peppers out of season anyway? For another muhammara variation, check out this one from Ivy Manning in the current issue of Portland’s MIX. Pomegranate molasses is a key ingredient that you’ll enjoy having around for salad dressings. I believe Corvallis cookbook author Jan Roberts-Dominguez also has a muhammara recipe (with hazelnuts instead of walnuts) in her new Oregon Hazelnut Country cookbook.

Written by baltimoregon

February 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Cookies like Carrot Cake

leave a comment »

Simply in Season's Carrot Cookies

I finally connected with Cathleen Hockman-Wert, author of this pioneering Mennonite cookbook of seasonal, affordable, doing-more-with-less recipes. She lives in Corvallis and studied journalism at the University of Oregon. So we had lots to chat about over $10 special pork shoulder plates at Del Alma during Corvallis Culinary Week. I first encountered her Simply in Season cookbook through the cooking classes I participated in through Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Check out this related article I wrote on their food justice work through faith communities, on page 30 of the current issue of Edible Portland. And then make the cookbook’s recipe for carrot cookies! Splurge with the fresh orange juice-and-zest icing…they’re still pretty healthy, albeit buttery. I added raisins to the moist, cakey cookies; nutmeg/cinnamon-type spices and pineapple or shredded coconut would also change things up. Try whatever you might add to a carrot cake. I hear they turn out well when made with gluten-free flour. Reminds me of a carrot-oatmeal cookie recipe I made a while back from 101 Cookbooks. Heidi Swanson’s recipe is vegan, to boot, sweetened with only maple syrup and creamed with coconut oil instead of butter.

Written by baltimoregon

January 28, 2011 at 12:19 am

Kale and White Kidney Beans Two Easy Ways

with 4 comments

Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup in a Vegetarian Tomato Broth.

But first, earlier in the week, enjoy a hearty appetizer of kale and cannellini beans on garlicky bruschetta.










I had forgotten to blog about these two  delicious, easy, economical and healthy (vegetarian) kale and cannellini bean recipes. You won’t be surprised to learn the recipes come from my friend Ivy Manning, cookbook author extraordinaire who is known to work wonders with kale.

First, make Ivy’s soul-satisfying kale and cannellini beans bruschetta. You’ll be asking yourself why you don’t make bruschetta, on fresh garlic-rubbed sliced baguette more often. It’s easy. For this recipe, I used local Lacinato kale from Beene Farm in Southtown Corvallis and beans from Matt-Cyn Farm in Albany.

Just be sure to reserve the cooking liquid and leftovers for this Italian kale and white bean soup you can then make later in the week. It’s a simple formula that easy allows for improvisation. I went heavy on the tomatoes and stirred in Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Israeli couscous-and-quinoa blend before serving. Effortless weeknight dinner!

Speaking of kale, check out Ivy’s slightly more indulgent recipe for colcannon-like Twice-Baked Irish Potatoes with Stout Onions and, of course, Kale.

Written by baltimoregon

December 29, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Vintage Chicken Marbella

with 5 comments

The legendary Chicken Marbella recipe from The Silver Palate.

The Silver Palate Cookbook and I were both born in 1979. So it’s not surprising that this is the cookbook I most associate with my childhood. It was often out in the kitchen, especially when my parents, budding gourmets (and sometimes gourmands) were having a dinner party. Co-authors Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins taught them how to make crème fraîche, Hollandaise sauce and pesto. We all especially loved the book’s vegetable purées: the creamy, nutmeg-kissed broccoli one and the tart beet and apple purée I made as a girl for my parent’s wedding anniversary dinner. And I know folks still swear by The Silver Palate‘s carrot cake and banana cake recipes.

But I’d never tried the cookbook’s signature chicken Marbella. When Sheila Lukins died in 2009 at the age of 66, this was her legacy recipe we kept hearing about; how it defined dinner parties of the growing yuppie class in the 1980s. I finally had a chance to try the dish tonight, when my mother-in-law made it, with a spirit of nostalgia. The marinade/sauce has that addictive salty-sweet-tart flavor of prunes, olives, capers, vinegar and brown sugar. I do remember once having some cold balsamic chicken breast salad with dried apricots and olives that invoked the flavor’s of this dish. But balsamic vinegar is a noticeable omission in the original Silver Palate. Red wine and white wine vinegar, even sherry vinegar, yes, but balsamic had yet to appear on the scene.

Written by baltimoregon

December 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Chili from Matt-Cyn Farms’ Winter Storage Box

with 2 comments

Delicata squash chili, inspired by Baltimore-based Coconut & Lime blog.

Storage box of winter squash, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, beans and walnuts from Matt-Cyn Farms in Albany.

I’d never really given much thought to root cellar-ing until we moved out here. In fact, I’d hardly heard of the term. It only conjured up vague notions of root vegetables, giant carrots and daikon radishes and turnips, hanging around in the cellar.

But it turns out a root cellar often doesn’t involve much more than storing winter vegetables for several months in a cool (but not freezing) basement or garage, out of the light. This New York Times article, which ran the fall we arrived, is a good introduction to the lost art. It features Portland householder extraordinaire Harriet Fasenfest, who has just published a book (which she discussed on our KBOO Food Show last week!).

I’m tip-toeing into root cellar-ing this year. There are mesh bags of potatoes, onions and some apples hanging in the garage. We’ve got dried beans, walnuts and a few winter squash. But we’re quickly eating the supplies up. The new winter storage box offered by Matt-Cyn Farms in Albany this year prodded me to take this step. For $100, HP employees-turned-farmers Matt Borg and Cyndee Ross offered @ a 50 lb. box that included their coveted beans and barley, copra storage onions, garlic, winter squash and pumpkins, potatoes, shallots, English walnuts in the shell, and dried peppers (including Thai dragon ones!), all grown with their careful organic (but not certified) methods. I finally got to see their enchanting, bio-diverse farm when I went to pick up the box on Veteran’s Day. They grow just about every kind of vegetable under the sun, including lots of rare heirloom varieties of beans and peppers.

Matt-Cyn beans with vented lids for storage: Snowcaps, Yellow Indian Womans, Colorado Pueblos and Vermont Cranberries.

A collage of beans, still so fresh no need to soak them overnight.

That box sure came in handy for the Delicata squash chili I made in the slow-cooker tonight. I adapted it from the Baltimore-based food blog Coconut & Lime, increasing the amount of beans (and bean broth) and tomatoes used and omitting the questionable liquid smoke, substituting smoked sea salt from The Meadow boutique in Portland instead. I also threw in Matt-Cyn Farms barley (instead of rye) to make a complete protein with the beans. And I didn’t peel the Delicata, because that’s one winter squash whose skin is thin enough to eat. It provides good fiber and gives the veggie chili more substantive texture and sometimes crunch. Matt-Cyn’s heirloom beans–Snowcap, Colorado Pueblo, and Yellow Indian Woman (a variety served to Lewis & Clark on their journey West)–really shined in the dish. Snowcaps are a remarkable soup bean that become so plump and creamy when slow-cooked in broth. The only problem was the chili, spiked with dried chipotle, and fresh poblano and jalapeno, was a tad hot for our guests’ tastes–I tend to forget we enjoy spice more than most. But that was nothing a little creme fraiche and shredded cheddar couldn’t mellow.

We served the chili with green onion-and-fresh corn-studded Mexican cornbread (minus the cheese) from the Moosewood cookbook. It was thrilling to find still-sweet fresh corn at the last Saturday market of the season Saturday! The cornbread was a tad dry and crumbly, perhaps because I used whole wheat flour? But still tasted yum mixed into the soup. I’m finally embracing the power of the slow-cooker, that once-underutilized wedding gift that’s now among my most-treasured appliances. It’s so nice to have the meal cooked and warming on its own when your guests arrive. Less last minute scrambling in the kitchen. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can make in slow-cookers. Coconut & Lime (and perhaps the blogger’s healthy slow-cooker cookbook) is a good place to start.

%d bloggers like this: