BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Albany

Chili from Matt-Cyn Farms’ Winter Storage Box

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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.

Give a Boy (and a Poppy) Some Blueberry Pie

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My blueberry blackberry homemade butter crust creation.

My blueberry blackberry homemade butter crust creation.

Berry pickin' source in Albany.

Berry pickin' source in Albany.

I don’t often have  pie for breakfast. But I did today, in honor of Poppy on his birthday, because he made the habit of doing so, but of course only with fruit pies. It’s also not often I make a pie, with homemade butter crust. But it’s a habit that could grow on me.

When your partner turns 30, you bake him a pie. I won his heart six years ago with a key lime graham cracker crust one. This year’s blueberry with fresh foraged blackberries did the trick. I finally had a chance to test out my master food preserver blueberry pie filling recipe, after stopping on a whim to pick some at a mom-and-pop place in Albany. I’d rather not use lab-developed Clear-Jel modified corn starch, but I did for the first time because it imparts a pleasant consistency, so you won’t have a soggy, runny, mushy pie. I spiced up the utilitarian extension office recipe with grated nutmeg, lemon and lime zest and vanilla. This Portland kid’s prize-winning pie recipe inspired the lime. Blueberry needs such tang to heighten its flavors. I processed the jars of filling for 30 minutes so they melded together in a fruity goo.

What else have you made with your blueberries? I stumbled across this fabulous muffin recipe, which, with the ample maple syrup and melted butter, evokes the taste of fresh pancakes. Throw some crystallized ginger into the batter for kick. And with blackberries, consider milk with some sweetener and the muddled fruit.



Fresh muddled blackberry milk.

Foraged raw blackberries added to the inside just before backing gave the pie that extra umpf we were looking for. Topped with gelato from a downtown shop (why was this our first time there?) the result made for a pretty memorable dessert.

Fresh from the oven. Notice the egg wash is key for a glaze.

Fresh from the oven. Notice the egg wash is key for a glaze.

Written by baltimoregon

August 23, 2009 at 1:59 am

Clemenza’s: Some of the Best Italian Food Around

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Rigatoni Clemenza ($10 for a hepaing serving)

Rigatoni Clemenza ($10 for a heaping serving)

After last week’s disappointing trip to local-chain Pastini Pastaria (overcooked pasta, ridiculous waits), we were thrilled to finally make it to Clemenza’s Italian American Cafe in neighboring Albany. Hands-down it has to be the best Italian place in this area, especially when you consider the quantity and quality you get for the price.

I had the Rigatoni Clemenza, with a unique spicy-sweet tomato sauce fortified with with pureed broccoli and shreds of the stalk, cubes of dried salami, a dusting of Italian bacon and baked cheese. Pictured is a more than ample “medium” portion. For just dollars more, Clemenza’s lets the big eaters order a larger plate of the entree. Dan took that route, happily feasting on baked spaghetti with a rich three meat (beef, turkey and pork) sauce. Clemenza’s is his Platonic ideal of a restaurant: homestyle, unpretentious pastas and simple sauces that speak for themselves. With two small cups of the house red, the bill came to only $26. Move over, Mamma Zu.

Restaurants like Clemenza are slowly revitalizing blue-collar downtown Albany, which unjustly plays step-sister to tonier Corvallis, though both small cities have similar sized-populations. Leading the progress are restauranteurs Matt and Janel Bennett. They’ve run the more upscale Sybaris in Albany for several years. That’s where we had that magical mushroom dinner this fall. Then the Bennetts opened Clemenza’s just down the main street in June. Chef Matt Bennett is a rising culinary star here, especially since he cooked at the Beard House in NYC.

Albany could use a third spot with his magic touch. Let’s hope a rumor suggesting that was in the cards comes true!

Written by baltimoregon

January 19, 2009 at 2:07 am

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Fried Seafood and Doughnuts

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Seafood Platter and Clam Chowder at The Depot

Seafood Platter and Clam Chowder at The Depot

glazed banana fritter, peanut butter, chocolate.

The Memphis Mafia: glazed banana fritter, peanut butter, chocolate.

We’ll just have to push back the start of our diet until we return from San Francisco.

We meant to cook some simple spaghetti at home tonight. But we couldn’t resist stopping at The Depot, a little hole in the wall fish ‘n’ chips place in neighboring Albany. We stopped for an early dinner on the way home from Portland.

Fish ‘n’ chips made with local  Pacific Cod is the thing to order there. We had some on a seafood platter, which came with a delicious shrimp salad. I love the taste of those mild Oregon bay shrimp. They were scattered over red cabbage and greens and topped with blue cheese dressing (or that of your choice). The chowder, however, was bland and lacking in seafood.

We had skipped lunch and were hungry. But in addition to the fried seafood, we also began the day with an unhealthy snack. We finally got to the infamous Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, whose confections range from the decadent to the gross-out weird (think Pepto Bismal and Nyquil-glazed doughnuts).

We played it safe, splitting a huge Memphis Mafia banana fritter topped with peanut butter, chocolate chips and nuts. Just like Elvis, I’m a sucker for peanut butter and banana. I need to go on a raw food, all-veg diet!

The Depot in Albany

The Depot in Albany

Written by baltimoregon

December 29, 2008 at 1:55 am

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Foraging in High Chanterelle Season

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I apologize for my month-plus long hiatus as I just now settle in Corvallis and hope to commense daily blogging in earnest.

We’re embracing all life has to offer here, which on Sunday included a wild mushroom foraging expedition with the new Slow Food Corvallis group here. It helped that it was a perfect nearly 70-degree day that made it hard to accept the rains are coming.

Fluted Pacific golden chanterelles, known as Oregon’s state mushroom, were the object of our search in the shaded woods of Alpine, a rural timber town between Corvallis and Eugene. For those who fear death by poisonous mushroom, the chanterelles are among the easiest to pick out. Their amber color stands out against the damp, loamy forest floor, yet much of the mushrooms’ flesh is concealed under the soil, leaves and underbrush. (Unfortunately that’s not my bountiful harvest below, but I did collect a paper lunch-bag’s worth.)

Our fearlesss guide was Rex Swartzendruber, a professional forager who sells his finds at Corvallis and Salem markets and online at TruffleZone. He spoke with eloquence about the important symbiotic (or parasitic) role mushrooms play in maintaining the Coastal Range forests’ delicate eco-systems, how everything, from the trees to the fungi to the arthropods that crawl and digest the soil beneath them, is connected.

When the timber companies clear-cut the forests, the trees aren’t the only natural resource to go. Chanterelles take 15 years to reappear after a forest has been clear-cut, Swartzendruber said. What’s more, Big Timber, he said, has been blocking access to public forests where foragers are normally free to hunt. “Access for a mushroom picker is everything,” Swartzendruber said of his livelihood.

The deforestation was apparent on our ride back to Corvallis.







The risk of accidentally plucking a poisonous one almost makes wild mushrooms a heightened delicacy. I kept thinking of fugu, which is popularly eaten in Japan but can be lethal if prepared incorrectly.

We avoided false chanterelles with more orange gills and a darker cap. The potently toxic amanitas were the scariest mushrooms we found but could be easily identified with their white-dotted “veil” caps and lacy skirt on the stem, making the lethal mushrooms sound feminine, almost bridal (see below and AVOID).

But the highlight of the day was the $20 three-course mushroom dinner Swartzendruber arranged for us at Sybaris Restaurant in Albany, the city that neighbors Corvallis. Chef Matt Bennett, who graciously hosted us on his day off, was still beaming from recent press he got in The Oregonian about a meal he recently prepared at the James Beard House in New York. For dessert, we got a litle taste of Bennett’s celebrated Oregon black truffle ice cream (made with powder from TruffleZone) but what was really remarkable was the candy cap mushroom panna cotta which had a rich maple flavor that exclusively came from the fungus. The appetizer was leek and potato soup with sauteed lobster and shrimp mushrooms, the later which we found while foraging. When it smells like rotten seafood, it’s too late to pick them. The Russian-inspired main course was lamb two ways: loin with wild mushroom Stroganoff and a particularly memorable “Communist cutlet” lamb patty with chantrelles (the French spelling) on creamy Savoy cabbage. Bennett, who just also opened a more casual Italian cafe near Sybaris, seems committed to a downtown Albany rennaissance. The historic buildings apparently used to house brothels for the timber workers.

Written by baltimoregon

October 27, 2008 at 7:24 am

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