BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Corvallis

Maine in Oregon

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The puny and neglected, poorly transplanted, yet still delicious heirloom raspberries in front of our house. Nothing compared to the fat, luscious, melt-in-your-mouth orbs thriving at Rainshine Family Farm, perhaps the best kept secret in Corvallis.

Why is it that you’ll only truly appreciate a place, deeply fall in love with it, when you’re about to leave it? For the past month, I’ve had these daily moments of reverence for Corvallis, and Oregon in general, I know I wouldn’t linger upon if we weren’t moving. At the Gathering Together Farm restaurant (our favorite place to eat around town), the Corvallis Farmer’s Market, at our food co-op (okay, we’re a bit food-centric here), our richly-sourced Asian market, in yoga and Zumba and WaterBabies classes, and at the radio station, I find myself already missing what I haven’t yet left. But we can’t look back.

How I’ll miss Oregon’s sweet cherries, including these paltry few on the tree planted in our backyard. How I’ll miss all the berries, pears, apples and even persimmons that thrive in this Eden.

We’re moving to Maine in mid-August. And it’s finally starting to feel right. My family convened on Great Pond in Belgrade Lakes about every other summer, but I’ve never been to Maine in winter. Ice-fishing, here we come. My parents are semi-retiring there; both Dan and I have lots of family around New England. We’re tired of day-long cross-country flights. We want to put down roots and stay put during summer. The trouble is, in four short years, we’ve become much more rooted here than we ever imagined.

So it felt reassuring to discover the things I love here are connected to Maine. Maine indirectly kept asserting itself on a tour of a magical 2.5-acre urban farm today. This farm I’m just now stumbling upon is surely the best-kept secret (perhaps intentionally so) in Corvallis.

Sadly forgot to plant favas this year. They are so easy to grow and, as a cover crop, naturally fix nitrogen in the soil. And it’s surprisingly delicious to eat the whole grilled or roasted pod.

And what do these Greenhorns use to sprout their starts? None other than Maine organic pioneer Eliot Coleman‘s seed-starting mix. And where do they source their heirloom, open-pollinated vegetable seeds? Not from Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. They’ve come to put their trust in Johnny’s Selected Seeds and FEDCO, both of Maine (not far from Belgrade Lakes in fact), for  the most reliable germination rates. Apparently, many seed companies sell home gardeners the dregs. Like me, many assume the fault is their own black thumb and not the seeds when they don’t sprout. Still, it was surprising to hear this Corvallis farm has to source its seeds (and many farm implements, such as soil-block maker, from as far away as Maine.

Maine is where it’s at, I keep telling myself. And we’ll see the local food scene converge in full force, soon after we arrive, at the Common Ground Fair. It’s put on by what I believe is the oldest organic-farming association. Something nice to look forward to, to balance all the missing.

And touring the farm today, I felt awash with gratitude for all that Oregon has taught this former fire escape-gardener about agriculture. In Baltimore, I grew herbs and maybe a cherry tomato in pots on my fire escape. Since moving to Oregon, I’ve grown lots of garlic and peas, rhubarb, fava beans, asparagus, carrots, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, blueberries, a few figs, most without great success since I’m bad about watering. And we’re often gone in summer (hence the desire to relocate back East). But today I knew how to recognize all the crops on this esteemed farm–the lace-y carrot tops, the feathery forests of asparagus, the buckwheat–because I’ve now tried (often in vain) to grow many of them. These struggles make you feel a sense of awe and connection to the work of these farmers.

Written by baltimoregon

June 28, 2012 at 3:06 am

Ha-la for Rosh Hashanah (and Our Two-Year Anniversary)

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20 oz. Ring O' Challah from New Morning Bakery in Corvallis. The stuff is more dense, eggy and sweet back East, but this is a decent substitute. Hä-lä, as the bakery spells it out phonetically, is no longer a rare delicacy here.

Our first night in Corvallis, almost exactly two years ago. Funny, Dan has returned to sleeping on the floor some. He thinks it's good for his back. We need to get a tatami mat.

It’s September 2010, which means we’ve been here exactly two years now. Though after another summer mostly out of town, it somehow feels like we’re moving in once again. It’s a time of new beginnings. With the new school year and approach of fall (it’s friggin’ cold here!), somehow it makes more sense to celebrate the new year now instead of in January. It also just so happens to be the two-year anniversary of this blog!

Yet walking around the Corvallis Farmers’ Market yesterday with a gal from back East who is new to town, I realized how comfortable I’ve finally gotten here. I’m especially grateful for the farmers, chefs and activists who make our local food community so vibrant.

Speaking of Rosh Hashanah, this article on kreplach, the Yiddish dumpling, made me nostalgic. I only made them with Nonny (and my mother) once, but I have fond memories of rolling out the dough and stuffing the wontons that day. Nonny’s mother’s kreplach recipe calls for cinnamon-spiced chopped brisket or roast beef, but any leftover meat can be used. Maybe I’ll try a vegetarian version, since we feel compelled to eat less meat these days.

Any other Jewish foods (Ashkenazi or otherwise) to out try this time of year? I plan to make Stuffed Swiss Chard (like dolmades) once I stop testing Hangzhou recipes for my next NPR column. Enough Chinese food already:)

Local challah, local Honeycrisp apples from First Fruits Orchard, local Honey Tree Apiaries honey for a sweet new year. Plus, a real honey wand I picked up in Brazil. Now, I see the beauty of these things. Less sticky mess when drizzling honey.

Written by baltimoregon

September 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm

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

Albacore Doesn’t Just Come in a Can

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Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

What a difference a year makes. I never thought I’d feel at home in Corvallis (or blogging, for that matter) but here exactly a year later since the move and this project began, and I’m well at ease.

We’re frantically trying to weed and tame the yard this weekend after a summer and, well really, a year of neglect. But I’m at least adept enough to coax a few vegetables from the earth. The green (and purple and yellow) beans, tomatoes and remaining leeks are still abundant enough to source a meal.

Fresh albacore is the obvious reply to what to make for dinner this time of year.

Apparently there’s only about a week left in the season. The one-pound chunk we bought downtown today at Harry & Annette’s Fresh Fish just came in from the coast this morning. Fresh albacore is affordable, fleeting and so much more delicious and less fishy than the canned stuff. It’s not sushi-grade bluefin or yellowtail but it’s a milder still meaty fish that melds well with a range of flavors, particularly gingerly Asian marinades.

The most recent food column in the local Corvallis newspaper inspired me. Since we shy away from the grill, we roasted the fish at high-heat, 500 degrees. We whipped up our version of the fresh tomato-ginger “relish” and the hot mustard better sauce. I doubled the sweet onion in the relish since I lacked green ones. And some leftover lebni yogurt cheese stood in for whipping cream, yielding a tasty but curdled butter sauce.

My home-grown beans we steamed and sauteed with lemon, rosemary and chopped walnuts. Freshing but a tad bit bland, according to Dan. But overall a memorable meal.

I just wonder if cooking will continue to capture my attention in 2009-10 as it did, sustaining me, last year.

Written by baltimoregon

September 6, 2009 at 1:38 am

Life is a Bowl of Cherries…and Frass

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I was pleasantly surprised to find the first cherries of the season at the Corvallis Farmers Market today. Of course I sprang for them. They were sweet and perfectly ripe, with firm burgundy skin enclosing soft flesh. Thank you Denison Farms! And at their stand, I learned a not-so-lovely word today: frass. It refers to the feces of insects. Yum! But Denison also described frass as chaff, or the scriveled up brown detritus that you have to clean off cherries.

Written by baltimoregon

June 10, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Cougars in Corvallis

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Cougar/Flickr Creative Commons/By ucumari

Cougar/Flickr Creative Commons/By ucumari

Yikes! A ferocious cougar was spotted mauling a house cat right here in Corvallis last month. Once hunted to extinction, it seems record numbers of the giant cats live in Oregon these days. Now a young college student has mobilized to save the spotted cougar’s life here. If one crosses my path, I just hope it’s at a safe distance.

It’s pretty surreal to be living in proximity to such a feral beast, which mostly seemed a mythical creature as our school mascot. The closest we got to seeing a real cougar growing up was the stuffed, glass-encased one in the gym.

Written by baltimoregon

May 18, 2009 at 12:38 am

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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Corvallis Mexican folklore 4-H club kids doing a dance from Veracruz

Corvallis Mexican folklore 4-H club kids doing a dance from Veracruz

We had to grab a quick dinner tonight. So why not head to La Rockita, the local chain of affordable, authentic Oaxacan-style Mexican restaurants, especially since it was Cinco de Mayo? I’m always craving their tacos de lengua (braised beef tongue).

Little did we know we were in for a special treat. Traditional Veracruz and Jalisco Mexican folklore dances by colorfully costumed kids from a local 4-H club. It was pretty precious. But I should have stuck with the tongue tacos. The camarones de crema was too fishy and rich. Consistency. Keep it simple. I’ve found a simple dish that can’t be improved upon. Succulent meat, its grease undercut by crisp radishes, diced onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enfolded in a warm corn tortilla shell. Why should I order anything else?

Le le le lengua

Le le le lengua

Skip the camarones de crema

Skip the camarones de crema

Written by baltimoregon

May 6, 2009 at 12:58 am

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Ethiopian for Earth Day

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Ethipian cabbage and chickpeas on homemade injera bread

Ethiopian cabbage and chickpeas on homemade injera bread

How privileged we are to be friends with a chef! Intaba dazzled us with an Ethiopian feast when we gathered at the home of our adopted grandmother for an Earth Day pot luck today. She made her own fermented buckwheat flour injera bread, which we topped with savory braised cabbage, chickpeas and spinach, spicy chicken wat and a lentil stew. Delish! She got most of the recipes here (from RecipeZaar). It seemed appropriate to honor the cuisine of a nation often beset with famine due to droughts and war.

I made a citrusy green spinach salad that seemed a bit bland beside the well-spiced fare. My dessert, a “Strawberry, Rhubarb and Banana Crostata,” got much better reviews. More on that tomorrow. And we toasted the evening with fruity gin and tonics, the signature drink of our host.

The Oregon State organic growers club farm

The Oregon State organic growers club farm

Earth Day is certainly celebrated more here in green Oregon than it was back east. Here it’s a week long celebration, like Carnival. The Oregon State organic growers club had a big kick-off event at their farm this afternoon, encouraging the guests to help them plant 10,000 onion and leek seeds. You should see the abundant variety of produce they sell on campus later in the season. Then there was their chicken tractor. It just pulled on my heartstrings. I want one. But next year. Just breaking into gardening is more than we can handle this summer.

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Then the first of the spring Wednesday Farmers Market was held downtown for the first time today. It’s old location, at the Benton County Fairgrounds, was a closer bike ride from our house. But this new location is much more festive and will draw larger crowds, promoting development and revitalization downtown. Plus, it’s now held in the late afternoon and evening to encourage folks to head to the market, then picnic or dine at a surrounding restaurant. They’re having new food vendors too, including grilled gourmet pizza’s from Newport’s Pacific Sourdough. And unlike some farmers markets, at the ones in Corvallis and Albany, regulations exist to insist the produce sold comes from the six surrounding counties. The OSU organic farm inspired me to pick up some leek seeds there.

new Wednesday downtown market

new Wednesday downtown market

Everywhere you look, there are signs of spring, and more importantly, gardening, here in Corvallis. It’s contagious. You want to go dig around in the dirt yourself. What’s the worst that could happen? Even the young ones have green thumbs here.

And speaking of Earth Day, hear are some tips for reducing your “cookprint” in the kitchen. There’s always more we could do.

community youth garden

Written by baltimoregon

April 23, 2009 at 1:18 am

Passover in Oregon

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This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

This Year at the White House/Obama's Seder (Official White House photo by Pete Souza), which just happened to be organized by Carolyn's Harvard classmate.

President Obama hosted his history-making Passover seder at the White House, and we were invited to two here in Oregon, that most secular of states where there are more Buddhists than Jews (but lots of Jew-Bus).

Homemade rye matzo

Homemade rye matzo

The first invite came at a matzo-making party I attended with my chef friend Intaba. She’s teaching me to make all the Jewish breads. It’s really a wonder more folks don’t make their own matzo instead of subsisting on the Manischewitz boxed-stuff. You just mix two cups of flour to one cup of water, don’t let it sit more than 18 minutes and then bake at 400 degrees. But I realize, who has time to make matzo when preparing the other dishes for the seder feast?

For our first seder, I prepared an unusually savory carrot and sweet potato tzimmes, accented with fresh thyme and chopped green onions. I’d make this side dish year round. That the veggies are roasted with lots of butter doesn’t hurt. I also made a Sephardic version of charoset, blending dried figs, dates, apricots and raisins together with the traditional apples and walnuts. It got rave reviews and the fruity paste spread nicely on matzo.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Carrot and Sweet Potato Tzimmes

Fruity charoset

Fruity charoset

We’re constantly impressed by the kindness of practical strangers, and neighbors, here. We had only met the host of the Wednesday night seder once, and there we were comfortably reclining around her table until 11 p.m.

But our Friday night hosts, Slow Food Corvallis president Ann Shriver and her husband Larry Lev, both of OSU’s agricultural econ department, we met back during our first weekend in Corvallis. I made the matzo ball soup for that meal. Let’s just say the balls were a tad rubbery and marked with my fingerprints, rather than in perfect spheres. Still tasted good though. Ann prepared a feast: Moroccan chicken tagine (see recipe below), purple cauliflower and potato puree, grilled asparagus and Greek salad. Larry’s simple Ashkenazi-style charoset was sweet and delicate: peeled and grated apples, chopped walnuts and pecans, a bit of grated lemon peel and dashes of wine, cinnamon and sugar. Ann indulged us with a cheese course (featuring a prize-winning hard Tumalo goat cheese from Bend) and a delicate ginger-dark chocolate mousse served, with a fresh whipped cream cap, in demitasse cups. It was an informal, secular, social justice-minded seder. We didn’t even go back to the haggagah after the meal. Very reminiscient of the McCandlish-Friedberg seders growing up. I was right at home! Next year in Corvallis, right?

Moroccan chicken

Moroccan chicken

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Olives (from Ann Shriver)

Here’s the recipe I promised you. It’s not difficult but does require a lot of time and planning. Believe it or not it comes from an ancient “Food and Wine” magazine that someone gave me about 23 years ago. The article is by Paula Wolfert who is a pretty well known chef of Moroccan food.
First you need to make the lemons, at least 7 days in advance (14 is even better.)
I use the regular thick skinned lemons. I wonder how it would be with Meyer lemons? Anyone have experience with those?
7 day preserved lemon
2 ripe lemons
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Olive oil
Scrub the lemons and dry well. Cut each into 8 wedges. Toss with the salt and place in a 1/2 pint glass jar with a plastic-coated lid. Pour in the lemon juice. Close tightly and let ripen in a warm place for (at least) 7 days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. To store, add olive oil to cover and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
Marinated chicken with lemons and olives (Tagine Meshmel)
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
3/8 tsp ground cumin
pinch of powdered saffron (I used a pinch in the marinade and another good pinch in the stew, and I used whole, not powdered.)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 cinnamon stick (I used a couple of shakes of ground cinnamon instead)
pieces of chicken–thighs and breasts, but I cut the split breasts further into two pieces (I used 5 split breasts and 6 thighs, and removed the skins to make the dish less greasy.)
2 1/2 c. grated spanish onions (~2 large)
1/4 c chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 1/2 c. green greek-style cracked olives (I used a mix of green and black ones from the co-op, and I didn’t bother pitting them)
16 wedges of preserved lemon, pulp removed, peel rinsed, and sliced thinly
1/4 to 1/3 c fresh lemon juice, to taste.
1. In a large bowl combine the ingredients up to and including cinnamon, plus 1/4 c water. Roll the pieces of chicken in the mixture, cover and refrigerate overnight in the fridge, or for an hour at room temperature. (The recipe calls for using the chicken livers. I did not do this. I think it would make the dish taste quite different.)
2.  The next day put the chickens, livers, and marinade into a large pot. Add 1/2 c of the grated onion, the parsley , coriander and 2 c water. (I also added a good pinch of saffron to the broth.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
3. (If using), remove the livers from the pot and mash them to a paste and reserve. Add remaining 2 c grated onion. Continue to cook, partially covered, for another 1/2 hour or so, until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Cover with foil and keep warm.
4. Add the olives, preserved lemon (and reserved liver paste, if using) to the sauce. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. If you haven’t removed the chicken skins, you may need to skim off the fat at this point. Add the lemon juice (and salt to taste–but I didn’t add any as I found it quite salty enough.), pour over the chicken, and serve (I actually let it sit in the sauce for an hour or so covered with foil in a warm oven, before we ate it.)

Written by baltimoregon

April 13, 2009 at 1:43 am

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Around the Bend, It’s Bleek

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On the road outside Bend (Cascade peaks: I can't tell if the Three Sisters or Mt. Washington from the photo)

On the road outside Bend (Cascade peaks: I think those are two of the Three Sisters in the background)

After the night at the snow-locked Santiam Pass cabin, we headed to Bend for a quick one-night getaway. Snowshoeing had tuckered us out, so we took it easy, preferring to be pampered there, not even making it to the Mount Bachelor ski resort, the main attraction that lures winter tourists.

Still, with its sky-high unemployment rate due to a housing boom gone bust, the Bend businesses and hotels seemed eager to have our business. Bend’s Deschutes County in February had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the state.  And the metro area’s jobless rate is one of the country’s worst, which is particularly poignant since just two years ago construction and tourism jobs were plentiful in the outdoorsy paradise formerly named one of America’s best places to live. Bend’s leisure amenities–skiing, hiking, kayaking, rock-climbing, etc.–are what lured the Cessna plant there. Upon graduation, my sister almost went to work for a hedge fund that chose to headquarter its office in the adult playground that is Bend, just because they could.

Though the height of spring break season, we had no problem snagging a last-minute room at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis Hotel, a Catholic school the Oregon beer barons converted into a cozy chalet in 2004. But it’s so much more than just a hotel. The school’s former gym is a living room-style yet spacious movie theater, where we caught the filmed-in-Oregon teen vampire flick, Twilight. And we soothed our sore-from-snowshoeing calves and heels in the bathtub-warm, open air soaking pool, the site of the school’s former chapel. Mosaics of Jesus performing certain miracles greet you when you enter the pool. And a room-service root beer float there reignited our obsession with that childhood dessert.

dsc02310dsc02308We had a hearty brunch at The Victorian Cafe (but bring your own real maple syrup for the pancakes) and an average dinner (good Steelhead rainbow trout-like fish sandwich but watery lamb stew) at the Bend Brewing Company. The downtown Deschutes Brewery Pub was packed (locals night burger specials, not the spring break crowd), but we still managed to sneak in on the last tour of the actual Deschutes Brewery that afternoon. As the 7th largest (I think) microbrewery in the U.S. and one of the Oregon behemouths that is still well-crafted with local character, the free brewery tour is not to be missed. And Deschutes treats you to generous samples in their taproom, including rare ones not available by bottle such as Oregon’s 150 Ale, a lambic-like blackberry and marionberry-infused brew to celebrate the state’s sequestiential.

A Deschutes brewer working a batch of Green Lakes Organic Ale.

A Deschutes brewer working a batch of Green Lakes Organic Ale.

Fresh hops.

Fresh hops.

But the dry high desert clime and nouveau-riche air of Bend made us happy to return to our more humble and verdant Willamette Valley. Corvallis is starting to feel like home.

Written by baltimoregon

April 3, 2009 at 1:02 am

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