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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

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No More Waiting for Asparagus

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Oregon asparagus

Baltimore (well actually Seaford, Del.) asparagus

Baltimore (well actually Seaford, Del.) asparagus

You’ve heard about the rhubarb. Well, asparagus is that other early spring vegetable for which I eagerly await. Its presence marks the start of this abundant season. Maybe I’ll eventually plant my own asparagus bed, like Barbara Kingsolver, but you have to wait three years for the harvest. For now, procuring the green (and sometimes eggplant purple) spears from local farmers will more than do.

Asparagus featured prominently at my beloved old Waverly Farmers Market in Baltimore, which I got to visit when briefly in town for a wedding last weekend. That’s Hannah and I fingering the skinny, almost stringy stalks for sale at the stand run by a farmer from Seaford, Del. But Hannah said they’ve been tough and not that flavorful. Here in Oregon, the spears are mostly sweet and fat. I received deliveries of them from the local organic Sunbow Farm here in Corvallis. Just order $10 of produce and they’ll deliver to your door. Pretty nice when you don’t have a CSA but are out of town for the weekend farmers market.

What do you make with your April and May fresh asparagus? I recommend this “Sesame Noodles with Fresh Asparagus Tips” recipe from Deborah Madison, via Culinate. I added local sauteed shittake mushrooms to the mix. Also substituted flat rice noodles for the Chinese egg ones, but don’t recommend that. And tonight I topped pasta with fresh local fava beans and asparagus, sauteed with leeks and green garlic in olive oil and a chicken broth and lemon juice sauce. Topped with chopped parsley, dill, tarragon and chives from the garden, it made for a light springy meal.

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus

Tonight's lemony asparagus pasta

Tonight's lemony asparagus pasta

Written by baltimoregon

May 4, 2009 at 11:55 pm

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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Valentine’s Day on the Farm

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Mocha Brownie Torte with Raspberry Coulee

Mocha Brownie Torte with Raspberry Coulee

We really need to start cooking in for Valentine’s Day. We know restaurants exploit the Hallmark holiday, usually charging a premium that makes the meal cost more than it’s worth. But we couldn’t resist a chance to return to our favorite local farm, which had a dinner tonight though it is closed for the off-season through March.

Gathering Together has an informal ambiance: mismatched plates, they don’t replace silverware between courses, etc., but the food couldn’t be better and features the freshest local meats and produce. Meat tonight included a “Crispy Sweets with Honey Mustard Dip” appetizer. No, those sweets weren’t a succulent vegetable, but tempera-fried veal brains (the thalamus). The grey matter was moist and tasty, similar to sweetbreads (pancreas). Most memorable was the beet “ravioli” salad with chevre, orange, mizuna and pistachios. Instead of pasta, thin slices of beet sandwiching a lump of the goat cheese formed the ravioli. A playful trompe d’oeil, hmm?

It also revived the spirits to dress up in an actual dress and heeled boots. I put on some real make-up for the first time in months! Fashion is about the last thing one worries about in Oregon. Though I might have a wardrobe crisis when I return to New York next month.

Beet Ravioli

Beet Ravioli

Crispy Sweets

Crispy Sweets

Written by baltimoregon

February 15, 2009 at 1:19 am

Adventures in Truffleland

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How fortunate are we to have forest mycologists for next-door neighbors who are among the premier truffle experts in the state. I leaped at the opportunity when they invited me to hitch a ride with them to the Oregon Truffle Festival in Eugene today. It’s a hoighty-toighty gourmet event, but luckily today anyone could attend the marketplace event for $15. It was well-spent

That admission price included indulgent samples of truffled dishes and truffle-accented cheeses and olive oils. And this budding food writer absorbed numerous story ideas from panel discussions and other conversations there. Truffles could become a tobacco-like cash crop salvation for struggling small farms, the writer Kevin West said in a talk. Unfortunately most of us can’t afford to cook with truffles, as they go for $100 to $1,000 a pound. Hence the reason so many amateurs here try to forage for them themselves. I saw a festivalgoer today bartering some Oregon white truffles for wine and first-press olive oils, as if the truffles were gold.

The festival hall was redolent with the heady, pungent perfume of the truffles. The rare Oregon Brown Truffle (see above) had an especially potent, Roquefort-like aroma. Only the relatively more common white and black truffle varieties were featured in the food we sampled.

The chefs from Caprial’s Bistro in Portland whipped up a truffled fennel-potato soup and a simple roasted carrot salad. (See recipes below).

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A cloyingly rich marsala pasta with white truffles and flecks of foie gras followed from Newman’s at 988 in Cannon Beach. And Vitaly and Kimberly Paley of Paley’s Place in Portland were on-hand to sign their new cookbook.

Truffles are a gift of nature that fruit in the earth in all regions of the world. Desert truffles, I learned today, are abundant in the Kalahari region of sub-Saharan Africa, in Austrailia and in the Middle East. In fact, there’s evidence that shows the “manna from Heaven” that fed the Israelites was likely morsels of desert truffle. How cool.

Roasted Carrot Salad with Sherry Dressing and Goat Cheese and White Truffles (have you noticed sherry vinegar is all the rage? I just got some for the first time.)

Serves 4

4 large carrots, peeled and large dice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and black pepper

Dressing

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons olive oil

salt and black pepper

2 bunches watercress, washed and spun dry

2 ounces soft goat cheese

thinly sliced white truffle

Preheat oven 425 degrees convection bake setting. Place a heavy gauge sheet pan in the oven to pre-heat for about 10 minutes. Toss the carrots with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on the hot sheet pan in a single layer. Cook until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While the carrots are cooking, prepare the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, garlic and mustard together. While whisking slowly add the oil and whisk til incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve the salad, divide the watercress onto 4 plates. Top with the warm carrots and drizzle with the dressing. Top the salad with goat cheese and sliced truffle and serve.

Courtesy of Caprial and John Pence of Caprial’s Bistro

Written by baltimoregon

February 2, 2009 at 1:44 am

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Fresh Local Winter Kiwis…Who Knew?

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Who knew that seemingly tropical fuzzy Hayward kiwis grow in Oregon and are available fresh in winter. But they are locally grown here at the Greengable Gardens in Philomath. They harvest the sweet fruit in November but they easily keep, at a temperature of about 35 degrees, and can be sold fresh for the next four months.

What do you do with your kiwifruit? I made a tropical yogurt bowl last week, with sliced kiwi, mandarin oranges and pineapple. Kiwi jam or sorbet, maybe, or even kiwi salsa are other options I’d like to try. Of course, I love just scooping the fresh flesh out of a halved kiwi with a spoon. I’m just thankful for fresh fruit in the dead of winter. Knowing it’s local makes all the difference.

Written by baltimoregon

February 1, 2009 at 2:33 am

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Getting Into Those Whole Grains

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Three Grain Salad Primavera with Lemon Vinaigrette

Three Grain Salad Primavera with Lemon Vinaigrette

This is a hearty, nutty, soul-satisfying salad from my sister-in-law, Julia. She picked it up while attending a holistic culinary school in San Francisco. The best part: you can use up those remainders of random grains stashed in the back of the cupboard. I used soft white wheatberries from Stalford Farm here in Oregon (the same source of my locally-grown chickpeas), black wild rice and an Israeli couscous/quinoa blend. This is a recipe that’s hard to screw up, thankfully. I also didn’t have flax seed oil so just doubled the olive oil in the dressing. Dan threw in some grape tomatoes (which he purchased against my will. I’m trying to abstain from eating tomatoes outside the local season. Winter tomatoes or those from Mexico just don’t compare.)

Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy (feel free to half the portion, but it keeps well in the fridge for the week):

Three Grain Salad Primavera with Lemon Vinaigrette
(serves 16)

Grain salad options (you will need 1 cup of three of these grains):
spelt
quinoa
wheatberries
wild rice
bulglur
barley
Israeli couscous
Choose three of these or other favorite grains — you will want to end up with 7 cups
cooked product total

Vegetables for salad:
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 orange pepper, chopped (NOTE- i used 3 whole peppers- just eyeball it)
1/2 pound green beans or snow peas, slivered
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 bunch italian parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped

Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 teasponns dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup other vegetable oil like flax seed oil or safflower
2 tbsp warm water
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped

Choose three grains and cook 1 cup of each separately. Set them aside to cool while
preparing the vegetables and the dressing.  As the vegetables and herb s are chopped, put
them into a large mixing bowl.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients except water and lemon zest, and whisk together
or put in a blender or small food processor.  Cover and blend.  Add warm water and blend
until smooth while the machine is running.  Taste, adjust as needed, and then add the
lemon zest.  (Dressing will keep in fridge for up to 2 weeks).

Measure out 7 cups of the combination of cooled grains.  Add to the vegetables in the
mixing bowl and toss to combine.  Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss to coat the grains
and vegetables lightly.  Taste and adjust if more dressing is needed.  Serve chilled or
at room temperature.

Written by baltimoregon

January 23, 2009 at 12:50 am

Those Poor Dungeness Crabs, and the People Who Risk Their Lives to Catch Them

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Christmas trip to the Oregon Coast.

Christmas trip to the Oregon Coast.

I’m feeling somewhat guilty about enjoying the dungeness crab we ate on the recent trip to Newport and Waldport. Looks like commercial fisherman in California, but also Washington and Oregon are struggling to stay afloat given “an unusually weak Dungeness crab harvest.” As if the collapse of their Pacific chinook salmon livelihood wasn’t enough.

But an Oregon Public Radio story suggests the situation may not be as bad in Oregon, which appears to have at least an average harvest. Seems too early to tell.

Wish I hadn’t fallen in love with with the sweet, succulent taste of fresh Dungeness crab. To make matters worse, apparently “harvesting Dungeness crabs in the Pacific Northwest is the most dangerous fishing job in the country” (scroll down in article).

Can we really ethically continue to eat these crustaceans if harvesting them puts crabbers life in jeopardy? And are they being overfished?

//www.flickr.com/photos/bbum/105061191/ )

Dungeness Crabs/Flickr Creative Commons/By bbum http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbum/105061191/ )

Written by baltimoregon

December 30, 2008 at 2:22 am

You Say Hanukkah, I Say Solstice

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The start of the festival of lights nicely coincided with the winter solstice today, the darkest day of the year, especially here in Oregon, which has been usually cold, snowy and grey.

This half-Jew and her ambivalent Jewish husband were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic latke party and potluck the Beit Am Mid-Willamette Valley Jewish Community organized tonight. In a way it’s nice to have only one Jewish space in town, where those of all persuasions and degrees of unaffiliation are welcome.

We met a German-born economics professor emeritas, who migrated to Israel then studied at Berkeley and landed at Oregon State, where he retired in 1991. He had some colorful things to say about department politics and the writer and former OSU prof Bernard Malamud, who features Corvallis in his excellent novel A New Life. And we chatted with a young Israeli couple (guy is a resource economist) whose secular sensibilities reminded me just how out of touch American Jews can be with Israeli culture. Funny, the guy reminded us so much of Damiano, the Italian roommate of our Israeli friend Yoni back in Baltimore. Ah, Baltimore friends, we miss you:)

Written by baltimoregon

December 22, 2008 at 2:16 am

Free Me From These Chains

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Oregon requires tire chains on some snowy mountain passes (Photo by gio9019/Flickr Creative Commons/http://www.flickr.com/photos/gio9019/2179219234/ )

No, the third try wasn’t the charm. It took me four stops at auto shops today to find a place that had special cable chains to fit the low-clearance tires of our Honda Civic. Les Schwab, the tire king here, didn’t carry them and the Honda dealer and Auto Zone were out. Finally Napa Auto Parts came to the rescue.

We’re still trying to wrap our heads around Oregon’s zany chains law. Basically the state requires you to carry chains in your trunk, because when adverse weather hits (especially in the mountainous regions), the highway signs can change and require you to put them on. Luckily, if we don’t use the $30 chains, we can return them after April 1. But what a pain.

For such a laid-back, marijuana-friendly state, Oregon sure has a lot of rules and regulations. Getting our driver’s license and registering our car here is also a pain. We have to take an extensive driver’s ed test to switch our license over and you have to pay to transfer the title to Oregon. Man, moving is expensive. It’s enough to make you want to sell your car. At least we plan to stay a one-car family.

Written by baltimoregon

December 20, 2008 at 1:56 am

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The Solitude of Snow

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Well, we’ve had our first couple inches of snow this season. And it’s incredibly cold for the generally more mild Pacific Northwest: the weather here won’t get above 31 degrees this week….ouch!

But I love the way snow slows everything down. I got out of going to Portland for two meetings today. There was a calm to the vacant streets and powdered landscape. But I shouldn’t have ventured out on a bike. Amen for my helmet when I hit that patch of ice!

We’re still trying to wrap our heads around Oregon’s snow chains law. You are technically required to carry chains while highway driving in the winter months. In very bad weather, ODOT signs can require you to put them on.

I’ll pick some up before we drive through the Coastal Range next week. Then apparently a lot of folks end up returning them unused to the local tire center in the spring.

Written by baltimoregon

December 16, 2008 at 1:59 am

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