Thursday, July 26, 2007

Getting My Fix!

It could be worse. I could be driving around with shaking hands, bloodshot eyes, and sweat drenched wife-beater in my old Chevy with one fender painted the appropriate primer grey, looking for my next meth hookup. I could be glued to my computer, staring bug-eyed, hyperventilating, and shouting obscenities at the screen as yet another gambling site sucks my house payment into the pocket of some guy who lives in the Bahamas.

It could any of those things. But it isn't. My little addiction is something much more insidious and sneaky, nibbling away at my wallet with every $1.50-$3.00 fix that brings a sense of calm and serenity to my world. It happens more often than I care to admit. I could be driving around, totally minding my own business, when the "trigger" catches my eye. Those three words that get me salivating and swerving across lanes crowded with traffic, cursing the old woman in front of me who's keeping me away from my salvation. Those three words, "hecho a mano", signaling yet another unavoidable stop at yet another taqueria truck. Like I said, it could be worse.
My current favorite Portland infatuation are the deliciously savory tacos at Taqueria Lindo Michoacan, a truck parked in the lot at SE 34th and SE Division. At a mere $1.50 a pop, the way too delicious discs layered with carnitas or pastor, among other fleshy offerings, that come out of the window are among the best bargain bites to had in this town, and there's probably an equally satisfying bite to be had in your town, too. The tortillas they make on site are perfectly chewy and soft (if those two words together make sense, and if you're taco stand fiend like me, you know what I'm saying). Always generously topped with your choice of meat, including a very credible asada or chorizo, a toss of cilantro and onion, add a squirt of fresh lime...I seem to be able to eat an endless amount. If for no other reason than the proliferation of these vendors of Mexican culinary authenticity, I am wholly for keeping those borders open wide, because at this point in my food-obsessed life, I've gotta get my fix!!

Bring 'em on!

The wait is over! After many long months without, these little golden globes...Sungold tomatoes to be exact....are the first few tomatoes from our garden, and from the looks of my plants, a flood of these and other out-of-this-world orbs in various sizes and varieties will soon be washing across a fleet of dinner plates here on SE 50th in the weeks to come...and I can't wait! I'll keep you informed on any delicious developments! Any suggestions? Let me know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunday Satisfaction!

As if my Sunday mornings weren't satisfying enough, what with my cup of coffee and the NYT, this past Sunday w got it in her head that what we needed was a batch of fresh baked blueberry scones. So lets see...Sunday in bed with the NYT....and the smell of fresh baked scones wafting through the house? Once again, it all works out for me. Oh, and thanks, honey!

So here's the perfect use for all those plump, juicy berries that you see bursting out at farmer's markets these days. This recipe from Cook's Illustrated is...according to w...extremely easy. According to me it's extremely delicious! These may be the best scones I've ever had. I'm guessing you'll agree.....

The scones before baking. The picture above are the scones about 30 seconds out of the oven...yummm!


Blueberry Scones
from Cook's Illustrated

It is important to work the dough as little as possible—work quickly and knead and fold the dough only the number of times called for. The butter should be frozen solid before grating. In hot or humid environments, chill the flour mixture and workbowls before use. While the recipe calls for 2 whole sticks of butter, only 10 tablespoons are actually used (see step 1). If fresh berries are unavailable, an equal amount of frozen berries (do not defrost) can be substituted. An equal amount of raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries can be used in place of the blueberries. Cut larger berries into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces before incorporating. Refrigerate or freeze leftover scones, wrapped in foil, in an airtight container. To serve, remove foil and place scones on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven. Heat until warmed through and recrisped, 8 to 10 minutes if refrigerated, 16 to 20 minutes if frozen. See final step for information on making the scone dough in advance.

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), frozen whole (see note above)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (about 7 1/2 ounces), picked over (see note)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for work surface
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Score and remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends on large holes of box grater (you should grate total of 8 tablespoons). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.
2. Whisk together milk and sour cream in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
3. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
4. Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Following illustrations, fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
5. Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
To Make Ahead:
After placing the scones on the baking sheet, either refrigerate them overnight or freeze. When ready to bake, for refrigerated scones, heat oven to 425 degrees and follow directions in step 6. For frozen scones, heat oven to 375 degrees, follow directions in step 6, and extend cooking time to 25 to 30 minutes.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

iLove Macs!

For all you Mac geeks who fall in lust with every announcement from Steve Jobs' piehole that a new Apple product is on the horizon, then you'd best be getting your eyes on this very cool chart that shows the evolution of all things Mac (thanks to fellow blogger Matt Bites for tipping me off). I think I started with the Mac plus and it's tiny (maybe) 8" screen. I was feeling pretty techno just having that cutting edge piece of technology on my desk. Of course the one I bought was by then about three or four years old and already a dinosaur, but what did I know. And while I haven't gone all iPhone...yet...and would like to think I'm above technolust, I have to admit to getting my minor geek on checking this out.

And all you PC know you should've bought one of these a loooong time ago. But hey, it's never too late to see the light.......

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Feed Your Mind

I just came across a fascinating sushi-related interview at while doing some work "research" (the joys of being self one looking over my shoulder!). Slate contributor Sara Dickerman interviews two authors who have recently published books about sushi. The books are The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg, and The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, From Samurai to Supermarket by Trevor Corson.

The interview focuses on a whole range of issues: the history of sushi, present and future trends. Really interesting stuff that not only fed my mind, but has me craving some of Hama Sushi's super fresh nigiri. My favorite exchange.....
Slate: One of the reasons I think sushi translates well in the United States is because it has a certain similarity to steakhouse culture—the rich meats, the minimal emphasis on sides, and it also caters to male business clientele. There's also this interesting element of eating sushi where you quantify your food—keeping track of ounces or the number of pieces of nigiri you're eating. What's your take on the gestalt of sushi?

Issenberg: In Japan, it really is comparable to steakhouse culture. But in the United States, even though it's overwhelmingly produced by men, it seems a disproportionately feminine experience, and I actually think sushi bars are a far more feminized space than the steakhouse. In the '70s and '80s, when we had sort of a national diet culture emerge, sushi was a perfect way to satisfy that while still being an adventurous diner.

: The flip side of that feminine thing, though, is that maybe there's a kind of masculine macho aspect to eating sushi. Certainly at the beginning, when people like Yul Brenner started eating sushi in Hollywood, it was a dramatic, exotic kind of macho thing to do. You got points for trying something that was different and potentially disgusting to the average palate.


All I can say is I was introduced to sushi by an old girlfriend, virtually every woman I know loves it, and w is if anything more particular and passionate about it than I am.

In the article they also go on to talk about how with depletion of fish stocks in the ocean will sushi become a delicacy for the rich? Should that ever happen, I just want you to know right now I'll be leading the revolution!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Heavenly Halibut!

I've always been one of those people who say, "I really need to eat more fish." The problem is, one look at that meaty, bloody red rib eye in my butcher's case, or a fleeting thought of bacon-cheeseburgers, and I'm running out to the grill, hunk of meat in hand, all too ready to succumb to millenia of evolution. But last night, more because of the rain that was steadily falling here rather than any will to actually improve my diet, I grabbed a couple of halibut filets from the meat case at our market, which were fortunately located far enough away from the steaks so I could ignore their siren call.

Since grilling wasn't an option as I didn't want to schlep the Weber up to the covered part of our porch, I checked online for inspiration, and came across what seemed to be a perfectly delicious, seasonal halibut preparation at epicurious. Cooked in my big sauté pan, which is always a bonus, because since I'm not a "power tool guy" I get my fix from heavy cookware. Anyway, to cut to the chase, this was a super simple recipe that has instantly found a place in our regular repertoire. Throw a couple pieces of this halibut on your plates with some rainbow chard or other greens, a scoop of rice, and in less than 30 minutes start to finish you'll have yet another silly smile on your face!

Oh, and as for drinking material, we had a super chilled bottle of 2005 Loimer Gruner-Veltliner, a fresh, dry, crisp, vibrant white from Austria that was the total deal with the fish, matching up perfectly to the sweet cherry tomatoes and savory olive flavors in the sauce. Okay, now you're set...the rest is up to you!

Halibut With Capers, Olives, And Tomatoes
Serve the fish and sauce over rice or couscous

4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets

All purpose flour

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided

1 tablespoon drained capers

1/3 cup bottled clam juice

1/4 cup dry white wine

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sauté until lightly browned and just opaque in center, about 3 to 3-1/2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add shallots and crushed red pepper; sauté 1 minute. Mix in tomatoes, olives, 1/4 cup basil, and capers. Add clam juice and wine. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in 1/4 cup basil. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over fish.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Eating made easy

Stuck on what to make for dinner tonight? This great article by Mark Bittman (aka The Minimalist) in today's NYT may just save your bacon. 101 recipes!! All simple, fast, easy. In other words perfect in a pinch. I only got through the first two pages and was ravenous!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Feeding my inner adolescent!

Remember when you were a kid, and you'd say to yourself, "Man, when I grow up I'm going to have candy bars for breakfast if I want!" Well, my new favorite way to indulge my inner adolescent is with this delicious piece of pastry from Portland's St. Honore Bakery. This local outpost of all things baked and French offers their cunningly named French Apple Toast, giving what is basically an addictively delicious bread pudding a veneer of breakfast legitimacy. Getting one to go, sitting outside with a steaming cup of coffee and the Sunday NY Times....simply one of those perfect morning indulgences. Hey, I went running this morning...I deserve this!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The thing I like about my new neighbors is.....

I'd like to think I'm a fairly well informed food obsessive, but I didn't even know there was a Lard Information Council!!

Actually, this ad is a spoof by the British humor magazine Viz...I love the image...and the message!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer food fun (aka getting in the pink!)

In case you were wondering, I care. Even though we don't talk regularly....for that matter we may not even know each other...I feel you. In fact, I sometimes know your needs before you even realize you have them. Case in point is my continuing quest to keep you informed of all that is delicious. Particularly that grand summer tradition that is about to begin with the start of Castagna Restaurant's annual series of of dinners that they call Rosé Wednesdays. Every other week starting July 18th they will offer a three course dinner of chef Kevin Gibson's awesome culinary creations, each representing a different region of France and matched with some fabulous rosé wines from the same areas, all for a mere $45! I hit a couple of these dinners last year, and I loved the casual, family style service that they put in place for these special nights, and though they were an excellent value. They have one seating at 6:30, so the relaxed pace is really conducive to getting into the food groove. I stick by my belief that even with the slew of new restaurant openings here, Castagna is the finest restaurant in Portland, and this is an eminently affordable way to have some of the best food you'll eat this year! Oh, and bon appétit.......
********** **********
Rosé Wednesdays @ Castagna
Family style regional dinners

July 18th • Loire Valley
Cider cured pork loin cooked in hay

August 1st • Provençe
Grand Aioli

August 15th • Bandol

August 29th • Cassis
Roast Bronzini

Dinner will include 3 courses & 2 glasses of rosé
$45. (not including gratuity)
One seating at 6:30pm
Call for reservations • 503 231.7373

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

World's colliding!

It's the blessed union of two great cuisines. Barbeque meets sushi and the results are delicious! I wanted to try something new, fast, and not too heavy last night since we were eating kind of late. This scored on all counts. The chicken thighs were marinated Asian style with soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic, then grilled, sliced, and wrapped with sticky rice inside of nori wrappers. Other stuffing options are up to you. I sliced some leftover farmer's market baby carrots into a thin julienne, but you could use asparagus, sprouts, or....think sushi and let it flow from there! The whole thing took less than 30 minutes, plus this marinade recipe is dynamite, and I can see using it on a slew of other edibles. You can thank me later!!


Grilled chicken thighs in Nori wrapper
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
12 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)

Sticky Rice
Nori Wrappers

Whisk soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic in large bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Add chicken to marinade; toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature 15 minutes (any longer and the chicken can get too salty). Brush grill with oil. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and slice into strips.

For Sticky Rice
Short to medium grain rice has an especially high starch content, which makes it sticky — and easy to press into a lettuce or nori wrapper.

3 cups water 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cups short to medium grain rice (such as sushi rice)

Bring water to boil in small saucepan. Stir in salt and rice; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 17 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in a splash of rice wine vinegar before serving.

To assemble:
Cut nori wrappers lengthwise and lightly brush one side of nori wrapper with sesame oil. Wrap grilled chicken with the Sticky Rice on oiled side of Nori Wrappers.

Makes 6 servings.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Pianos, Pisco, and Peru!

Date night. With a little culture thrown in courtesy of the Portland International Piano festival and a recital by Paul Roberts, who w has informed me is a world renowned DeBussy scholar. I have to say I have never heard DeBussy played better. Of course I had never heard DeBussy played at all, but still, to my rock-addled ears, he was pretty damn good. Anyway, this was all prelude to the main point of date night (at least for me!), which is dinner out. Tonight w had in her head to go to our local outpost of Peruvian cuisine, Andina Restaurant in northwest Portland.

Going native with a refreshing Pisco Sour

Andina is a place here in PDX where they explore the amazing mix of influences that is Peruvian food. Spanish, Asian, South American...all bases are covered, and after our excellent meal here, Andina is absolutely back on our radar. I started out with a traditional Peruvian cocktail, a Pisco Sour (recipe to follow), which is the national drink of Peru and Chile. Pisco is a grape based brandy common in South America, shaken with lemon juice, sugar, and an egg white then served up in a martini glass. Delicious, with that refreshing sweet/tart balance I love in a well made libation and also what makes this a perfect summer sipper. I’m already planning tomorrow’s trip to the liquor store!

Yucca Rellena: fried+creamy= happiness!

Appetite firmly whetted, we dove in with starters of Yucca Rellana, a cheese-stuffed yuca that is then deep fried and served on an aji amarilla and ricotta cheese sauce. This was really nice, satisfying my cravings for all things fried and creamy. We also had an outstanding dish of Conchas a la Parilla, which are grilled diver scallops with a garlic-lime butter sauce and crispy fried onions. Wow! Really fresh, and the sauce set off the scallops perfectly.

Mixto Chorrillano Cebiche

Next up was one of Andina’s signature Cebiches, ours a mix of five different fish and shellfish, which was incredibly fresh, the lime cure clearing your palates and the occasional habanero bit adding that eye bulging touch of heat.

Aroz con Pato

For entrees, w had the Halibut al Ricoto y Kion, which was a nicely roasted piece of fish set in a bowl with a shiitake mushroom, smoked bacon, and bok choy broth. Very tasty but a bit too much broth. The best thing was the side of asparagus-quinoa fried rice. I had a sensational dish of grilled duck breast and crisp confit duck leg served over cilantro-infused rice and fresh vegetables. The simple name of Arroz con Pato doesn't do justice to the complexity of flavors and the tender, savory duck meat that had me swooning.

We finally finished with a chocolate mousse dish topped with an espresso can see me hovering in anticipation in the background.....
Culture, cocktails, and killer Peruvian cuisine. I couldn't ask for more!!

Pisco Sour

2 oz. Gran Pisco
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. superfine sugar
1 egg white
dash of bitters
Shake all ingreients well and strain into martini glass. Prepare for feelings of well being!