Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Props for Portland!

More words of praise for PDX from the New York Times* dining section this morning. For those of us who live here, and live to eat, tell us something we don't know. For those of you who read this, bet you're hungry and making travel plans when you're done!

*As I've said before, the registration feature that makes the NYT online edition available for free is a ridiculous opportunity to read the best paper in the U.S. No spam emails, nothing but info. And on Wednesdays, the best food section in the country!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Like an addiction is a bad thing.....

Like any good addiction, it built slowly. First, one box bought at my local farmer's market was enough. Then, by mid week I was jonesing again, and found myself walking away from the Viridian Farms stand with two boxes. Last Saturday, on my way to the market, I was actually starting to sweat, feeling a little panicky that they might be out by the time I got there and I wouldn't get my fix. I jumped out of the car, practically running to the Viridian Farms stand, only feeling relief upon seeing box after box of the cute, wrinkly little green gems known as pimientos de padron lined up on their counter. Knowing others were coming for dinner, I bought the largest box they had, my sense of well being intact as I wandered around the rest of the market, feeling its reassuring weight in my shopping bag.

I'm telling you, one taste of these late summer miracles will have you anticipating your next hook up as much as I do. This is the easiest, tastiest, most crowd pleasing appetizer you could ever serve. If they're not in your local market, well, I can only feel for your half empty lives. Me, I'm feeling pretty smug, as the folks at Viridian said they'd be around until the first frost. Imagine, WEEKS of satisfaction ahead!

If you're reading this in PDX, you can get them at the Viridian Farms stand at the downtown Saturday and Wednesday markets. If you're reading this and you live elsewhere, maybe they can overnight you some. It's worth it, I promise!!

The finished product, awaiting consumption!


Sautéed Pimientos de Padron

1 dozen, more or less, pimientos de padron

olive oil

coarse sea salt (available at most markets. I get mine at Trader Joe's- BB)


Pour olive oil to barely coat bottom of nonstick sauté pan, then add a smidge more. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add peppers, toss some sea salt on top, and sauté until brown and white marks appear, about four or five minutes. Serve immediately, using the stems as convenient little handles.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Give me a fish......

Link"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life" is an old Chinese proverb. Give me a fish from ABC Seafood out on SE Powell Boulevard here in PDX, and I'll like a king for a night, and as long as ABC keeps in touch with those who do the fishing for them, the rest of my life looks pretty sweet!

I saw the following recipe for crispy sea bass in Mark Bittman's book "How To Cook Everything". I had never attempted to crisp a fish of any kind, so in the interest of broadening my horizons while at the same time satisfying my constant hunger, I headed out to ABC, where they had a perfectly fresh specimen that they thoughtfully cleaned and scaled for me, because as much as I like to play with my food, the idea of pulling out fish entrails and having fish scales flying around my kitchen wasn't too appealing. Besides, the woman at ABC did in about two minutes what would have been for me an endeavor that would have completely demoralized me while at the same time hacking apart this beautiful piece if piscine goodness.

So here it is. A very easy, satisfying dinner with no emotional trauma involved. Just the way I like it!

Crispy Sea Bass with Garlic-Ginger Sauce
From Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything"

Time: 30 minutes

Vegetable oil as needed
2 black sea bass, each about one pound, gutted and scaled with heads and tails left on (I used one 1-1/2# fish for the two of us, which was plenty- BB)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon peeled and minced or grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Minced cilantro leaves for garnish

1- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the vegetable oil to a depth of 1/8", more or less.When the oil shimmers, put the fish in it. Cook, undisturbed, for about 8 minutes on the first side. Turn carefully.
2- As the fish is cooking, heat the peanut oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until the garlic begins to color. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and keep warm.
3- Cook the fish 6-8 minutes on the second side. It is done when the flesh offers little resistance to a knife or chopstick; if in doubt, peek next to a bone- the flesh should be opaque.
4- Remove fish to plate(s), drizzle with sauce, garnish, and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fish On!

Sick of tomatoes yet? I hope not, because not only is it going to be a long, cold winter without them, but you haven't made a couple of killer dishes that have been whipped up at the 50th Avenue Kitchen lately. Last night, with w and I desperately in need of lighter fare, I scoured my cookbooks in search that perfect fish dish, that would also hopefully use up some of my seeming bushels of tomatoes that are taking over my kitchen. Once again I found inspiration and salvation in one of my new favorite resources, Starting With Ingredients by Aliza Green. This is the second spot on recipe from this book I've tried which bodes well for future success. Most of her recipes have very few ingredients, which really allows the flavors of whatever you're using to show through, and of course saves time in the whole hunting-and-gathering thing. Check it out, I'm guessing you'll find something delicious. But first, check out this delectable dish while your local farmers markets are brimming with fresh tomatoes!
Mahi-Mahi with Corn, Tomato, and Red Onion Ragout
From Starting With Ingredients

4 (6-8 ounce) mahi-mahi filets
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 small red onion, diced

1-1/2 cups diced red and yellow tomatoes

kernels from two ears corn
1/4 cup thin strips basil

lime wedges


1- sprinkle salt and pepper all over filets. In a large skillet, preferably cast iron or non-stick, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, and brown the fillets on both sides. Remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven.

2- Pour off any excess oil, add the remaining one tablespoon oil and the red onion and sauté one or two minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and corn to pan. Sauté until brightly colored but still firm, one or two minutes. Transfer the mixture to a serving platter and top with fish. Serve with lime wedges.

notes: I had a hard time finding mahi-mahi locally, until I happened into our local Whole Foods, who had wild caught, frozen 6 ounce filets that worked perfectly. You could also substitute black cod or halibut. Adjust cooking times accordingly.- BB

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Getting Saucy!

Like me do you have an abundance problem? Too much of a good thing? Pounds and pounds of round red orbs falling off of your tomato plants, overflowing your baskets, rolling across your counters? Fruit flies buzzing about? I don't know about you, but no matter how freaking delicious they are right now I can only eat so many. And I've been eating dozens! So here's what ya do, so you can enjoy them when the dark days of winter are sapping your spirit...say January or February...when all seems cold and gray and tomato season seems to be not just months, but years away: MAKE SAUCE! In particular this sauce because nothing could be easier. I mean really easy in that walking down the street and breathing sort of way. If you don't have tomato plants at home, get yourselves to the nearest farmer's market, because tomato season is on! And come February, when you have your delicious, steaming platter of spaghetti with marinara sauce in front of you, and after that first bite you taste the sunny warmth of summer, think of me and know I'm probably doing exactly the same thing!


Summer Fresh Tomato Sauce
(thanks to w's friend Kathleen for the inspiration!)


1 dozen (or more....or less) fresh tomatoes (I would use medium round or Roma/San Marzanos. Save the big beefsteaks for your burgers and BLT's)
kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 250*. Destem tomatoes. Slice tomatoes in half and arrange cut side up on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with olive oil. Slide baking sheet in middle of oven and roast for 3-1/2 hours. remove baking sheet. Carefully slide a spatula underneath each tomato and drop into work bowl of food processor. It may take a couple of batches. Pulse tomatoes until chopped to your desired consistency. Eat fresh, or remember that winter will soon be here and freeze a few conatiners.

*cook's note: I read a lot of recipes that called for adding herbs sprinkled on top while they roast. I think this takes away from the essential freshness of this sauce. Save the herbs to add when you heat up the sauce later.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A life well lived...

The September 5th selection of the Reading Club for the Food Obsessed is one many of you have probably worked through already. But since I just finished it yesterday, I'm putting it on everyone else's list. The book, of course, is My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. It is a fabulous memoir of life in France, as lived by Julia and her husband Paul from the late 1940's to the mid 80's. The book is so well written, and only increased my respect for "Julie" and made me appreciate even more what she accomplished in her career, when women in the kitchen were a true rarity. Plus her stories of "la belle France" in the mid-century will have you eating your heart out and leave you ravenously hungry. A great, satisfying escape for those of us who dream of food, cooking, and France!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Make "Our Kitchen" your kitchen!

How nice is it when you have a place you know without fail is going to make you happy? For GWB, it's the ranch in Texas where he can forget about those thousands of young Americans he's needlessly killed...errr, sent to fight the "terraists". For (ex)Senator Larry Craig, it's a stall in an airport bathroom. And for lovers of beautifully prepared authentic Mexican food in Portland, it Nuestra Cocina. My friend and confidant DOR recently found ourselves there for a long overdue dinner out, and chef/owner Benjamin Gonzalez's food once again absolutely knocked us out.

The crazy good qeusadilla and rockfish ceviche

For me the place to sit at NC is right at their kitchen counter, where you're about three feet away from where Benjamin and his sous chef are throwing your plates together. This is one of the best counters in town, you are right in the action...I love it! For me it is a must to start with one of their "traditional" margaritas, made with fresh squeezed juices. Always gets me in the correct frame of mind, and goes perfectly with the complimentary plate of freshly made corn tortillas and salsa. My usual, must have starter is their addictive sopes, but this time we skipped those dishes of goodness and opted for a couple of their specials, a qeusadilla filled with stuffed squash blossoms ad a rockfish ceviche that were both unreal. The quesadilla was a brilliantly conceived bit of seasonality, and the ceviche was citrusy and mouthwateringly fresh. We followed those fabulous bites with a trio of their carnitas tacos, and a filet of black cod on fresh sweet corn and snap peas. Again, too good, and fabulous to have Benjamin sourcing this great local produce and implementing it in surprising, and very satisfying dishes. For dessert, we worked our way though a mango upside-down cake and a chocolate cake with cinnamon house made ice cream. God, what a way to go. Happy? You bet your ass!

Black cod on summer vegetables and two delectable desserts.