Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drama queen....

...or as my friend Nisu said when he facebooked the video, "This girl is grounded...for life!" Hear that C-boy??!

Beaverton Farmer's Market: Hey PDX, it's worth the drive!!

Usually the mere thought of leaving the city and driving to the suburbs of Portland induces a slight panic. Why would I possibly leave this place where everything is at my disposal (except access to TGIF's and Cheesecake Factory without which I still seem to be living a remarkably full life)? What compelling reason could there be? I thought none, until last Saturday when my PR friend Bette S. encouraged me to give a visit to the Beaverton Farmer's Market which is held every Saturday in the remarkably charming "old town" area of Beaverton. So last Saturday, on a dazzlingly sunny morning, w and I packed up C-boy and headed west into the great unknown.

On the surprisingly short 20 minute drive over (that from our house in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood), we talked about how could this be remotely as good as PDX's famous downtown PSU market, which has received national press as one of the best in the nation. It is an amazing market, albeit getting almost too crowded as throngs attend every Saturday, many of whom I suspect go just to go. You know, those people who consider themselves, in a term that has come to represent a sad type of neediness, "foodies", just because they show up at the market. Not too mention the parking chaos, doublewide strollers (ours, BTW, is a slender single, small uppababy that should you be in the market for an umbrella style stroller is worth every penny. Funny thing, too: if you had asked me two years ago, before we found ourselves in this parenting predicament, what an umbrella stroller was, I would have had zero idea), and a distressing number of small dogs being carried in bags by their owners, which in any setting is a very disturbing, seemingly anti-evolutionary development. So we arrive in B-ton, park about 1/2 a block away, and wander into what I have now decided is probably the best, most shoppable farmer's market in the metro area.

I was first struck by the size of the market. Much bigger than I would have suspected, with row upon row of vendors, spacious aisles between them, and in this high season for farmer's markets everywhere, an eye-popping array of beautifully presented produce. We wandered around to get our bearings, noticing appreciatively how many more small farms were representing, then dove into the bounty. A little over an hour later, with C-boy relegated to mom's Ergo carrier since his stroller was overflowing with edible goodness, we went back to the car with days of dining fun ahead. I'll give a few of the many highlights followed by a must-try tomatillo recipe....
Blindingly bright carrots from the too-cutely named Gathering Together Farms, to be made into baby food for C-boy
one of w's favorite things, plucots from Alex Farm Produce
Always great cured meats from O.P. We took home the awesome Chorizo Rioja!
Tomatillos from Sosa Farms which were the key ingredient for the fabulous appetizer recipe below

This is not to leave out all the other splendor to be had: a 9am beer tasting of superb ale from Captured By Porches Brewing; the freshest cilantro and french radishes from Galin-Flory Farms; deliciously surprising coconut milk yogurt from Gata Foods (which I'm eating right now); peaches from Baird Orchards (some of whose perfectly ripe peaches went into a disastrous recipe for peach cobbler from Paula Deen. If you see it on the Food Network site, avoid it! We used the rest to make more food for C-boy); and so much more. This, my Portland-centric friends, is a place totally worth the drive. And if you need one more reason, the temple of all things fresh, fishy, and Asian, the Beaverton Uwajimaya market, is a mere five minutes away!
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Tomatillo Guacamole
By Martha Rose Shulman/NY Times
"This is a guacamole with a punch. The roasted tomatillos blended with hot chilies add acidity and spice to the creamy avocados. It has the luxuriousness of guacamole at just over half the calories."- Martha Rose Shulman

1/2 pound fresh tomatillos, husked
2 or 3 jalapeño chilies, seeded if desired and roughly chopped
10 cilantro sprigs, plus additional leaves for garnish
Salt to taste
2 large ripe avocados
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Preheat the broiler. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the tomatillos on top, stem side down. Place under the broiler at the highest rack setting and broil two to five minutes, until charred on one side. Turn over and broil on the other side for two to five minutes, until charred on the other side. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender, tipping in any juice that has accumulated on the baking sheet. Add the chilies, cilantro sprigs and salt to the blender and blend to a coarse purée.

2. Cut the avocados in half and twist the two halves apart. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl or the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Mash with a fork or pestle. Do not use a food processor or a blender, as you want to retain some texture. Stir in the lime juice, the tomatillo mixture and salt to taste and combine well. Transfer to a bowl and serve with baked or microwaved tortilla chips or crudités, or use for tacos or avocado sandwiches.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups, serving six.

Advance preparation: This will hold for a couple of hours in the refrigerator but is best eaten soon after preparing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cellar report: 2002 St. Innocent "Shea Vineyard" Pinot Noir

Given my usual thirst, a half bottle of pinot noir shared would barely put a dent in my pleasure center. But when it's a half bottle from Oregon winemaker Mark Vlossak and it's from arguably the finest pinot noir vineyard in Oregon, then for once less is more. I've had these half bottles down in the basement for years, and every time I pull one out I am constantly amazed at how youthful they are. St. Innocent has a reputation for producing some of Oregon's most age-worthy pinots, a rep that I can wholeheartedly vouch for. With way too many Oregon producers making pinots that speak more to the availability of discretionary income on the winery owners part (i.e.- forests of new oak), Mark has always, to borrow some '70s vernacular, just kept on keeping on. Pure, perfectly ripe fruit, a very judicious layer of oak, acids and tannins that are always in balance. This St. Innocent '02 "Shea Vineyard" was right out of the bottle practically screaming "I'm from OREGON, dammit!" It has the classic strawberry, plum, and spice aromas and flavors. With the passing of eight years, this bottle is really starting to show some secondary development. The fruit is all there, but hits of earthiness and darker cherry notes are coming through, making something that started out in its youth so good, so much better. The mouthfeel is full and rich, the finish is long and lush, the smile on my face is wide and true. Even in the 375ml format, I suspect that this beauty will continue to provide pleasure for the next 5-8 years, maybe longer. I'm all about the wine LTR, so I'll let you know how we get along, okay?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time well spent

In just five short hours, you can go from this....
to this....
to this....
....and end up with the best, sweetest, freshest tomato sauce you'll ever taste. Even though tomatoes seem to be in over-abundance...I harvested 18 pounds off of three plants Sunday morning...soon enough the season will have run its course and you'll be kicking yourself for not preparing for the long, cold winter nights ahead when the only cure is a dose of summer. I posted this recipe almost exactly a year ago, and it bears repeating, as last night w and I made up the last batch of last years sauce and it was heavenly.
*** *** *** *** ***
Slow Roasted, Herb Scented Tomato Sauce
an E.D.T. original

Destem tomatoes and cut in half. Arrange on foil that has been placed on top of grill grate (poke several holes in foil to facilitate smoke seepage). Arrange tomatoes on top as shown above. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt on tomatoes and top with sprigs of thyme. Place grill over medium-hot fire, arrange soaked rosemary sprigs around the outside of the coals (not on top of them as they'll burn to quickly), cover grill and let roast for four or five hours. To maintain a good temp, close top and bottom vents halfway (you may need to replenish the charcoal to maintain the temperature). When done, carefully slide tomatoes off of grill with spatula into large bowl. When cool place tomatoes in food processor in batches and purée until smooth. Portion into freezer containers, place in freezer, and wait for winter! You can also do this in a 250* oven, but you’ll lose out on the herb-tinged smokiness that takes this sauce over the top.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A day in the life of The French Laundry

This is great reading for all food obessives. San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Sophie Brickman is doing a series of behind-the-scenes, in-the-kitchen looks at some of the Chronicles four star restaurants. Starting with the Everest of restaurants, her first report is on a day in the life of Thomas Keller's French Laundry. Absolutely stellar, appetite whetting reporting that will show you just how much effort goes into food that has to perfect, every time out of the pass through. Find out what it takes to work at arguably the best restaurant on the planet, with the world's finest ingredients at your disposal. Loved it!

picture from the SF Chronicle

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everything's better with bacon!

Like I need to tell you that. Going with the "health" theme of the last post, wherein I sought out greater personal well being by slathering a piece of fish with butter, why not go all in and sauté some home grown collards in bacon "juice". I call it juice; w calls it grease. I'm sure you'd agree my way is much healthier!

My garden has been supplying a ginormous amount of greens this summer. I haven't had to supplement our green intake with anything from the store for months, which is more satisfying than I can tell you. Plus our garden greens have such a nice texture. Much softer than any store bought organic produce that gets grown on the factory farms that supply most organic grocery chains. Collards are like the rabbits of the garden world. I planted five little plants, which seemed quite manageable. Next thing you know I'm leaving bundles of collards, from the plants pictured at the top (that's just one plant, btw), on the neighbors and searching for new things to do with all the abundance. I hadn't done this, and I have to say "this" may be the best version yet. Sure the bacon...or pancetta in our example...helped, but also cutting the big leaves into tiny ribbons and sautéing them super fast added a wonderful freshness and a perfect bite. I would guess that even people who swear they hate greens would find something to love with these!
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Collard Greens Miniera
adapted from epicurious/Gourmet Magazine

active time: 25 min/ start to finish: 25 min
yield: makes 4 servings

1 1/4 lb collard greens, halved lengthwise and stems and center ribs
4-6 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped

Stack collard-leaf halves and roll crosswise into a cigar shape. Cut
crosswise into very thin slices (no thicker than 1/4 inch) with a sharp
knife. Cook bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat,
stirring, until crisp. Add collards, tossing to coat, and cook until just
bright green, about 60 to 90 seconds. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Hello doctor, this is BB's heart calling..........."

My last four dinners before last night: Ragu Antica (a post on that saucy wonder in the next week, I promise) with beef, pork, veal, & chicken liver; a perfect grilled burger & fries from Castagna Café; slow roasted pork shoulder with potato salad & bacon; leftover slow roasted pork shoulder. Throw in a few sides of wine, cocktails, and desserts. What I first notice about that list is that I had better schedule an angioplasty before my heart explodes out of my chest. Second, last night's craving for some sort of fish...anything but red meat...shouldn't come as any surprise. Hence, the picture of the broiled salmon you see above. I got the recipe from epicurious, which in this age of C-boy and his 8 month old world of distraction has become my quick, go-to source for new inspirations. It seems lately that even finding time to look through the cookbooks collecting dust on my kitchen shelf takes too much time. With epi I can sit at "work" and figure out what will be on my plate that night. This isn't a plug for epicurious, it's more of a confession of my own laziness and lack of time management.

Trying for the healthiest alternative I searched "broiled salmon". Now, I know that nothing is easier than broiling salmon. I just wanted to see what other ideas were out there. How I started out with such good intentions and ended up with two salmon fillets slathered deliciously in a tarragon butter sauce should come as no surprise. Apparently it is time to acknowledge that I have zero self-control. I'm just hoping that those Omega-3's that supposedly infuse salmon with its health giving powers can counteract 3 tablespoons of butter. At least I added to the health quotient with that pile of collard greens you see lurking behind the fillet. I'll blog the recipe tomorrow for those, which turned out to be perhaps the best collard preparation I've had. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I sautéed then in pancetta fat........oh, god, help me..............
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Broiled Salmon with Tarragon Butter
from epicurious/Bon Appétit

yield: 2 servings; can be doubled or tripled

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper
2 1-inch-thick salmon fillets
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled

Preheat broiler. Melt butter with lemon juice in small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add generous amount of pepper. Arrange salmon skin side down on broilerproof pan. Brush with half of butter mixture. Season with salt. Broil without turning until just cooked through. Transfer to plates. Add tarragon to remaining butter. Spoon over salmon and serve.