Monthly Archives: August 2010

ROSY OUTLOOK

It’s no secret that I love botanical gardens, and I’ve been super excited to post these photos ever since I took them a few weeks ago. Months after finally realizing with that Portland is named after one of my favorite flowers, I made an overdue visit to the famous Portland International Rose Test Gardens. It is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited. I also love hanging in the roses at Ladd’s Edition and Peninsula Park, but the mega garden that is tucked into the side of the West Hills has one of the most vivid, concentrated and exuberant displays of flowers I’ve ever seen. We were running very late to dinner after dawdling too long at a wine store, or else I could have easily spent all day nestled among the petals and perfume and the golden late afternoon sunlight.

Wandering down the endless aisles of prickly blooms we spotted this amazing Ren Faire girl in a poofy pink ballgown in the midst of some sort of photo shoot. I couldn’t stop laughing. Only magical things happen in botanical gardens, I’m sure of it…

PIZZA? NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A TACO!

We went through this weirdly intense taco phase a few weeks ago where we ate them almost every day. (We made breakfast tacos with leftover migas, even). What a glorious week that was. And even though I live only a five minute bike ride away from one of the best taco trucks in Portland, I prefer to stay at home and figure it out for myself.

Remember this lamb liver? We used the second liver for lunch tacos the following day. This time, we marinated diced liver in a can of chipotles in adobo — super smoky and spicy — before being fried in a pan until extra crispy. We made one other taco filling: a delicious mixture of stewed Asiago cheese, fresh corn, diced poblanos, and cubes of garden-fresh zucchini. It was a little like spicy Mexican creamed corn, if that’s a thing? All tacos were supplemented with plenty of add-ons: diced red onion, shredded red cabbage, minced cilantro, spears of avocado, squeezes of lime, and plenty of hot sauce.

(Also: remember this? “Do you know what I love about tacos? Everything.”)

(OMG! Edited to add this sweet tumblr, Album Tacos. Thanks Leibrary.)

EATING MY WORDS

Contrary to popular belief, I love being proved wrong. I admit I was overly adamant about my resistance to brunch as being a legitimately trendy/awesome thing. Although I still stand by that opinion, I also concede that sometimes I end up craving that particular meal with a strange ferocity. This was one of those days. I woke up thinking, migas!! My man calls them chilaquiles, although I guess we are both right.

I made tortilla chips from scratch, by frying triangles of blue corn tortillas in an inch of vegetable oil, and then dousing in salt and lime juice in honor of my favorite secret snack. I whipped up some guacamole — using avocado, diced red onion, hot sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper — and learned that a pastry cutter gives guacamole the most perfect texture ever. I know plenty of San Diego people who insist the authentic way of preparing guacamole is using lemon juice, but I prefer lime’s tanginess.

We fried up some breakfast potatoes, using tiny cubes of potato coated in smoked paprika, cumin, Mexican oregano, and chili powder, slowly frying in butter until crispy and tender. (So good in tacos the next day). And finally, the migas themselves — butter, fried onions, garlic, black beans and corn folded into soft scrambled eggs, bits of tortilla chips mixed in, then finished in the oven. Our migas gets topped with crumbles of soft cotija cheese, cilantro confetti, and thick wedges of lime. All finished off with a bottle of Mexican coke, of course. Hello brunch, let’s be friends!

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS

I usually like to linger while I’m cooking, really take my time and enjoy everything, but sometimes I get so hungry I’m compelled to move in hyperspeed just so I can sit down and enjoy my lunch as soon as possible. We were so famished when we had this late lunch that we put this on the table in about 20 minutes, start to finish.

Rainbow chard, sauteed in olive oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar, two cloves of minced garlic, and red pepper flakes, finished with plenty of salt + pepper, and cooked until soft and pliable. Herbed couscous, steamed in a bath of tumeric, cumin and saffron, half a minced shallot and a pat of butter, then tossed with slivered roasted almonds, dried cherries, and diced scallions. Local trout, broiled for five minutes and smeared with good olive oil, then finished with liberal squeezes of lemon and generous shakes of salt.

DUMPED

Most intense/best breakup movies of all time: Possession, dir. Andrzej Zulawski, 1981 + Bad Timing, Nicolas Roeg, 1980.

ALL IS FALLING

At the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, I was easily tempted by a giant ziploc bag stuffed with fresh Oregon blueberries for only $10. We already had a flat of tender peaches, but I swore that I would bake them all, in some way. After much careful deliberation, I made Ruth Reichl’s blueberry muffins, which appeared in Gourmet magazine a while back. Their tart blueberry flavor was delicious, but I found them a bit heavy — I think because of the butter she uses instead of the traditional vegetable oil. Honestly I just don’t think I have the baking touch yet—I have these grandiose, dreamy visions of perfect baked goods but they never come out quite right.

It’s been so hot here lately that all I can manage is the easiest of meal preparation. Spinach salads tossed with toasted walnut and feta and leftover breakfast hash. A heaping bowl of charred broccoli, kale, and fingerling potatoes. Diced cubes of sweet watermelon.

SUBLIME OFFERINGS

Earlier this summer, I was doing research for a piece on Singaporean music for Signal to Noise. My friend Hisham Mayet of Sublime Frequencies recommended that I get in touch with Los Angeles ex-pat, writer, and music archivist William Gibson (no, not that William Gibson), who released the compilation Singapore A-Go-Go on Sublime late last year.

We hung out in Singapore and he took me record shopping around Chinatown. After I returned to Oregon, he emailed me a bunch of scans of 45″s from his personal collection.  Aren’t they incredible?? I love everything about them — the candy colors, explosion of fonts, the demure, pretty girls + faux-gruff men in silk neckties.

IT’S THE RIGHT THING

Oh, the thrills of being with someone equally passionate about food. There seem to be three distinct phases to our enjoyment of food: brainstorming, cooking, and consumption. We’re always scheming about what to cook next — Richard Olney’s cold ratatouille, cheeseburgers on the grill ala Clyde Commons, Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry boy bait — so it’s easy to imagine how quickly things get out of control when we’re sharing a kitchen. This lamb lunch was particularly spectacular.

Fried lamb livers with herbed Greek yogurt: I can’t take credit for the addictively crispy livers, coated in faint crunch of floured crust, but I watched from a safe distance. We picked up two lamb livers super cheap at a meat stall at the farmer’s market, along with a pair of lamb shanks that I cooked for dinner a few days earlier (braised in the Tom Valenti stylehighly recommended, although unfortunately I didn’t get any photos).

Diced lamb livers get dredged in a spiced-flour mixture and fried in bacon grease, minced garlic, and butter until golden and crispy. They lose a lot of their ‘bloody’ taste and have the most amazing mouthfeel — really smooth and firm. We topped it with a cool yogurt to counteract the powerful liver flavor — Greek yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup of finely minced herbs (I used mint, basil, parsley, cilantro, and scallions), salt and pepper — and topped that gorgeous pile of meat with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, olive oil and plenty of lemon wedges.

Fava beans with mint, lemon and pecorino: I spent a pretty peaceful 20 minutes shelling fresh fava beans from our farmer’s market. It was my first time, and I found the monotony relaxing (not surprising: I love chopping + peeling + sorting large amounts of anything). These were quickly blanched for about 45 seconds, and tossed with generous amounts of olive oil, fluffy grated pecorino, diced mint and the juice of one lemon.

Blanched haricot vert + baby carrots: This was a no-brainer. Mini food is one of my favorite things in the whole world, and little bundles of baby green beans and carrots stuck out to us at the farmer’s market. I trimmed the beans and quartered the carrots lengthwise and then lightly blanched them in salted, simmering water for 3 minutes. I think they look so fancy on the plate!

JUST BE SIMPLE AGAIN

Yesterday someone very special flew out of Portland and left me feeling more than a little bit empty. After puttering around the kitchen for a few hours feeling sorry for myself, I pulled myself together and whipped up my famous baked ziti, which has thrilled friends, family and countless touring musicians for years. My baked ziti has no meat, is full of vegetables, is very cheap to make, and happens to taste just like pizza. (It’s definitely similar to this baked ziti at Ezra Pound Cake).

Build a simple sauce in a stove pan: the base is olive oil, carrots, red onion, celery, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes that sizzle softly for 7-8 minutes. (Meanwhile: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and liberally butter a baking dish.) At this point, it’s wonderful to add any number of vegetables to the dish. Hunks of zucchini, squash, mushrooms, red bell peppers, broccoli and eggplant work great — the idea is tons of gently cooked vegetables with a bit of bite.

Add a can of San Marzano tomatoes and stir to combine (although fresh garden tomatoes, peeled and quartered, would clearly be superior). While that simmers and reduces into a velvety mash, cook a pound of pasta (I used penne rigate here, but ziti obviously rules too) until extremely al dente and then toss it into the sauce, along with tiny cubes of fresh mozzarella. Dump the sauced pasta into the baking dish and gently layer a lacy web of thickly sliced discs of mozzarella over the pasta, and into the oven it goes for 45 minutes.

I hadn’t made baked ziti in over a year, and it went a little too long in the oven, but that can be a good thing. Once I made baked ziti in Ithaca for a touring guitarist and some friends and ran out while it was in the oven to buy more wine at the corner store. Naturally, I forgot my keys and my cell phone and was locked out of my apartment until a neighbor leaving 30 minutes later let me inside. I dashed upstairs, everyone thought I was gone a normal amount of time, I was super frazzled, and the baked ziti was way overcooked but magically the fresh mozzarella crust turned out extra chewy and crispy. Only happy endings with this dish.

AUGUST BOUNTY

Summers in Portland are irresistible.

1 + 2 + 3. Bountiful fruits from the PSU Farmer’s Market & the Buckman Farmer’s Market. We bought every August Pacific Northwest fruit you can think of — a crate of peaches, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and golden raspberries. It was glorious.

4. Sneaking into pools at the height of summer heat + promptly getting kicked out: mandatory summer activity.

5 + 6. The best scone I’ve ever had in my entire life has a buttery, nutty dough laced with dried coconut and seal salt and drenched in sticky raspberry jam. I discovered it at the Bipartisan Cafe, famed for their pie (we loved their cold marionberry too), but the scones are powerfully addictive.

7. Little Joni nestled in a golden sunbeam. I honestly can’t get enough of her afternoon nap lounging… indulge my zoom in below..