Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday Night Pasta

Or in other words: whatever's left at the end of the weekend. This is one of my favorite kinds of meals - a throw-together. I had originally planned on one thing, but used up the ingredients to make a kick ass breakfast without even thinking about it. So time to improvise!

So I won't give you a typical recipe for this. Instead I'll just walk you through it so you can make it with whatever you have left on Sunday nights as well. :) First, pick out your protein - I had some great boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut up into 1 inch pieces) that I needed to use. Done. Second, figure out what vegetables you have. For me it was carrots, celery and onions (chopped), as well as some garlic (sliced) and cherry tomatoes (halved). I also had a handful of Italian parsley that I could use, and some delicious grated Parmesan cheese. And for the pasta - I just happened to have a box of rigatoni shells (I often keep at least one box of pasta in the cupboard for just such an emergency).

Cook things in the order they will be done. I started with the chicken (in olive oil), and as soon as it was cooked on the outside, I added the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Good time to season with salt & pepper. I also added half the parsley at this point, half I'll add at the very end (saving just a bit for garnish). By this time the water should be boiling and you could start your pasta cooking. When the pasta is nearly done, add the tomatoes to the chicken mixture - they don't need long at all to cook. Cook the pasta 1 - 2 minutes less than it says on the package, drain and add directly to the chicken mixture with the heat still on. Finish the pasta in the pan with everything else. Add some more parsley, and a couple of handfuls of parmesan cheese. Add a little more olive oil if necessary, or even a splash of the pasta water. Stir everything through and pile onto pasta dishes. Garnish with a little more parmesan, a bit of parsley, and a drizzle of oil.

That's my Sunday Night Pasta!

The Mistress

Last week I was watching old episodes of Oliver's Twist (Jamie Oliver cooking show) and one of the quick and easy recipes was a lime & basil sorbet. It looked VERY simple - and sounded delicious. So I figured I'd give it a go. I talked with Holly on the phone the next day and mentioned it to her, and her response was "just put in the blender with some tequila." Awww...Holly, you say the sweetest things. :) So I (basically) did just that. But here's why...

I actually DID attempt the sorbet, but I just couldn't get it to set. I think I didn't let it boil long enough (I'm still getting used to the electric range - it gets really, really, really, really, really, really hot really, really, really quickly). So it wasn't reduced enough to thicken up as it should in the freezer. But no loss, I pulled it out of the freezer and immediately poured some into a cocktail shaker with tequila. Thus The Mistress was born.

Why The Mistress? Well it fits the theme of our future endeavor. But more than that, it fits a certain Mistress we know and love. I'm speaking of the one and only Lana, of course. She's amazingly sweet, with a touch of earthy freshness. Yet she's damn powerful and can bring you to your knees. Such is the case with this drink. Be forewarned - The Mistress is strong and sweet and will own you.

The Mistress
1 part Lime-Basil simple syrup
3 parts white tequila
Lime wedge

Add the syrup & tequila to a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Pour into a martini glass and squeeze one wedge of lime overtop before serving.

Lime-Basil Simple Syrup
2 C water
1 C sugar
Zest of 5 limes
Juice of 5 limes
1 bunch of basil (handful)

In a pot, combine the sugar and the water. Stir and heat up. Add the zest, and bring to a slow boil.  For sorbet you would allow this to boil for 5 minutes or so. For simple syrup, don't do that. Simply take it off the heat and add the lime juice. Make sure your basil is clean, and pop it into a mortar & pestal. Bash it to death until it's all bruised and you've extracted some juice from the leaves. Add this entire basil mess to the pot and stir through. Let it sit for a couple of minutes so the flavors begin to come together. Then pour the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the basil leaves and pieces. Store in the refrigerator, and it should keep for up to a week.

If you wanted to make the sorbet (and boiled it for at least 5 minutes), at this point you could pour the contents into a metal bowl and pop it in the freezer. After 45 minutes, pull it out and whisk it good. Put it back in for 30 minutes. After that it should be ready for you to spoon out. It wasn't for me, and thus the drink was born.

Sloppy Joes

keith has a few meals that he's perfected, and his Sloppy Joes are right at the top of that list. The original recipe was from Bobby Flay,  but keith has made a few changes to the recipe - including changes just this past weekend after making them again. For instance the original calls for serving these on toasted & garlicky sourdough bread. Instead keith went old-school and served them on big, white, fluffy hamburger buns!

This is one of those dishes that makes me think of my childhood. Of course we had Manwhich from a can - but to a kid in Whitehall, Ohio that was pretty decadent. And I think I usually got more of the Sloppy Joes on myself than I did in my mouth - which is another reason I loved them so much and we had them so rarely growing up. :)

We served these with some simple roasted potatoes. Comforting and delicious meal all around.

Sloppy Joes
1 Tbl. canola oil
2 lbs. ground beef (calls for 80/20 - we used 90/10)
1 C red onion, small dice
1/2 C celery, small dice
1/2 C red bell pepper, small dice
1/2 C yellow bell pepper, small dice
1/2 C poblano pepper, small dice (we used an Anaheim instead)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbl. chili powder
1 1/4 C BBQ sauce (keith suggests using more next time)
1/4 C water
1/4 C ketcup
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl. honey
1 Tbl. brown sugar
1 Tbl. molasses (keith suggests using a tiny bit less next time)
2 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
1/2 C flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat the oil over high heat in a large, high-sided saute pan until the oil begins to smoke. Add the beef, breaking it up into small pieces using a wooden spoon. Season with salt & pepper to taste, and cook until golden brown. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a plate. Drain off all but 1 Tbl. of the fat from the pan.

Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili powder and stir it through cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the BBQ sauce, water, and ketchup and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until thickened. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the mustard, Worcestershire, honey, brown sugar and molasses. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Add the vinegar, and season with salt & pepper. Stir in the parsley, and serve on bread.

Dried Arbol Chiles

I love these. Truly. I like keeping a bowl of them in the kitchen and adding them as needed to give a little kick to dishes. And if you're truly daring, crumble one over top of your finished pasta dish for a spicy finish. I totally got this idea from watching Mario Batali - he always has dried chiles available when he's cooking, instead of red pepper flakes. Love it!

Pot-Roasted Pork in White Wine with Garlic, Fennel and Rosemary

In an attempt to prepare meals days in advance (I'm still not used to being able to go to Whole Foods every day on my way home...I'm slowly adjusting), I poured through some cookbooks last week and picked out a bunch of recipes. And then, like the true suburbanite I am, I had the market deliver all of the essential ingredients I would need for each meal. How nice. :)

One recipe that caught my eye was from the book "Happy Days with the Naked Chef" by Jamie Oliver. Jamie is a go-to for me - he's one of my favorite and most dependable chefs. His recipes are fresh and delicious, and this one did not disappoint. The use of fennel in 2 forms (both as seed and as fresh bulb) I thought might be overpowering - especially since keith isn't a great fan of fennel/anise. But when cooked way down and in conjunction with the wine and other spices, the fennel is soft, delicate in flavor and delicious. The meal as a whole has a lightness to it that is unexpected. I served this with a simple saffron rice.

Just a note: the recipe calls for a 3.5 lb. loin of pork. Mine was just under 3 lbs, so I adjusted the cooking time (from 1 1/4 hour to just about 1 hour). Also the recipe suggest you cover the pot with wet wax paper - while this seemed to work, when I checked on the dish at the half way point a lot of the liquid was boiling out because the wax paper was too loose. So I switched to a loose covering of aluminum foil. AND (lots of my own notes, huh?) I think this recipe could have actually been elevated a touch further with the addition of one chopped sweet onion - and for those of us that like it, a tiny hit of heat with the addition of a few red pepper flakes. But that's just my opinion. But here's the recipe as the Naked Chef intended it to be:

Pot-roasted Pork in White Wine with Garlic, Fennel and Rosemary
1 - 3 1/2 lb. loin of pork (bone & skin removed)
Fresh ground pepper
1 Tbl. fennel seeds
2 - 3 large pats of butter
Olive oil
8 cloves garlic, skin left on
1 handful fresh rosemary
4 bay leaves
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1/2 a bottle of Chardonnay

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With 2 or 3 bits of string, tie up your pork loin - this is simply to keep the meat all together so it cooks the same throughout. Season with salt & pepper, and then roll the meat in the fennel seeds to evenly distribute them all over the loin. In a roasting pan (I used my dutch oven), heat up some olive oil and half the butter, and the fry the meat on all sides until nice and golden.

Throw in the garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, fennel (I also chopped up some of the fronds for additional flavor and texture - and saved some for garnish at the end) and wine, then loosely cover the pan with some wet wax paper (or aluminum foil) and place in the oven for 1 1/4 hours.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and pull the loin out of the pan - place on a plate and allow to rest for a few minutes while you finish the sauce (covered lightly). While everything is still hot, add the rest of the butter and use a kitchen spoon to stir everything together (remembering to scrape up any "goodness off the bottom" in order to incorporate it into the sauce). You can remove the rosemary sprigs at this point as well. Check the flavor and adjust the salt & pepper if necessary - make sure to squash open the now-roasted garlic cloves. You can discard the skins and mix the bulbs into the dish, or leave the skins on and let your guests open them up for themselves. Slice the loin, and spoon the sauce & fennel over top. Add a few fennel fronds to the top for garnish.

Pink Lemonade

Not long ago I bought a bottle of maraschino liqueur for a cocktail I wanted to try. And now I have a bottle of maraschino liqueur. :) What to do? I started pouring through some bar books to find unique ways to use it up. I came across a very simple recipe called Pink Lemonade. It's actually quite refreshing - I added some maraschino cherries (again, I feel the need to use them up!) which actually made the drink a little pink. This cocktail is best enjoyed while having light-hearted and/or trivial conversation. No heavy stuff, please.

Pink Lemonade
4 parts vodka
2 parts maraschino liqueur
Fresh lemonade (I used bottled...sue me)

Pour the vodka and liqueur into a cocktail glass over ice. Fill the rest of the glass with lemonade and stir. Add maraschino cherries for added appeal. Note: the second time I had this cocktail I realized it was actually just a little too sweet for me. So I added about 1 - 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

Roasted Potatoes

I have not shied away from the fact that I'm a lover of spuds. Starchy, heavy, and so darn versatile. :) And one of my favorite ways to eat potatoes is by simply chopping them up and roasting them. I made these the other night to go with the Sloppy Joe sandwiches keith made for dinner (more on that later).

They are so simple - first preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut up some potatoes (generally a good rule is one big potato per person...I usually do a little more than that) into 1-inch cubes. Throw them on a baking sheet. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over top, and sprinkle on a generous amount of salt, and some pepper. Use your hands and mix it all together to make sure that the potatoes all get coated in oil. Right before putting them in the oven I sometimes sprinkle the potatoes with some paprika (like this time) for color and taste. Bake for about 1/2 hour or until they are all softened and browning.

Hip Sips

Another creation by Lucy Brennan from her book "Hip Sips," I wanted to try this one because of the use of maple syrup. The book is fascinating because there are so many unconventional things she uses in her recipes (which unfortunately can make it a hard book to actually USE - you have to go out buy all kinds of odd things, including odd & interesting liquors).

The maple syrup certainly adds a sweetness to the drink, yet the bite of Grey Goose permeates. It's quite an interesting martini and we both enjoyed it on a hot early evening while sitting on our patio and talking about our day.

3 oz. Grey Goose vodka
1/4 oz. Grade A Vermont maple syrup
1 unsalted almond for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the vodka and syrup. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Add the almond for garnish and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ad Lib by Lucy Brennan

A while back keith got me this amazing book of unique cocktails called "Hip Sips" by Lucy Brennan. I was pouring through it the other day and came across this cocktail. It immediately caught my eye because one of the ingredients is cilantro. Lo and behold - I love cilantro! The smell, the texture, the taste. And now I can have it in a drink? Why, I just couldn't believe it so I had to make it for myself!

The cilantro is paired amazingly with the lemon-lime juice. Delicious, and quite refreshing on a warm summer night. It's not a cocktail I could have too many of in a row, as it is a bit powerful - I'm talking taste here. But wow, what a knockout. And while the recipe technically calls for Crater Lake Vodka, use whatever you like. I used Svedka and it was delicious. Also the recipe calls for cocktail ice (basically crushed ice you can manipulate easier than cubes) - and you're supposed to muddle the ice and cilantro together. I didn't have any cocktail ice, so instead I muddled the cilantro and the lemon-lime juice together, then added all of the ingredients - and ice - and shook vigorously.

Ad Lib
Cocktail ice cubes for muddling and shaking
5 to 7 fresh cilantro leaves
2 1/2 ounces Crater Lake vodka
1 ounce fresh Lemon-Lime juice (basically one part lemon, one part lime mixed in advance)
1 ounce Simple Syrup
Lollipop rim*

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the ice and cilantro until the ice is slushy and the cilantro is evenly distributed throughout the ice. Add ice to fill the shaker. Add the vodka, lemon-lime juice and simple syrup. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a martini glass garnished with a lollipop rim.

*Lollipop rim - you need some baker's sugar for this (or superfine sugar - very small granules). Cut a wedge of orange, and make a deep cut right in the middle of the wedge. Turn your martini glass upside down, and slide the cut wedge around the edge of the glass. Rub the orange wedge all the way around the glass (up to 2 inches down the edge). Have your sugar ready in a wide bowl. Tip the edge of your martini glass into the sugar and spin the glass to coat all around the edge. Your left with a deep rim - about 1 - 2 inches (typical rim is very shallow).

Monday, August 22, 2011


Late night trip to the grocery store to satisfy an urge...chocolate, melted & toasted marshmallow and graham crackers. I'm sure glad my husband is always up for any cravings I might have. I actually remember that we used to make S'mores in the microwave when we were first together...haha, how funny. Now, thankfully, we have the grill. I pulled up the grates and turned on the flame. Skewers for the marshmallows - giggles as they caught on fire and we rushed to blow them out - and contented sighs as the mixture of flavors and textures flooded our tastebuds. Some things are just worth it. :)

Sweet & Garlicky Pork Chops

This is another recipe I lifted from "The Barbecue Bible" by Steven Raichlen. I'm working my way through his book this summer and really enjoying it. A lot of his flavors are Asian-inspired, and this is no different. And I learned a new technique for grilling pork chops - make 1 or 2 cuts on the fat side of each pork chop to keep it from curling up while cooking. It worked perfectly, and the chops were moist and delicious!!

Sweet & Garlicky Pork Chops
4 thick (at least 1 inch) pork chops
1 head garlic, broken into cloves & peeled
3 Tbl. sugar
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce or Soy Sauce (I used 1/2 of each)
3 Tbl. honey
3 Tbl. rice wine (I read this wrong and thought it said rice wine vinegar - so I omitted this)
2 Tbl. Sesame oil (recipe calls for dark, Asian oil - I used light and it was fine)
1 Tbl. peeled & grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Make 1 or 2 cuts in the fat side of each pork chop to keep them from curling during grilling. Arrange the chops in a baking dish and set aside. Combine the garlic and sugar in a food processor and process to a paste. Work in the fish sauce, honey, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, salt and pepper. Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture over both sides of the chops. Let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 - 2 hours.

When ready to cook (grill preheated and grate brushed with oil), arranged the chops on the grate and grill until nicely browned on both sides and cooked through, about 4 - 6 minutes per side for thick chops. If using thin chops, about 2 - 4 minutes per side.

Squash Blossoms

While at the Farmers Market I picked up a bunch of squash blossoms. In all honesty I thought the season for blossoms was spent and we wouldn't see it again until next spring. Alas, I was wrong. There they were, deliciously calling to me. One of my favorite things to do with squash blossoms is to make a real quick & simple tempura batter and fry them fast. These work as an excellent side dish, or as an appetizer. You could make an asian dipping sauce for it - or any kind of dipping sauce you'd like, but I often just munch on them as they are.

Tempura batter
1 cup flour
1 Tbl. cornstarch
1 1/2 cup soda water
Salt (to taste)

Combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. You should end up with a lightly bubbly, thick liquid. Don't over-mix as you want some of the carbonation to stay in the batter - this helps fluff up the batter when cooked.

Squash Blossoms
1 bunch Squash Blossoms
Tempura Batter
Peanut Oil

Fill a cast iron skillet 1 1/2 inches with peanut oil. Heat up to relatively high heat (peanut oil can take it better than olive oil). Pluck the blossoms from their stems, rinse and spin dry or pat dry completely. Dredge the blossoms in the batter, covering completely, and place into the hot oil. Cook for 2 - 4 minutes until crispy (batter does NOT turn brown like other batters - it stays the same color for the most part). Turn over and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes until the batter is cooked through completely. Remove from oil and allow to sit for a few minutes on a paper towel.

Beaverton Farmer's Market

So we finally made it to the Beaverton Farmer's Market this past Saturday. And can I just say - impressive!! There are well over 100 vendors and they are local selling everything from produce, fresh meats, fresh seafood, honey and flowers to homemade jellies, chocolates, kettle corn and artwork. Quite a spread, and wonderfully exciting to walk through. And now that I have my bearings I'm more prepared for next week. I only bought a handful of things, but seriously could have gone wild. And they have a Folk Music Society so there is constantly live music. Lots of fun, and I can see us taking advantage of this market every weekend for as long as it continues this summer. Here are a few things I picked up on Saturday at the market:

Gorgeous & Juicy Donut Peaches

Kettle Corn for Keith

Lemon Cukes - just because I've never had them

Called Lemon Cukes because they look like lemons. They taste just like any other cucumber, maybe a little milder. And the skin is still bitter!

From the BBQ Pork stand - Pulled Pork Biscuits & Gravy - looks horrible, tasted amazing!

Popeye's Fried Chicken

Last Friday we got drove out to the Columbia Gorge for some hiking. Bear in mind the only hiking we've done in YEARS has been from one subway platform to another. But lo and behold, we managed 10 miles. Still - we've walked the island of Manhattan a number of times and that's more than 10 miles. BUT we really didn't think about how 1/2 of the hike was vertical going up, the other vertical going down. Exhausting, and gorgeous views of the gorge.

And by the time we were headed home there was no way I was going to throw myself into the kitchen to prepare anything. So we made a stop and picked up some Popeye's Fried Chicken. I know, fast food. But it's spicy, crispy and delicious. Something tells me I don't want to have it more than once a year, but still we enjoyed it!

And here are a few pics from our hike, just to share. We hiked up to Angel's Rest on the Columbia River Gorge - and then up to Devil's Rest and back down to our car. Whew!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pink Flamingo

I'm having a grand time trying out new cocktails, if you can't tell. This one came from a great book keith got me last Christmas called "The Modern Mixologist" by Tony Abou-Ganim (with Mary Elizabeth Faulkner). It's a nice and refreshing summer drink - tart and yummy. And halving the grapes as a garnish is completely worth it.

Pink Flamingo

1 1/2 oz. Absolut Citron vodka
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
1 1/2 oz. fresh lemon sour*
1 1/2 oz. white grape juice
1 oz. POM pomegranate juice

Add everything to a shaker with ice, shake vigorously. Pour over ice into your cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon slices and sliced green and red seedless grapes.

*Lemon sour: 2 parts fresh lemon juice, 1 part simple syrup. We've made a habit of always keeping some simple syrup in the refrigerator for just such occasions. :)

Steak Frites at Lucien

There are things I will miss about NYC. Namely, some of my favorite restaurants - more specifically, some of my favorite dishes at my favorite restaurants. Yesterday evening I went through all 1400 photos on my iPhone with keith and I was amazed at how many of them were of food (okay, not amazed...entertained). One specific dish kept popping up: Steak Frites at Lucien in the East Village. I worked about 2 blocks from this restaurant, and from the moment I found it, it became one of my favorite spots for lunch. Over the years we lived in NYC I took most everyone that visited us to Lucien for dinner. It's a quintessential New York restaurant - small, inviting, loud when it's busy. The dishes are glorious examples of great French cooking, including rabbit in mustard sauce, huge sardines on toast, and much more. Yet I always found myself going back to the Steak Frites. Sure, the steak was always cooked perfectly, and yes the french fries were crunchy, salty & delicious...but the star of the plate is the pepper sauce. I could drink it. I could rub it all over my body and have my husband lick it off. Seriously, it's amazing. I've tried and tried to make the exact version at home, but I can never get it just right. I shall endeavor, and one day I'll get it right.

Until then, as an homage to the restaurant and the man, Lucien, here are the photos of Steak Frites from my iPhone over the years. And if you're in NYC, stop in. Especially during lunch when the restaurant is quieter, they have leftover specials from the night before, and Lucien is likely holding court. Introduce yourself, ask how his family is, and he'll probably send over a glass of wine to your table.

Runner ups for the most photographed dish on my iPhone: Momofuku Ramen at Momofuku; Roasted Pork Buns at Momofuku; Dim Sum at Dim Sum Go-Go; and dishes at Prune.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hemingway Daiquiri

I found this recipe in a fantastic book called "Speakeasy" by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric, based on cocktails reimagined at the New York bar Employees Only. They give a great cocktail history of Hemingway, and go on to explain that this was his signature cocktail in the La Floradita bar in Cuba. They altered it slightly by changing the use of Bacardi white rum to 10 Cane run (or a Cachaca) - BUT I forgot to buy some Cachaca, so I went old school with some Bacardi white rum.

It's quite a complex little drink, and after the first sip keith said "it tastes like an old man's drink." He meant sophisticated, like a Manhattan. I'm not an old man. :) And shame on me that I didn't have any homemade brandied cherries on hand - so I had to use the sad maraschino cherries floating in red liquid. But they were a great addition. I think I might soak some pitted cherries in Amaretto for a few days and then make this again with them.

One final note - I doubled the liquor quantity. I know, that's just how I role. So I'm going to list the recipe from the book with notes about what I actually used!

Hemingway Daiquiri
1 3/4 oz. Bacardi white rum (or 10 Cane rum, or Cachaca - I used 3 1/2 oz. per drink)
3/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur (I used 1 1/2 oz. per drink)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1 lime wheel, for garnish
1 brandied cherry, for garnish (I used maraschino cherries)

Pour the rum, liqueur, juices and syrup into a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the lime-cherry "flag" (a citrus wheel skewered with a brandied cherry).

Fried Rice

I love a good fried rice, and I've tried a number of times (unsuccessfully I might add) to make it at home. Not sure why - lack of wok? Not hot & fast enough? Not sure. BUT the following recipe works perfectly! I have no idea where I adapted it from. As we were unpacking I found a sheet of paper with this recipe on it, handwritten by keith. I thought perhaps it was something he'd made before so I asked him to make it last night for dinner. We bought all of the ingredients, and then he read the recipe and said "'re going to have to help me with this." And then he reminded me that he likely wrote this recipe down for me once when I was making it. Lo and behold, I can make fried rice!

Past recipes I've tried have always had me quick frying the scrambled eggs in soy sauce, or tossing them into the dish at the end which makes everything soggy and weird. This one has you do the eggs separately, which I love! You get little bits of almost-omelet throughout, and the egg in a good fried rice is one of my favorite textures! keith's favorite part is the frozen peas - they cook just long enough to warm through and they add a fantastic freshness and burst of flavor & color (isn't it amazing how frozen peas always do that?).

Here's the recipe exactly as I made it last night. You could use shiitake mushrooms (dehydrated), or you could use any kind of fresh mushroom - just make sure they get a longer cook time in the pan. And the recipe literally says "1 cup cooked meat in 1/2 inch cubes" so use your imagination. And I used MUCH more than 1 cup - I had 1 pound of chopped shrimp, and 2 chicken breasts that I cooked separately and set aside. And just a side note, if you don't have any Sriracha hot chili sauce in your house, get some. :) And for a quick & hot recipe like this, make sure you have all of your ingredients prepared and nearby before getting started!

Fried Rice
8 - 10 dried morel mushrooms
3 Tbl. peanut oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
6 green onions, thinly sliced (all white & green)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 big pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp. ginger, minced
2 Tbl. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
3 cups cooked, long-grain rice
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, cooked
1 lb. shrimp, de-veined, shelled, cut in half & cooked
1 cup frozen peas

Hydrate the mushrooms - place them in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them sit for 20 - 30 minutes, and then squeeze the water out of them in a kitchen towel (retaining the water in the bowl for another use - it smells heavenly). Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Start the rice cooking. My rice cooker basically does 1 cup rice and 2 cups liquid. For this recipe, I added 1 cup of water and 1 cup of the broth left behind from the mushrooms for some added flavor.

Heat 1 Tbl. peanut oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Swirl the hot oil to coat the pan, and pour in the eggs. Move the eggs around to form one thin egg pancake, making sure to lift the edges as necessary to cook as much of the egg. Turn the pancake once to fully cook, and then slide the egg pancake out onto your cutting board. Cut into 1 inch pieces and leave for later.

Use a paper towel to wipe out your pan. Add the remaining peanut oil and bring the heat up to high. Add the green onions (scallions) and carrots and stir fry for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes (stir fry - high heat, constant motion - keep stirring). Add the mushrooms (if using fresh, probably add them with the carrots), garlic, pepper flakes, and ginger and stir fry for another 1 - 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, combining all the flavors and textures. Finally add the meat, egg, and peas and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, constantly stirring.

Pile the fried rice into the center of a plate, add some Sriracha sauce (optional), and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sockeye Salmon with Crispy Shallot & Garlic Rice

While drooling over the Pacific Oysters at the market yesterday, I also couldn't keep my eyes off of the local & fresh Sockeye Salmon - gorgeous deep color! So I got a huge side (not HUGE, only about 2 lbs.) for dinner. I didn't do anything fancy - I often use dill & capers with salmon, but I wanted to taste the fish and just the fish. So I oiled & salted the skin side heavily, and threw it onto the grill. It cooke for about 8 - 10 minutes on the skin side. I added some oil, salt & pepper to the flesh side, and flipped the salmon over to cook for about 5 - 6 minutes on the flesh side. That's it. Easy and simple and delicious!

I wanted something also relatively simple for a side dish. I love my rice cooker, so that was an easy solution. I had some Jasmine rice, so in it went to the cooker. Takes about 1/2 hour. In the meantime, I heat up a generous amount of olive oil in a small pan, and threw in 1 chopped shallot and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves. I cooked them over medium heat, stirring often (with a little salt added), until they became golden brown and a little bit crispy. I poured them into a bowl to stop the cooking process, and set them aside. Once the rice was done I heaped into a bowl and added the oil, shallots & garlic. I also added about 2 Tbl. butter, another splash of olive oil, and some salt & pepper. I gave the whole thing a hearty mix, and piled it on the plate next to the salmon. Delicious!

Pacific Oysters

Yesterday at the market I saw these AMAZINGLY HUGE oysters - they were fresh and local, so I couldn't resist. I asked for 8, and the lovely woman behind the counter said "okay, but you'll have to give me a minute to get them." She had to go in the back to get them - they could only fit 4 at a time in the ice display, I kid you they were huge. She gave me to big bags, each had 4 oysters. Every one of them was at least the entire size of one of my hands - a couple were even bigger. I was in oyster heaven! As I was taking the bags the woman behind the counter said "these are great on the grill." I paused and thought "really?" But so as not to appear like she had some knowledge that I didn't, I simply said "yep! Can't wait!" On the grill?? Really?? I was intrigued!

I still wanted to open one up and eat it raw. Come on, it's freakin' huge. So I scrubbed them clean, and keith stood eagerly nearby while I shucked two - one for each of us. That slimy little fucker was massive. Not ideal for raw consumption, just too big. But we did it anyway. I threw on a little red wine vinegar and a couple of dashes of hot sauce and down it went. VERY briny and of the sea, almost a little too much. But still, great intensity of flavor. So the decision was made - the rest would be grilled. I looked up a few recipes and just decided to go simple. 8 - 10 minutes on a HOT grill, covered, until they start to pop open. Then shuck them as necessary (I still had to fight a couple of them), add a small pad of butter to each, and for me also a few dashes of hot sauce.

The grilling was awesome - not for the oysters, but for me. They were steaming/boiling in their own shells. Poor guys. Oh well, they tasted great! I'm higher on the food chain, so whatever. :) I ripped off the top shell of each and severed the muscle attaching each oyster to the shell. The shells stayed hot pretty long, so the butter melted easily. I also added just a dash of garlic salt to each because I felt the need. They were great - still very briny, but deliciously so. A great appetizer, if I do say so myself!


Isn't it pretty? And delicious? This time I heat up some olive oil in a hot pan and threw in the broccoli. As it started to soften, I threw in some thin garlic slices (2 cloves), soy sauce (2 - 4 Tbl.) and some fish sauce (2 Tbl.). Cook it hot and quick - one of my favorite ways to serve broccoli. And I totally stole the idea from an old favorite restaurant that is sadly no longer around on the Lower East Side in NYC: The Elephant.

Watermelon Nectar with Lime Salt

keith decided he wanted to make this drink - it's directly from Tyler Florence's book "Dinner at My Place." I love watermelon - always have. I have fond memories of sitting on my porch as a kid with a big slice of watermelon, spitting seeds into the yard with my sister. And did anyone else salt their watermelon? My mom always salted ours. I don't as an adult, but maybe I will next time. :)

So now that I'm older, I like my watermelon juiced and mixed with liquor. What can I say? My tastes have refined. We had 1/2 a watermelon, so keith got to work cutting it up and running it through the juicer. If you don't have a juicer, you don't know what you're missing. Ours went sorely under-used in NYC only because we had such limited counter space. Now it's out in the open, and we use it often!

And you can use a mortar and pestle to make the lime salt, but nothing beats the Flavour Shaker. I got it a few years ago and LOVE it. It was invented by chef Jamie Oliver and makes creating rubs, mixing dry ingredients and such a blast. Another recommendation from my kitchen to yours. And just one warning - this drink goes down SMOOTH. I was gulping it down and suddenly didn't realize why everything was so funny. :) A sign of a good drink!

Watermelon Nectar with Lime Salt (not crazy about the title)
2 Tbl. sea salt (we used flaked sea salt)
Zest of 1 lime
1 small seedless watermelon (or 1/2 huge seedless watermelon) - you need 8 ounces
4 ounces white tequila (first drink we did this...second we did 6 ounces)
2 ounces simple syrup (we made a concentrated version so only needed 1 ounce)
Splash of lime (after testing, this resulted in a GOOD splash - about 1/2 of a lime)
1 lime cut into wedges, for garnish

To prepare the lime salt, combine salt & zest in a mortar & pestle and mix until the salt takes on a bright green color. Or use a flavour shaker and shake the crap out of it until you get the same results. Use a lime wedge to wet the rim of your cocktail glasses, and then dip the rim in the lime salt.

You can either squeeze the watermelon through a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth, or juice it like we did. There's a tiny bit of pulp left with the juicer, but I liked it like that. Pour 8 ounces of watermelon nectar into a cocktail shaker, add the tequila, simple syrup and lime juice. Shake with ice, and pour over ice into your glasses.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Comfort Food on the Grill

One day last week keith saw one of our neighbors grilling hot dogs. He ran into the kitchen and said "can we have hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill one night?" You bet! I didn't do too much to the hamburgers - maybe added some horseradish, garlic powder, olive oil, salt & pepper before making the patties. And I got some old school Nathan's hot dogs (bigger than the bun!!).

I can't resist the heirloom tomatoes when they're in season. So in addition to the swiss cheese on each burger, I added a big 'ol slice of tomato (with another on the plate for good measure - seriously, I sometimes stand over the sink with an heirloom tomato...sprinkle a little salt, take a big bite, repeat until it's gone). I chopped up some dill pickles and onions to top the hot dogs, and we used the last 2 ears of corn to make some skillet corn as a side dish. The skillet corn is simple and delicious - cut the kernels off of 2 ears of fresh corn. Chop one shallot. In a cast iron skillet, heat up some olive oil and a good size knob of butter. Add the corn & shallots as well as some salt & pepper. Stir frequently and cook for about 8 minutes (or less if you like your corn still to have some crunch).

What a comforting meal from the grill. Max was also quite fond of the hamburgers, and loves it when I grill. Mostly because his "spot" is right by the patio door wherever the sunlight is streaming in, so it's inevitably close to the grill. Although right now he has some competition - as I'm writing this both Max and my husband keith are curled up in the warm sunlight next to the patio door. How cute! Ain't summer grand?

Ribeye Steak

Have I mentioned how happy I am to have a grill? I couldn't resist the massive ribeye steaks I saw at the market the other day. As we were running out of the house to do some errands, I remembered the steaks in the fridge. So I dashed into the kitchen, pulled out a big plastic bag, threw the steaks in and made up a marinade. It consisted of soy sauce, dijon mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and olive oil. They marinated for about 4 hours. And as you can see, I'm a sucker for the cross-grill marks, so I always make sure to make them.

As a side dish, I did a big helping of roasted root vegetables. Baby fingerling potatoes (whole), baby peeled carrots (whole), walla walla sweet onions (chopped), and some gorgeous Sunchokes (peeled, cut up). I doused them all with olive oil, salt & pepper, and roasted them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Lamb Stew

First let me just say how much we're enjoying Portland. The weather is absolute perfection (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it's going to be cold & rainy in the winter...but the summers are outstanding!). It's cool - nearly cold every morning, and by the afternoon it's warm, sunny and fantastic. Now that's what throws me for a loop. I've spent the last 7 years buying food every day for dinner (for the most part), and I've yet to get into the habit of planning a few meals in advance for my trip to the market. SO when I get up and it's cool outside, I start craving something warm and comforting. So when I decided to make lamb stew, by the time we ate around 7pm it was warm out, and the stew was not necessarily the ideal meal for a warm August night. Despite that, the stew was delicious.

The best part about a stew like this is you can literally put anything you want in it, in terms of vegetables. I grabbed a bunch of standards and favorites (I really love fennel with the lamb) for mine, but I would encourage you to change it up with whatever local produce you have and love.

Lamb Stew
1 boneless lamb shoulder (leg works too), 4 lbs., cut up into 1 1/2 inch pieces
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 bulb fennel, chopped & frond  reserved
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 dried red peppers (if you like it spicy, like me, make it 3), chopped
2 - 4 cups stock (chicken is best, vegetable or beef would work - water is also fine)

Combine the flour, salt & pepper (to taste - maybe Tbl salt, tsp. pepper) in a bowl and mix. Coat each piece of lamb in the flour. Heat up some olive oil in a dutch oven, or any big pot. Once the oil is quite hot, add some of the lamb. Let the lamb pieces sear for 2-4 minutes until browned, and then turn them over to do the same to the other side. Do not overcrowd the pot, if all the lamb doesn't fit (all should be directly touching the bottom of the pot), do this in stages. Once browned, remove and set aside for later.

Once all of the lamb is browned, reduce the heat slightly (still should be medium-high) and add a little more olive oil. Then add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, bell pepper and garlic. Salt generously to allow the vegetables to begin breaking down. Stir everything through, making sure to break up the bits of lamb that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 8 - 10 minutes. Add the thyme and rosemary and stir through. At this point you could add a couple Tbl. of tomato paste as well, but I didn't have any. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hand, breaking them apart. Add them and the sauce to the pot. Immediately add some salt to season the tomatoes.

Add the hot peppers and the lamb and mix everything through. Add enough stock or water to cover the meat mixture. Bring to a bubble, then lower the heat to medium and cover. Cook for 45 minutes - check it every now and again to make sure it isn't at too quick a rolling boil, and to give a stir. Ladle out into big bowls to serve, and add a small bunch of fennel fronds to the top of each bowl. You could also add a dollop of sour cream, a few hot pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil to finish it off.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pancetta Grilled Figs

This recipe (again from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible) is crazy easy and delicious. Pancetta and figs have been paired together forever, rightfully so. Yet the addition of sage and grilling escalates the flavors to a whole new level. The figs stay juicy and delicious inside while the pancetta and sage get crispy and sumptuous on the outside. Yes, I said sumptuous.

Pancetta Grilled Figs
6 thin slices pancetta
12 ripe figs
12 fresh sage leaves
Bamboo skewers

Cut each strip of pancetta in half - each piece should be just large enough to wrap around a fig. Top each fig with a sage leaf, and then wrap it in pancetta, securing it with a bamboo skewer bu running the skewer through the center of the fig and out the other side. Skewer up to 3 figs together.

Brush the grill with olive oil and get the grill hot. Arrange the figs on the hot grate and grill, turning once with tongs, until the figs are heated through and the pancetta becomes crispy (2 - 4 minutes per side). Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

Beef & Basil Rolls

I found this recipe in the book "The Barbecue! Bible" by Steven Raichlen. I have not ventured into much Vietnamese cuisine (I mean I haven't cooked it much before - I eat it lots), so I was excited to give this a try. It also forced me to buy a basil plant for the kitchen window since that was the ONLY fresh basil I could find! There is a lot of fish sauce in this recipe, as well as a good amount of garlic - so be open to both.

The preparation is a bit lengthy, but it is so worth it in the end. And I have no doubt in my mind that if you didn't want to grill these little balls of juicy fun, then you could simply skewer a couple together and cook them in a hot pan on the stove, turning just as the directions say for grilling. After I'd made the beef mixture, I plopped a big spoonful of it into a hot pan to cook it through and sample the flavor - good thing I did, it needed a little more sugar (so I wholeheartedly recommend doing the same). The laborious part came when I had to wrap small balls of gooshy beef mixture into delicate basil leaves and then spear them 4 to a skewer. Still...worth it. And I did not serve mine hot. Instead, I cooked them through, let them cool, and tossed them in the refrigerator and served them about an hour later. I think the flavor really came together because of that...but I tried one hot as well and it was also darn good.

Basil & Beef Rolls
1 pound very lean ground beef (I used sirloin, 90% lean)
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tbl fish sauce (or more to taste)
2 Tbl sugar (or more to taste)
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1-2 bunches basil (I ended up using 30 leaves)
Short bamboo skewers (soaked in water if grilling)

Combine the beef, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and pepper in a bowl. Use your hands to mix thoroughly and form a smooth paste. Cook a small amount of the mixture in a nonstick skillet until cooked through and check for seasoning, adding fish sauce and/or sugar as necessary; it should be salty and sweet.

Rinse your basil leaves under cold water and then pat them dry gently with a paper towel Place one basil leaf on your work surface, underside up, and mound up to 2 tsp. of the beef mixture in the center. Starting with the stem, roll the leaf up into a compact cylinder. Thread the beef rolls onto your skewers making sure to pierce the place where the leaf ends (up to 5 per skewer).

When ready to cook, brush your hot grill with oil, and arrange the skewers on the grate. Grill the rolls, turning once with tongs, until the beef is cooked through (2 - 5 minutes total cooking time). When done the basil will be lightly browned, and the rolls will be very hot to the touch. Serve immediately with some chopped peanuts sprinkled over top (optional), or make up to a couple of hours in advance allowing them to cool before placing them in the refrigerator before serving.

Dinner with friends (small plates all around)

We had some new friends over on Saturday for dinner (Mary-Ellen & Natalie - awesome lesbians originally from Ohio who live on a house Mary-Ellen has LOTS of food experience, so I couldn't figure out what to make. So instead of going for one big thing, I went small. Lots of small plates so there was lots and lots to try. Of course that also meant that the prep time went from short to loooong, but it was Saturday, I had the time!

First thing first - we started in on the liquor infusions. I used the evening as an excuse to test the 3 day infusions I had going and made notes (not long enough; too long; add simple syrup; etc.) based on the flavors. The infusions went over really well and carried us through chatting, dinner, and then Loaded Questions and Quelf!

A couple of hours before they arrived, I halved some cherry tomatoes and threw them in a low temp. oven (250 degrees) after coating them with olive oil, salt & pepper. They cooked for about 2 1/2 hours and were delicious. I also made some stuffed mushrooms (stuffing consisted of the mushroom stems, pepper, olive oil, fresh bread crumbs, grated Myzithra cheese, crispy fried shallots & garlic) and one of my favorites: Beet salad with oranges, macadamia nuts, mint, and shaved pecorino cheese. Things were rounded out with Beef & Basil Rolls and Pancetta Grilled Figs (separate posts for the recipes).

And for the second time since we've met the ladies, time flew by...before we knew it we'd been laughing and drinking for 5 1/2 hours. That's my kind of evening at home with friends!