April 29, 2008

Green dinner

Tonight we used the pesto from our local basil to make some risotto that was wonderful buttery goodness. I know that one local ingredient is a bit of a cop out, but it had been awhile since I posted and it was so darn good. We used the recipe for basic risotto from Heidi Swanson's book, but we substituted homemade stock for water. Heidi is no relation to me, though we share the same last name. We do both look quite Swedish with our chubby cheeks and big foreheads.

For dessert we used up more of the frozen strawberries (the gift that keeps on giving) on some lemon poppyseed bread from the Upper Crust Bakery. The cute little old lady that makes it comes to give out samples at New Seasons sometimes and I can never resist. It comes in all kinds of great flavors and it's made in Lake Oswego.

I swear I will update more regularly once we start getting our CSA produce. Right now we are trying, but only so much of the stuff at New Seasons is local. We missed our weekly market trip this weekend since we went to the beach instead. Since I don't eat fish or mussels, there wasn't much local stuff to eat there. Enough excuses.

April 22, 2008

Beananza-get it?

We had beans two ways for dinner tonight. (Insert bean joke here)
We made a salad with local beans, parsley, and radishes, topped with olives and capers. We served it on lettuce and ate it with warm tortillas. It turned out great. I am waiting for global warming to bring some olives up to Oregon. Bean #2 was a jar of spicy dill pickled green beans that we made last summer according to my grandmother's recipe. They are amazingly crunchy after many months in a jar. Last year we spent a lot of time and energy and ended up with a whole 4 jars. This year I want to can a huge batch.

Last night we used the "Chinese Broccoli", which seems to be a lot like broccoli rabe, in a pasta with chili flakes, garlic, and random leftover cheeses. At the end, you squeeze a little lemon on top. Credit for the recipe goes to Debbie again. Orecchiette pasta is shaped like little ears and is cute and tasty. I think pasta dishes are great for broccoli rabe because their bitterness gets balanced out. Having a bunch of it alone can taste too strong.

Tomorrow: Panini

April 21, 2008

Local pigeons for dinner

No, no pigeons for me.

Audubon and KGW have this live camera on a Red-tailed Hawk nest in downtown Portland. They have been chipping away at the local pigeon population and since the three babies hatched last week, there has been a lot of activity. Check it out (but not at night).

I know you can only see two, but the third little one is a bit of a doormat.

April 20, 2008

I propose a toast

Yesterday we took our third trip to the PSU farmers market, dodging hail and aggressive dogs. Andie the dog was very excited to smell every square inch of the ground where various tasty things had fallen, so our progress was slow. I still can't believe the diversity of food stalls there. I still have a lot more to discover. We bought fontina cheese from Willamette Valley Creamery, kale, arugula, lettuce mix, icicle radishes, Chinese broccoli, carrots, shallots, basil, shiitakes, and the first asparagus of the season. It was crowded, as usual, but I am getting addicted to buying all this fresh stuff and then planning meals around it.

Our first meal was a pizza that had a pesto base with local basil and walnuts, shiitake mushrooms, fontina and some non-local sundried tomatoes. It was amazing, and the Bridgeport IPA complemented it well. On the side, we served the fresh asparagus, sauteed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. As Max said, I am glad we held out and skipped the Mexico-grown stuff that we had seen in the stores earlier.

Tonight, we had an arugula salad with toasts that were topped with a garlic-walnut-olive oil mixture, some of the Redmondo goat cheese from Juniper Valley, then broiled. A simple meal, but so full of flavor and goodness. Later in the summer I'll make it again and serve it with heirloom tomatoes.

The snow and cold have not put us in a planting mood, so those seeds we bought are still sitting here staring at me. Maybe next week.

April 17, 2008

Coming soon to a dinner table near you

Today Max went to my grandparents' house and scouted the "back forty" where the yearly garden will be planted as soon as the ground is dry enough to be tilled. We were inspired to buy some kale and garlic starts to plant along the edges of our allotted garden bed. Baby plants are the cutest. We also picked up bean, pea, lettuce, basil, and squash seeds. We'll start them on the deck in whatever random containers we can find and then transplant them when the garden is ready. We can't grow much to full size on the deck, since it gets about as much sun as my belly. (Not a lot.)

As for the forgotten broccoli rabe, its flowers opened and it got a bit yellow. Perhaps it was punishing us for our neglect. Max cooked up the good parts, and we dressed it with a lemon-shallot vinaigrette. It was really bitter, which hopefully didn't mean that it had turned poisonous. Still tasty, though, in an elderly cruciferous vegetable kind of way.

April 15, 2008

April showers bring cauliflowers

I saw the pretty cauliflowers at the market on Saturday and wanted to try making something with one. My first idea was a recipe called cauliflower cheese. Turns out it's just cauliflower and cheese, not exactly a well-rounded meal. Luckily Debbie (Deborah Madison, cookbook author) had a great recipe for pasta salad with cauliflower, sundried tomatoes, and a shallot-mustard vinaigrette. We decided to add in some leftover watercress and spinach and blue cheese crumbles. It was great as dinner and in cold lunch. The pasta was whole wheat, but with all that yummy stuff on it, I couldn't even tell.

Tonight we used our cheese, leek, and potatoes from the market, as well as these great brown eggs that someone sells at work to make a stellar fritatta. Our fritatta secret is this silicone quiche pan that you bake in the oven. We used to do fritattas in a frying pan, but none of our pans were broiler-safe and they would cook unevenly. Nothing worse than sitting down to a meal when you are still swearing about it. Now, all is happy in Fritatta Land.

While preparing dinner tonight, we found our forgotten broccoli rabe. Time has not been kind to it. Oops. Watch this space for what we end up doing with the stuff.

April 13, 2008

It's Spring!...rolls

Saturday was freakishly warm and I spent the day going to the farmers market and then on a hike to Silver Falls State Park with some friends for a birthday celebration. Max and I found some great things at the farmers market including shiitake mushrooms, watercress, cauliflower, and a great hard goat cheese called "Redmondo" from Juniper Grove. The market was teeming with people and dogs, hellbent on enjoying the sunshine.

Tonight I made spring rolls filled with baked tofu, watercress, carrot, radishes, and sauteed shiitakes. We topped them with a peanut-vinegar-shallot sauce and a soy-mustard-chile one. The rolls were crisp and fresh, but not extremely filling, so we made some great dessert. It didn't last long enough for a photo. I heated up last summer's blueberries in a frying pan with a little suagr, a dash of cinnamon and a few tbs of OJ. We poured the bubbly result over soy cream and it was like cobbler without topping--still pretty darn good.

By the way, that lurker under the table is our farmers market assistant and expert crumb-eater Andie. She likes to watch us cook and eat with her big eyes. Her favorite recipes involve grated cheese that is likely to stray into her territory.

April 10, 2008

Happy Birthday

To my little sis, a local food memory from our childhood:

Back when we went to Waldport and ate dungeoness crab that we caught in the bay, every night, until we begged to have pizza instead. You were very particular about the way that you ate your crab. You would crack all the segments of all the legs down to the very smallest that hardly counted as "meat". You arranged them in descending order of size around the rim of your plate and them applied the lemon and cocktail sauce very carefully. The crab was only hours out of the bay and tasted sweet, though it managed to make the whole house smell fishy. Here's to many more years of tasty local food together.

April 9, 2008

Gumbo fever

Tonight was gumbo night! I don't know if I had ever really had gumbo, since I was a vegetarian when I went to New Orleans and most versions of it are pretty meaty. This was a great recipe that features our farmers market beans and carrots as well as kale, chard, and mustard greens. I was expecting mustard greens to be stronger tasting and unpleasant and I had avoided them in the past. Turns out that I have been avoiding them for no reason. The gumbo had great strong flavors from all the spices and the roux that it started with. I won't post the recipe, but it's from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I have used the book so many times that the middle pages have fallen out. Someday I will write a whole post just about Debbie, as we call her, even though we have never met her.

This was also the night to try out the breakfast radishes. I have to say that they moonlight well as dinner radishes. We used the classic French preparation of slicing them in half and spreading them with butter, then sprinkling some salt. Not bad, but I would happily have eaten a phone book prepared the same way.

I am enjoying photographing the food for the blog. It makes me take more care with presentation which translates into even greater eating enjoyment for me.

I am hoping to hit the PDX farmers market again this weekend. we have eaten so well off last week's purchases. I want more cheese too. But what else is new?

April 8, 2008

Absentminded cooking

Last night I finally made the rhubarb and berry crisp that I had been planning. The rhubarb stalks were a bit limp, but you really couldn't tell once everything cooked up. I used 3 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 3/4 inch pieces, mixed with all the rest of the strawberries, about 3 cups. I mixed them together with a tablespoon of flour and plopped them into my trusty ceramic pie pan. The topping was oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and fresh nutmeg. You mix all those dry ingredients with 3 Tbs butter until it's all mealy, then just pour it on top of the berries. We cooked it for almost an hour at 375 until it was very bubbly around the edges and brown on top.

This is when I realized my oversight. Usually I would have mixed sugar in with the berries too. I was afraid that the crisp would be way too tart. I had visions of Max and I sprinkling sugar on each bite. Amazingly, it all worked out. I guess the strawberries and the topping gave enough sweetness to the rhubarb.

Now that all the strawberries are gone, I can only count the days until the new crop arrives.

April 7, 2008

Panini in a pan

Last night we used some of our market booty to make some fabulous panini-style sandwiches. We used the rosemary bread, the Ancient Heritage sheep cheese, caramelized onion, walnuts, and fake bacon. "But fake bacon is not local", you might say. You would be right. But we had some in the freezer and it is really darn good on panini.

We don't have a fancy-schmancy panini press so we use a frying pan and then press down with a ceramic pie pan weighted with our dutch oven. It makes everything flat and melty, which is what matters.

Tonight I am planning to use the rhubarb and some of last year's frozen berries in a crisp. I will post appetizing photos soon.

Someone asked if I would be posting recipes. I will definitely try to do that when I can. If one is from a cookbook, I will post the name and the author.

For my first recipe, here is Max's soup featuring rutabaga from the other night. Feel free to add or subtract any other veggies. We often like celery or parsley.

Max's Early Spring Veggie Soup

3 potatoes in 1/2 inch cubes
1 carrot, diced
1 large rutabaga in 1/2 inch cubes
1 small onion, diced
2 large leeks (white part only), sliced longways and cut in to 1/2 pieces
1/2 bunch of kale (stems removed), coarsely chopped
2 quarts veggie stock or 1 quart stock and 1 water
2 Tbs olive oil
salt, pepper and herbs to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, and rutabaga with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently until onions begin to brown. Add garlic and cook for one minute, careful not to let it burn. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Add potatoes and stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to a gentle boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the kale and fresh herbs and cook for an additional ten minutes. Adjust salt and add pepper. Serve with a crusty bread.

April 6, 2008

Mmmm... Rutabaga

I never ate rutabaga on purpose until the last few winters in Oregon when I tried to find local produce. Turns out it adds a delicious special something to a basic vegetable soup. Last night Max made a wonderful soup with homemade stock. We stockpile leek tops, parsley stems and other edible trimmings in the freezer until it's time to make soup again. (I don't suppose that's the origin of the word stockpile?)

The soup turned out great with all our market ingredients: potatoes, onions, carrots, kale, leeks, and of course the rutabagas. Homemade stock makes all the difference. Add a little bread and it makes a great meal.

This morning we used up some of last year's frozen strawberry mash on waffles with Nancy's yogurt. I was too lazy to make jam that summer, so I just smushed the berries up with a little sugar and froze them in jam jars. The flavor is still very summery.

April 5, 2008

Opening day

This morning was cool but not rainy, so it was perfect spring farmers' market weather. I was expecting some baby plants and a few rhubarb stalks, but I was amazed by the diversity of produce and other products for sale. We found lots of great veggies for soup that we'll make tonight and eat with a loaf of rosemary bread. I was really excited to find a brie-like sheep cheese from Ancient Heritage Dairy.

We decided to experiment with some French Breakfast radishes. I don't know if we'll really eat them for breakfast, but it should be fun. I'll try anything that is customarily eaten with butter and salt.

I decided not to get any of the greenhouse tomatoes that we saw at the market. They just depress me and make me miss real summer tomatoes even more.

Now that I can buy small carrots with dirt still on them, it really feels like spring. I loved being out under the trees in the park blocks with all the other people with their re-usable bags. Only a month and a half until the market at Orenco opens. Sigh.

The dog had a pretty good time at the market, but it was probably the most crowded place we have ever taken her, so she was looking a little nervous by the end. She was especially interested in the stalls where people were cooking meat.

Lunch was at Hot Lips Pizza, which we LOVE and miss greatly since it left Raleigh Hills. I tried a yummy slice that had broccoli, cheddar, squash and hazelnuts. Better than it sounds, really.

April 2, 2008

Brand New Blog!

Jealous of my husband's multiple blogs, I decided to start on of my own. Then I just had to figure out something that I care enough about to keep up on. Since Max and I have joined a CSA for the first time this year, I decided to write about all the great local produce that we get from there and the farmer's market this year. We are also going to help my grandfather with his garden full of heirloom veggies. It will be a lot of fun figuring out ways to preserve some food for the winter and cook everything else in a tasty way. I will post photos and recipes and maybe even some of Max's beautiful watercolors of the produce.