Friday, July 31, 2009

First Tomatoes out of the Garden - OLS Week 9

Hot, hot, hot here in Portland. Whew, we're just not used to this. We generally wilt when it gets to 100, never mind 106! I've never been good in the heat and that certainly hasn't changed. So, cooking meals is just not an option. What is an option is eating out at restaurants with AC and eating simple meals that can be prepared with chopping and assembling. On our worst three days this past week, we had two salads here and one at one of those restaurants.

The best was last night's caprese salad. I have to say it was nothing unique or unusual. But, all I need to say is that the tomatoes came right out of the garden and onto the plate. It just doesn't get much better than that. They were still warm from the sunshine and so delicious. With the salad, we had bread with pesto. I did actually heat up the broiler and put in the pesto bread with a little cheese for a few minutes. All done quickly enough not to heat up the kitchen.

So, here's the local food rundown:
tomatoes - first of the season from our garden
mozzarella - have to admit I don't remember where it came from
basil - also fresh out of the backyard
olive oil - brought from Italy by our friends the Dawsons
white balsamic vinegar - I got it in San Francisco on our last trip
ciabatta bread - from the bakery down the street, Grand Central
pesto - made last week using our garden basil
cheese - Tillamook white cheddar

And, lastly, because Patty requested more puppy photos, here's one of Lucy. She's growing like crazy. Still pretty shy, but making slow progress on that front.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fresh Crab and Zucchini from the Garden - OLS Week 8

We are escaping a small portion of the heat wave in Portland by spending a few days at the coast. Alas, we have to return on Tuesday morning and I believe that Tuesday and Wednesday are predicted to be the worst days - somewhere in the vicinity of 102 degrees. But, at least we will have missed the high 90's days leading up to that. It's lovely here in Manzanita.

I headed to the Little Apple grocery store to look for some fish for dinner. They're pretty good about getting in a variety of whatever is in seasons and caught nearby. There was a sign on the door that said: "Crab Today". No further persuasion needed for me - we both love fresh crab. This was caught near Astoria and I brought home one nice sized crab for us to share. I basically did nothing other than clean it and melt some butter, an obvious additional benefit to eating crab - no cooking!

Ordinarily, we have a green salad and some sourdough bread with fresh crab. But, for this dinner, I did something different because of what we have and what was available. Our lettuce didn't fare so well with our three weeks away. So, Grady pulled up most of what was left and planted new starts. While we're waiting for those to be ready for harvesting, the zucchini in our garden has gotten itself ready. So, I had brought down a yellow zucchini when we came to the beach. Recently, we've sauteed and grilled it, so I decided to make a stuffed zucchini tonight. I carved out the center of each half of the squash. I sauteed the zucchini that was cut out, some mushrooms, part of a carrot and some green onions in butter and white wine. Then I added crumbs of some Grand Central Bakery bread and a little shredded white cheddar cheese. Put all this back into the carved out zucchini and baked them for about half an hour at 350 degrees. There was a fair amount of extra stuffing, which I baked at the same time.

Before baking....

...and after

I looked for some herbs to add to the stuffing, but couldn't find anything that seemed appropriate in spite of this selection:

Since we loan out the house to other friends and family, we end up with a random accumulation of spices and herbs - not necessarily what I need at any given moment. But, it's always a challenge to see if I can use up any of this stuff!

So, here's the local wrap up for this meal:
Crab - caught near Astoria miles north up the coast
Zucchini - our garden
Green onions and carrot - Deep Roots Farm, our CSA
mushrooms - probably not at all local (but I really wanted mushrooms in this stuffing)
cheese - Tillamook Aged White Cheddar (Tillamook is about 30 miles south of here)
bread crumbs - Grand Central Bakery bread brought from Portland
Sauvignon Blanc- from New Zealand (could probably have found something that was made closer, but we had this on hand in the cupboard here)

PS: In reading one of the comments about this meal, I realized that I was a bit careless in the use of the term "fresh". In fact, most of the time when we buy crab at a fish market or grocery store, at least around here, the crabs have been previously cooked - usually steamed or boiled. So, in fact, they are cooked when we get them. But, I think of them as fresh because they came in that day from where they'd been caught and because I don't have to cook them myself.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Eatling Local in Bergen, Norway

"Pingvinen", the restaurant Aileen originally chose for her 30th birthday dinner ( by reading about it in a guide)- not knowing that pingvinen is Norwegian for penguin*. We had to come back a different day because they were full up on June 17. But, she chose it because she'd read that they specialize in traditional Norwegian fare. This food may actually qualify more as "traditional" than truly "local" to the Bergen area. But, I promised a post on local eating from our trip and this is probably going to be the best I can muster up.

We all agreed that the best approach at this restaurant was to order five different entrees for the 6 of us (as Karen was sick this particular evening) and share them around. This way, we all got to try each thing.

Dried salted cod ( similar to Bacalhau in Portuguese cuisine)

Fish Souffle



We also had a dish with meatballs, but I don't seem to have come home with a photograph of the meatballs. Overall, the food was quite delicious. A few (well, specifically the whale) unusual enough to qualify more as "interesting" than "good" tasting, in my opinion. But, the vegetables served with these items were all nicely cooked and very fresh tasting.

The crew heading back to our hotel after a delicious and very unusual dinner at Pingvinen.

In general, the food we had throughout Norway was much better than I had expected. Fruits and vegetables were usually very fresh. The bread served with breakfast, at every hotel, was full of whole grains and really wonderful. We had very fine picnic lunches of flatbreads with cheeses, sliced meats and fruit. A couple of evenings, one or more of us also had reindeer - either in a stew or sliced and served with mushrooms. So, although VERY expensive, food was a pleasant surprise throughout our trip - in small towns and in the bigger cities.

*For the occasional readers who are not familiar with our family, I'm thinking I might explain why it was such a coincidence that Aileen chose this restaurant without knowing what the name means. She is a biologist and a significant amount of her work has been with research on penguins in Antarctica.

One Local Summer, Week 7 Babyback Ribs and Green Beans

This is somewhat of a cautionary tale about finding and remembering recipes this week. I always read the food section of the newspaper each week and I also read a variety of food blogs - recently, the folks around the country who are participating in the One Local Summer eat local challenge. Earlier this week, I remember reading more than one or two descriptions of preparing ribs. And I also saw a recipe for green beans, using a little maple syrup, that sounded interesting. Then, I happened to see that Sheridan was having Carlton Farms babyback ribs at what looked to be a good price. And I got green beans from the CSA. So, I went back to look for those recipes I'd seen. And, of course (!) I couldn't find any of them. I don't know why I read things and think I'll remember where to come back to find them. I think I need to do more bookmarking of online recipes and more cutting out of newspaper ideas.

But, obviously, there are lots of ways to cook green beans and ribs. As it turns out, we have some locally made barbecue sauce in the fridge and it seemed to make sense to use that rather than make something new from scratch - especially since it was a warm day and less time in the kitchen sounded better than more. So, the ribs got the "Ooga Booga" treatment - with advice from the butcher at Sheridan on how to cook them. And, in a happy coincidence, while looking for the previous recipes, I found a nice description of a treatment of green beans in the blog of another OLS participant: Versatile Green Beans by Ami at Writing:My Life . She used tomatoes, onions and garlic (which I had on hand), basil (which I have in the garden) and goat cheese (had a small chunk leftover from the anniversary party). I also roasted some fairly local small potatoes with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.

Here is the rundown of where our dinner tonight came from:
Babyback ribs - Carlton Farms, Yamhill Valley
Ooga Booga BBQ Sauce - made in Northeast Portland
German butterball potatoes - from "Oregon" (according to New Seasons market)
Green Beans, tomatoes, and onions- from Deep Roots Farm, our CSA
Garlic - farmer's market
Basil - our backyard
Goat cheese - Rivers Edge, Logsden, Oregon

We had spent most of the week eating leftovers from our anniversary party, and had two dinners out. So, today was really the first time I was doing any serious cooking this week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back From Norway - One Local Summer, Week 6

Yes, we're back from our adventures in Norway and France. More on that later.
In the meantime, I wanted to make a quick report for the One Local Summer Challenge since I missed out on weeks 2-5. And even this is a bit late, but I can chime in on the comments section.

This is not about a whole meal, but one thing that I made for our anniversary party Saturday night. We celebrated 35 years this week, so decided to have a party and invite what turned out to be about 35 friends. We had three people who were at our wedding with us - my sister, Grady's sister and our best man. We have fabulous contributions from friends and family, cooked a few things here and got a couple of items from a caterer. All in all it was a lovely evening - good food, good friends and lots of catching up.

So, one of the salads I made was pretty much all local. It was a tomato-bread salad using a recipe from one of our cooking classes taught by Ken Hoyt at "In Good Taste" Cooking School. The tomatoes and onions came from our CSA (Deep Roots Farm), garlic from another stand at the farmer's market, basil out of our garden (survived our absence - hooray!) and the bread was made at New Seasons. Here is Ken's recipe:

Tomato-Bread Salad with Basil and Capers
5 C 1/2 inch cubed French or Italian bread
1.5 lob tomatoes, diced medium
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, julienned
1/4 C capers, drained (I forgot these)
1/4 C olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar (I actually used a white wine vinegar because I didn't realize I was almost out of red wine vinegar)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste.

Put bread cubes in middle of 250 degree oven until bread is dried out, about 30 min.
Combine tomatoes and garlic in medium bowl; stir and let stand until juicy, about 30 min.
Add all remaining ingredients (reserving bread) and fold to combine. Ten minutes prior to serving, add the bread cubes; toss again. Adjust seasoning, including pepper, to taste.

Since I was making this the day of the party, and was just a tad bit busy, I didn't remember to take a picture. But, it both looked and tasted quite wonderful.

Later, I'll do a post on some of the local foods we ate in Norway.