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I looked up at the calendar today and realized it is the first day of fall.  I am so not ready to say goodbye to the warm, long days of summer.  Nor am I ready for the onset of winter squashes about to hit the market. I still want tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and basil!  Is it really over?

I was about to share with you my last hold on to summer – a gazpacho I made this week – only to realize I already shared a gazpacho recipe last year, here.  I only make it once a year, probably because we end up eating it for every meal for the next four days, but it always screams summer.  If you still have ripe tomatoes, make it before they are all gone.

In hope to find something else to share, I looked in my photo archives for another dish that has defined our meals this summer and realized I hadn’t told you about my new favorite vegetable: Padron peppers.  They are these tiny Spanish peppers with just a hint of spiciness and are DEVINE when grilled or sauteed.

The first time I made them, to pair with this flank steak, I was trying to save some for Erik when he came home from work. Instead, I ate all of them and then called him to tell him just how good they were.  He, strangely, didn’t appreciate hearing about food he might have liked if I hadn’t eaten it all. Weird.

Making them is simple.  First, I tossed them in a bit of olive oil before putting them on the grill.

They stay on the grill for about 2-3 minutes a side, just until they start to blister a bit and the skins darken.

Then, I just sprinkled them with coarse kosher salt and gave them a quick toss.  (If you want to cook them in a saute pan, no prob, I had the same delicious result.  Heat up some olive oil on medium-high, throw in the peppers for a couple minutes until they start to blister, salt, and serve.)

Next, I ate them out of this bowl. I have made them again with shavings of parmesan cheese, which was delicious but not necessary.  I just saw them this week at the farmers’ market and may have to have them one more time as a last farewell to summer.

What are you doing to say goodbye to my favorite season?

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Last year when I started canning, I had a only one goal: to put up as many tomatoes as I could. (For those not caught up on your canning lingo, “put up” is ole-timey way of saying “can”.) I tracked what I used from my pantry the year before and realized I went through way more cans of tomatoes than anything else.  Black beans and tuna were a close second, but I am definitely not at a point where I feel comfortable canning my own tuna!  So, all summer I bided my time. I canned jams, pickles, beets, peaches, and just about anything I could get my hands on until it was time for the tomatoes.

Then… came September. I saw the price of tomatoes at the farmers’ market hover around $3 to $4 a pound.  I’d pick up a dull, light-red tomato and take a whiff, smelling nothing – not the sweet, ripe, tomato-y flavor I’d hoped for.  Farmers claimed it just never got and stayed warm enough to get bushels of ripe tomatoes. I was devastated. So, instead of canned tomatoes I made green tomato salsa and sweet green tomato pickles, I found the best red tomatoes and canned salsa in limited quantities, and I waited…

This year the weather has not been so mean.  We had a slow start to summer, but the last month has been warm and sunny.  I started looking around at farms and realized my CSA farmer from last year, Sun Gold Farm, was selling 20 pound boxes of San Marzanos – the king of canned tomatoes.   So, with my friend, Rebecca, we bought 40 pounds and got to work.

After 6 hours of cleaning, scoring, blanching, peeling, and canning tomatoes we were left with 6 quart jars each, plus 4 pints of tomato juice each. I don’t know about you, but 6 quarts is sadly not enough to get me through until next September.  I probably use about a quart and a half a month in soups, braises, and sauces.

So, in a week we are going to be at it again. Luckily, we learned some things that we will continue the next go-around.

  • Two water bath canners are necessary for this many tomatoes.  The quart jars take 45 minutes to process and if you had to wait to sterilize new jars in between you are looking at an additional 30-45 minutes just waiting for water to boil.
  • When using two water bath canners, setting one up outside is the nicest thing in the world. I am so happy Erik let us use his camping stove for this.
  • An assembly line is key and rotating jobs frequently will decrease back and shoulder pain as well as increase tolerance for tomatoes.
  • I may purchase a food mill between now and next weekend.  We made tomato juice by straining the leftover skins and seeds and then cooking down, but I bet we can get more out of it if we processed through a food mill. I am thinking of buying this one. What do you think? Does anyone own a food mill and love it?  Should I stay away from the OXO version?
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Do you ever find that different people are constantly coming to you with the same question? I have friends who I turn to when I want to know how to sew something and others I ask how to keep my plants alive. And Erik probably has to answer more of my medical questions than he does his own patients.

I am known to my friends as the one who recommends where to go out to eat. I have lists in my head of restaurants. Lists that include where to bring people from out of town, where to grab a quick lunch, where you should go on your anniversary… So many lists, in fact, that I thought I should compile them here.

My favorite list to make is the one that involves people visiting from out of town. This is my favorite because you have a limited amount of time to cram down the best food Portland has to offer. And it is worth it.

This posts list is… Drumroll please…

Where should I take out-of-towners for brunch?

 

Unfortunately for non-natives, the experience of waiting two hours to get a table isn’t that appealing. I don’t mind so much at dinner when I can grab a cocktail and snack on something, but waiting for breakfast is not my favorite. Unfortunately, this is when waits are usually the longest. So I either go early, on a weekday, or pick some non-typical spots.

Broder: Scandinavian Deliciousness on SE Clinton

This is one of my favorite brunch places in town. If you aren’t well-versed in Scandinavian dishes think smoked trout hash; Danish pancakes that are way more like donuts than pancakes; breakfast boards piled high with walnut toast, cheese, ham, and a perfectly cooked egg; and roasted apples. The flavors are just unusual enough to be delightfully different, but not so unusual that you find yourself sticking out your tongue wondering what in hell it just tasted. Oh, and if you are there later in the day and want some lunch, the Swedish meatballs make Ikea’s taste like they come from a furniture store. Oh wait, they do.

Stats

Seating: Limited, no reservations

Wait: Long, coffee provided for free and seating next door at bar while waiting

Price: A little spendy for breakfast, but not crazy.

www.broderpdx.com

Simpatica: Foodies Do Brunch


This place is only open on Sundays for brunch (they do catering and an amazing dinner on the weekends as well). The wait is looo-ooong, but the food is worth it. They serve a typical NW breakfast with a seasonal rotating menu. Once I had this roasted beet and carrot hash, with a fried egg on top, that was so fantastic I had to recreate it, here. And as an eggs benedict groupie, their’s can compete with the best in town. Also, their Bloody Mary is not too shabby if you are into that sort of thing.

Stats

Seating: Family style, reservations only for 8 or more

Wait: I’ll say it again looo-ooong, but they provide coffee in the hallway while you stand there starving.

Price: Surprisingly reasonable. Not cheap for breakfast, but for the quality it is amazing.

www.simpaticacatering.com

Tasty n’ Sons: Tapas for breakfast?

Okay, so this place won restaurant of the year last year, and for a good reason. It is scrumptious. Brunch here will not help you lose the last five pounds, so swear off your diet for at least one morning. My only complaint is about the tapas style of serving. Food comes out as it is ready, not when the entire table’s food is up. For some reason, sharing two slices of french toast with a berry compote and whipped cream with four people just feels wrong. It is also wrong for three people to get their food ten minutes before the fourth person, leaving him to drool on the table while staring at the kitchen, hoping his food is up next. So, if you go, plan on ordering as a table and sharing. Oh, and get the shakshuka, a tomato stew with sausage and baked eggs. I have had it at both breakfast and dinner and it is fan-fricken-tastic.

Stats

Seating: Family style and individual tables. Large place.

Wait: So long that I have been turned away, saying they will not have any tables until breakfast ends. You can walk around a bit and get coffee or shop at some cute stores. Go early or on weekdays.

Price: Probably the most expensive of my brunch options, considering the tapas style makes you want to order everything off the menu. Worth it.

Tasty n sons

Subrosa: When you aren’t in the mood for the hype.

This is a tiny Italian restaurant up the street from my house and I probably go here more for breakfast than any other restaurant on the weekend. The food is good and simple, the service always friendly (helps that my book club/former Brownie trooper is a server – Hi Erin!), and the wait is typically non-existent. I am sure every neighborhood has a brunch spot like this, but this is mine. I once recreated one of their dishes, Ma’s Breakfast Bowl, on this here blog because I just love the healthy dish. The scrambles are good and always look out for the specials, because they are yummy.

Stats

Seating: Limited, but nice option for one large group. Call ahead.

Wait: 2 minutes at most?

Price: Great

www.subrosapdx.com

Fehrenbacher Hof: A coffee shop with one killer egg sandwich

This Goose Hollow coffee shop is a quaint and quirky collection of books, furniture, and patrons that welcomes you to skip work and hang out all day. It serves a few things for breakfast, but the best thing they make is a breakfast sandwich. Egg, cheddar cheese, ham (sausage or veggie sausage), tomato, and this AMAZING Rueben sauce made next door at the Goose Hollow Inn. I love that sandwich so much I drive across town in my pajamas to get it. Also, their pastries are yummy and I hear the breakfast burrito is a nice sandwich alternative.

Stats

Seating: Victorian house turned coffee shop: small, but with plenty of casual seating

Wait: As long as it takes them to fire up the broiler and make me my sandwich!

Price: Cheap-o

Fehrenbacher on Yelp

Portland Farmer’s Market: Something for Everyone!

As you may imagine from my partial locavore lifestyle, I spend some time each week at the farmers’ market. Typically, I go by myself to grab the farm-fresh eggs and plump, bruise-free berries before anyone else. But, when I am lucky enough to drag someone with me, I also make them eat breakfast. There are so many options, I can’t possibly list them all, so I will just name off a few of my favorites.

Pine State Biscuits: Their egg, fried chicken, cheese, and mushroom-gravy biscuit sandwich is so popular they now have two store fronts in SE and NE Portland. This thing will blow your socks off.

http://pinestatebiscuits.com/

Verde Cocina: This is Mexican/NW fusion is the smartest combination I have seen since salted caramel. They take farm-fresh produce and cook it with Mexican flavors and styles. The Huevos Rancheros with a white bean and garbanzo mash, piles of sauteed carrots and kale, and free-range eggs is healthy without tasting healthy. My favorite…

http://www.verdecocinamarket.com/

Tastebud: These people make wood-fired bagels and pizza right in the market. The bagel toppings are scrumptious and if you are having the kind of morning that requires pizza, this one hits the spot. They always mix it up at Tastebud, so try their seasonal pizza or rhubarb lemonade.

www.tastebudfarm.com

Portland Farmers’ Market Stats

Seating: Benches, grass, standing… Whatever you want.

Wait: Longest at Pine State and shortest at Tastebud

Price: Reasonable

http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/

The Big Egg: A Blind Recommendation.

In all truthfulness, I have never been to The Big Egg, but this food cart in the Mississippi Marketplace pod is rumored to have the best egg sandwich in town. I was going to try it out before posting, but apparently they are closed due to a death in the family for a few weeks. Luckily, the four over-the-top gushy recommendations for the cart have inspired me to include it on this list. Partly because it is made from a food cart and people visiting Portland should visit a food cart at least once. I will update this once I get a chance to sink my teeth into one of those famous sandwiches.

Stats

Seating: Ample outdoor seating

Wait: Rumors say LONG – like 45 minutes for a breakfast sandwich!

Price: Great

Big Egg Facebook

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At a typical Thanksgiving dinner, my family serves cranberry sauce.  You know the one, right? It usually is in the shape of the can?  Gelatinous? Yeah, you know it.

As soon as I saw cranberries at the farmers’ market, I set out to find a different cranberry sauce recipe – one that was still reminiscent of the classic, but with a fresh twist.

The recipe I found uses oranges, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, and at the end… some apricot brandy.

Fresh, easy, and a little less can-shaped.  And you don’t even have to can it!  The sauce should keep in the fridge for a couple months.

Drunken Cranberry Relish
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup water
4 cups of fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/2 orange, peeled, membrane and seeds removed, finely chopped,
Zest from one orange
4 whole cloves
3 inch cinnamon stick
1/2 cup of apricot brandy

Bring sugar and water to a boil – let boil for three minutes without stirring. Add in cranberries, orange pieces, zest, cloves, and cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat – for 5-6 minutes until cranberries burst. Remove from heat and stir in the apricot brandy. If eating immediately, continue to cook on medium for another ten minutes. This should keep for up to two months in the fridge.

If canning, leave 1/4 head space and release air bubbles. Process for ten minutes.

*This does not include full canning procedures – always use proper sterilization and jar-sealing techniques.

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On road trips, I often find myself staring out the windows at crops planted near the freeway. Sadly, I can rarely identify any of them. Whenever I go to a farm and have to pick things, beside the obvious, I have to look at the signs to know where to go! Corn, tomatoes, strawberries – those I know. When it comes to other plants, uuuhhhhhhhh.

So when the one came in my CSA – I had to look close before figuring out what it was…

Yup. Edamame. Edamame of the hairy variety.

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I looked out my window today and noticed all the leaves have fallen from the trees around my house.  Each year, I find myself begging the gods for just a few more weeks of leaves.  Without them around to green up my view, I just feel like hibernating until cherry blossom time.

Although, there is an upside to the leafless time of year.  The food!  We get to eat fall, comfort food – braised meat, soups, desserts, mmmm….

Each year around this time, I make a treat that just tastes like the holidays.

Sugared cranberries.  They manage to be sweet and exceptionally tart, a little like sour patch kids, and I love them. The recipe is really easy, just takes some (hands-off) time, and you’ll be glad you have them around to snack on.

First, you bring to a boil 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, and the juice from one orange.  Let sit ten minutes, and then pour in 2 cups of fresh cranberries.

Put a lid on this and place in the fridge overnight.

Next, drain the cranberries in a colander over a container to collect the juice. (My experience has taught me to really let these guys drain.  Last time I let them sit in the sink, giving a shake every now and again, for about a half hour.)

Fill a shallow pan with super fine sugar and add in the cranberries. Toss to coat.

Use a spatula to transfer the sugared cranberries to a rimmed baking sheet and let dry for an hour.

Now – store these in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  They should keep for a week!

Oh, and that liquid you saved?

Use it in cocktails over the holidays – cranberry simple syrup!  I will let you know when we figure out a drink you must make with your bounty. I am guessing it is going to be pink.

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I can’t remember the last time I was at the store and chose to buy applesauce.  For a purpose that didn’t involve sickness or maybe someone’s baby.  It just isn’t a food I consider eating – especially when I could just eat that whole apple sitting in my fruit bowl.

Then, I made my own.

It changes it when you make it yourself – the applesauce tastes, for lack of a better (non)word, more apple-y. Plus, you can control the sugar (in my case, just a touch of honey), spices, and consistency.

First, you have to find the best apples for sauce. I went to the farmers’ market on Saturday with my friend, Ellen (hiiiiii!), and we tasted a few before landing on some special apples. They were tart and tasty… And I would tell you the type of apple, but I immediately forgot. Sorry, guys. But, there are so many apples out there! I am sure your grocer will recommend a good one for sauce.

The next day I invited over my canning buddy/friend, Rebecca (hiiiii to you, too! Anyone notice Erik is out of town and I am trying to squeeze in as much human interaction as possible?)

She brought some Granny Smith’s, so we made two batches, or 10 pints, of applesauce.

Making sauce is very easy, but there is a lot of time standing around and stirring occasionally. Having a friend there just makes it better.  But, when doesn’t it?

If you want to make some at home and not can them, do it!  You can keep it in the fridge for at least three weeks.  You may want to half the recipe, but it will be worth it.

Honeyed Applesauce
Slightly adapted from Well Preserved: Small Batch Preserving for the New Cook
Makes 5+ pints
6 lbs of apples, cored, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cups apple cider
1 cup water
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/4 cup of honey (more to taste)
1 tsp of cinnamon

Add apples, cider, water, and lemon juice into a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil over medium. Reduce to medium-low, cover and continue cooking for 30 to 45 minutes, until apples are very soft. Remove from heat and stir in the honey and spices – mash with a potato masher until desired squishedness. Simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

If canning (please follow proper canning procedure – this is not a guide for new canners), fill sterilized jars to 1/4 inch from top and release air bubbles. Wipe rims and seal according to the manufacturer’s directions. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

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I came home on Sunday after an emotionally exhausting weekend in California.  It is gratifying to have the opportunity to say goodbye to someone you love, but it is not easy.  One would think that this weekend would be terribly depressing and full of raw emotions, but with my family, we know the only way to get through something like this is by grieving together. With dancing. And wigs. And maybe too much wine.

(Sorry fam for posting this picture without your permission, but you shouldn’t take such good pictures.  Really, it is your fault. Fine… Here is one I am in with my sister, Lindsay, where I look a tad ridiculous.)

Anyway, upon my return, I felt like eating vegetables, filling, flavorful and happy food. What better to fulfill my needs than to make soup! Soup is the answer to all of life’s serious problems.

I wanted to incorporate these beautiful shell beans (specifically, cranberry beans) I found on a recent farm visit and again at my grocery store.  It takes a bit of time to pop them out of their shells, but fresh beans are different than dried – creamier, but with a bit more flavor.

And, they are so pretty.

I searched through some old Cooks Illustrated (you have this magazine, right? It is incredible) and found this great recipe for Minestrone Soup – with dried beans, cabbage, carrots, bacon, and some tomato juice instead of canned tomatoes.

This soup is the perfect cure to my vegetable need. It is scrumptious and healthy – my favorite combination. And making a few changes to the Cook’s Illustrated version, I think it is going to be a fall staple.

Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Serves 6-8

3 strips thick bacon, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, halved cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 zucchini, halved and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small green cabbage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (less if desired)
8 cups of water
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 pound of fresh shell beans (in shells, about 2 pounds) or 1 cup of dried cannelloni beans
1 parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cup of V8 juice
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
drizzle of olive oil

(If you have dried beans, soak them overnight at room temperature in 2 quarts of cold water and 1 1/2 tbsp of salt.)

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium and add bacon. Heat for five minutes, until brown but not burnt. Add carrots (you can add celery here too), onions, and zucchini. Brown for 7-10 minutes until soft and lightly browned. Next, add the garlic, green cabbage, salt, and red pepper flakes, and cook for three minutes longer – until the cabbage is wilted. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

Add soaked dried beans or fresh, water, brother, parmesan rind, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to slightly above a simmer (not boiling, but almost) and cook for 45-60 minutes longer – until beans soften and the liquid thickens (my liquid didn’t really thicken, but I think it is because I used fresh beans).

Add vegetables and V8 back to the pot and heat for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and parmesan rind and stir in the chopped basil. Test for salt and pepper, adjust. Serve with additional basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Want to know the hardest thing about having a blog? Writing it. Not so much thinking of things to write about – I do that all day long. But, actually finding the energy to stare at my computer screen and write. Lately, I have been working more hours and when I am done, the last thing I want to do is spend more time in front of the computer.

You know what I do with my spare time?

Can!  I can’t stop.  It is an obsession that won’t end until the harvest is done.  Each weekend, I say to myself, “Self. No canning. Do something else with your time on Saturday. Sleep in! Don’t anger your boyfriend by not allowing him in the kitchen! Stop the addiction!” Then,  I accept an invitation to go out to a farm or I spy perfect pears at the farmers’ market and it’s over. Once I figure out one thing to can, I easily justify two. Or three… And my whole weekend is blown.

This past week I was basically restrained.  I just canned 12 jars of pickles and some pear sauce (think applesauce, but with a little zing from ginger).

In the honor of canning restraint, I decided to make something else. Something to freeze.  Freezing takes a lot less time and basically has the same results: perfectly ripened, local food in winter. These roasted Roma tomatoes fulfilled my squirrel tendencies and took very little hands-on time.  Due to the pitiful summer in our fair region, Romas are the only “big” tomato with any sort of flavor this year and the they are really brought alive through roasting.

The roasting process couldn’t be easier: cut, season with salt, drizzle olive oil, roast for a looonnng time.  I then froze them for tomato-less days.  I can’t wait to defrost some of these juicy guys in the dead of winter and use them in salads, mixed with canned tomatoes in sauces, in stir fry, or on toasted baguette slices smothered in goat cheese.

Roasted Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes: Lots of them!
Salt
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half, lengthwise and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or I use a silpat pad). Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven for 10 hours. Allow to cool and, if freezing, place cookie sheet in freezer for 2 hours. Transfer tomatoes to ziplock or other freezer-safe container.

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Last weekend, on my trip to the farmers’ market for more produce to fill my canning desires, I stopped by a booth to find this:

Glacier lettuce.

This isn’t the first time I have seen this strange, sour lettuce.  Erik and I once shared a salad with glacier lettuce, peach, and crispy speck at EVOE (delicious, if you are wondering) and I have been hoping I would see the lettuce again.

Glacier lettuce, or ficoide glaciale, is a native South American plant gaining popularity with French chefs and, luckily, grown here by Viridian Farms. The leaves are juicy, acidic, and covered in these ice-like crystals that add an interesting texture (sort of like a cat’s tongue, but it would probably serve you better to think of a reference that is less weird and gross. I just couldn’t think of one.)

To balance out the acidity of the leaves (think fresh lemon juice), the farmer mentioned that this lettuce pairs really nicely with the sweetness of Dungenuss crab.  I am down with any reason to buy crab meat (especially a tenth a pound of crab meat, that stuff is expensive)!

We tossed our glacier lettuce with balsamic and olive oil, and then topped with the crab and sliced strawberries.

On every bite, I tried to get a taste of all three things. The flavor combination was incredible!  If you see this lettuce, shake up your salads with something new.

Glacier Lettuce Salad
1 box of glacier lettuce (about 2 cups)
1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp of olive oil
2 ounces of crab
1/2 cup of sliced strawberries
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the balsamic and the olive oil. Lightly toss the lettuce in the dressing and taste for seasonings. Top with sliced strawberries and the crab meat. Yum!

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