Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Photo Dump

Lamb kebabs were served with a chickpea sauté and a Greek salad for a special birthday dinner. The lamb was liberally coated with Balti seasoning and skewered with red onion, fennel, green bell peppers and mini heirloom tomatoes.

Enchilada night gave us an excuse to make our own green sauce. Jalapenos, Anaheims, tomatillos, onions, garlic, green onions, vegetable broth and cumin were all respectively roasted or sautéed, then simmered and puréed.

Ohh the colors, smells, sights and whit of Pike's Place Market never get old.

Brunch has become a regular meal around my place. There are infinite combinations of eggs, potatoes and scraps of vegetables from the fridge. This creations was a scramble with red bell peppers, green onions and sharp cheddar cheese all over a bed of tater tots. Served with ketchup and hot sauce.
Lunch at Dot's Delicatessen had to include another round of Rubens. I convinced the boyfriend to trade me half of his for half of my spicy pork loin sandwich with house pickles, gruyere and a generous shmear of aioli. The pork was amazing, but I can't seem to walk into that joint without getting a Ruben fix, they are honestly addictive.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pok Pok

My mouth is still watering almost a week later, hands down Pok Pok served up one of the best meals I have ever had. This wasn't your average Joe, greasy, strip mall Thai joint, in fact it was everything but. Everything was fresh, spicy, tangy, salty, crisp and simply exploding with flavor. I make it down to Portland every few months to see family and friends, and there is never enough time to fill my ulterior motives of eating at all of the amazing Portland street carts and fabulous restaurants. Pok Pok has been as the top of my must-eat-list after being named thebest restaurant in Portland, nods from the greats and a huge feature in Bon Appetit, not to mention it is affordable. This trip I finally made it. Most dishes are served family style, which is great because, well for one I went with my family, but what a better way to try everything than to split it all. It just wouldn't be the same experience if we didn't get to enjoy the dishes together, tasting and discussing the complex flavors and we ate our way around Thailand.

Khao Soi a curry noodle soup served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, cilantro, crispy yellow noodles and roasted chili paste. We dumped the whole plate of condiments into this rich, coconut milk based curry soup and ladled it into our individual mini bowl for consumption. We tried to diversify our proteins as much as possible so on we went to white meat. Kai Krapao Khai Dao was a dish of stir fried minced chicken with tiny slivers of long beans, krapao basil, white onion, black soy, fish sauce, garlic and dry chilies with a beautifully poached over Jasmine rice.

Khao Man Som Tam was a perfect mixed plate with a green papaya salad, coconut rice, sweet shredded pork, fried shallots and cilantro. And might I say, the cabbage leaves on the side were the most delicious leaves of cabbage I have ever had. The coconut rice wasn’t sweet but it was insanely rich and creamy. Green papaya has become a favorite dish of mine, it is shredded unripe papaya tossed with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, lime juice, tamarind, fish sauce, garlic, palm sugar, dried shrimp and peanuts. It is delightfully light, the noodles don’t have much natural flavor but they are firm, crisp and pick up flavor from the strong flavors of the dressing.

Glass noodle salad with the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth house-made thin slices sour pork sausage as well as ground pork, Chinese celery, pickled garlic, Thai chilies, shallots, carrot, lime, fish sauce and garlic oil dressing. I wish I could infuse that much flavor into thin rice noodles. I could eat dishes like this all day, every day. While I might knock down the spice a touch, but that is just my personal taste. The noodles are light, and the dressing is crazy good. Tangy and salty and spiked with fresh vegetables, ground pork and I cannot stress enough some seriously amazing pork sausage.

Boar collar meat was added because we were all curious about what boar collar tasted like. The neck meat of the boar tasted a lot more like beef than pork, it was tender and juicy. I imagine it was marinated and then grilled in the same sauce it was served in, a delicious marinade of garlic, ground cilantro root, black pepper, soy sauce, sugar, chilies, lime and garlic. It was served with a curious side of mustard greens that were handed to us under a pile of ice, to keep them chilled. They were a delicious, cool and crispy accompaniment to the spicy boar. I don't think I really have to tell you, but we ate it all, all of the plates were clear. We even went as far as dipping the last few pieces of rice in the remaining boar marinade because we just couldn't let it go to waste. And that is how you know you had a great meal, when you have to divvy up the last few pieces of rice.
Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup


This is for sure not the prettiest soup, the light brown color is certainly not all that becoming. But seeing as it was delicious and that it has comprised almost the entirety of my diet today, I thought it was worth sharing. I had a wisdom tooth extracted this morning, the procedure was relatively painless but I am on a strict diet of only soft foods. Hence the giant batch of soup, and the delicious chocolate, peanut butter and coffee milkshake I am currently enjoying. I had thoughts of beets, leeks, fennel or kale being used in a beautiful soup but the grocery store was almost entirely out of green produce. So I was left with potatoes and onions. Even by themselves these root cellar staples can make a filling and tasty soup, I figured it would still be better than some slop out of a can. I couldn't resist caramelized the onions until they were a dark brown because I love the flavor so much. The result of the deeply caramelized onions blended with potatoes was like Thanksgiving, when the mashed potatoes and the gravy become one smooth dish, rich with flavor and comfort. But if you were to just cook the onions until tender I imagine the soup would turn out a lovely white color. Or stick with the caramelizing and hope that the colorful topping add enough distraction that the soup will be slurped down before anyone has time to mention the color.

Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup

Serves 6

2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 quart of chicken stock
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
3 tablespoons beer
Salt and pepper

Toppings: Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, sour cream, hot sauce

1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and toss until coated in the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the onions until they are caramelized and dark brown about 20 minutes.
2. While the onions are cooking bring the chicken stock to a boil in a stock pot and add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender.
3. When the onions are just about ready add the garlic and fennel seeds, stir and let sit for two more minutes.
4. Add the onions to the pot with the chicken stock and potatoes.
5. Pour the beer in the onion skillet, scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any delicious onion bits. Pour the beer into the stock pot.
6. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or let it cool a bit and puree it in small batches in a blender.
7. Season with salt and pepper. Top with desired toppings and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Portland Farmers Market: Winter

The Portland Farmers Market, even in the dark of winter, threatened by rain storms and flooding, was filled with beautiful wonders. Instantly after entering the market I was drawn to the yellow gold carrots and golden beets of epic proportion.
Carrot honey produced by a local farmer who grows carrots for their seeds, not their roots. He sells the seeds, and before the flower matures, bees gather the pollen from the carrot flowers and make this unique honey.
Even in winter greens plentiful. Kales, chards, beet greens and more. Colorful and full of life, they manage to survive the cold and decorate our plate with shades of green, purple and red.
The Gee Creek Mill from Ridgefield, WA provided the market with a large variety of alternative grains and flours. Spelt, oat, sorghum and quinoa flour. Kamut and gluten-free pancake mix. Rolled oats and steel cut oats.
Wild mushrooms were in abundance. Their exotic and mystical shapes and colors filled large wicker baskets.
Old school apples were like rays of sunshine. The bright reds and yellows, against the misty grey of the Portland sky. Not photographed but dutifully admired included coolers full of locally raised meat, Rogue Creamery cheese, Oregon hazelnuts and booths preparing bowls of steaming soups and platters of tacos.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Racines Cake

It is birthday cake time again! I love an excuse to make a birthday cake, you can get away with more extravagant things, more indulgent, more decadent. I get to pull out the cake stand, and candles and all the mismatched little plates from cupboard. I made this flourless chocolate cake, complete with homemade ice cream for my boyfriend. It was pointed out during this birthday dinner party, the irony of his last present to me actually being a present for him. He gave me David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert for Christmas and now he gets to eat all of the cakes, cookies, fruit desserts and ice creams I whip up out of this book. This Racines cake is one of the first cakes in the book, one out of the several chocolate based cakes that adorn the first few pages. This one is sprinkled with cocoa nibs and has beautiful raised edges. It is by all means a rich and decadent cake but it is so light and fluffy everyone was astonished. It really is amazing what a bunch of whipped egg whites and melted chocolate can do. So happy birthday, and thank you for presents that continue to give.

Racines Cake adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert

Makes one 9-inch cake; 10 to 12 servings

Cocoa powder, for preparing the pan
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup salted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, dust it with a bit of cocoa powder, and tap out any excess.
2. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate, butter and espresso. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
3. In a clean dry bowl, with clean beaters, use an electric hand mixer beat the egg whites on low until the being to hold their shape. Add tablespoons of sugar and beat on high until the whites hold soft peaks.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar on medium-high speed until the mixtures is light and creamy, about 1 minutes.
Fold the beaten egg yolks into the melted chocolate mixture, then fold in half of the whipped egg whites. Fold in the remaining whites, mixing just until there are no visible streaks of egg whites. Don't overfold.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with cocoa nibs, if using, and bake until the cake feels as though it's just barely set in the center, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.
6. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan.

This cake was topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream also from David Lebovitz, but a dusting of powdered sugar, fresh whipped cream or bittersweet chocolate sauce would also be fitting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chickpea Sauté

I really have to admit that this photo I am presenting to you does this recipe no justice and for sure does not do the cookbook justice. I just couldn't get my rendition to make love to the camera like Ottolenghi did. But I had to share it with you anyway because it was so simple and delicious and fragrant. I received two copies of Plenty for Christmas; well two came in the box. One was not for me, one was for my mom. She wanted a copy as well after she flipped through the pages of beautiful, stunning, mouthwatering photographs of vegetables, salads, soups and sautés. She didn't want me hours away cooking these immaculate dishes, that she couldn't eat. So we have both been cooking from our copies in our respective kitchens. I fell in love with this book even more after cooking up these chickpeas. Honestly, I thought that this recipe would be pretty boring, chickpeas, vegetables, pretty standard but a great side for some beautiful lamb kebabs. However, I think that this side dish stole the show. The combination of caraway, garlic, mint, cilantro and lemon juice brings unbelievable flavor and depth.

Chickpea Saute adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

Serves 4 as a main dish, up to 10 as a side dish

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas
6 cups of spinach
1 garlic glove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and black pepper

1. Heat up the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the carrots and caraway seeds and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat.
2. Add the chickpeas and spinach and continue cooking for 6 minutes.
3. Add the garlic, mint, cilantro, lemon juice and some salt and pepper.
4. Remove from the heat and cool down a little. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

I served mine with a cucumber and herb yogurt sauce, Ottolenghi used Greek yogurt mixed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cranberry Orange Cream Scones

The spotless, smooth clean counters of my parents’ house were perfect for whipping up some quick Christmas morning scones. They are so much easier to make when you can just dump the dough out onto a large surface and work with it there, instead of having to keep the dough squished onto a cutting board. I suppose I could just super clean my counters pre-scone creating, but still don’t just trust these old counters shared with six roommates as much as the tidy, well-kept counters my parents exemplify. These scones come together in a flash, they are great for a quick homemade breakfast. I am pretty sure we made these a complete meal by adding bacon and breakfast sausage, from our new favorite butcher, to our plate. How about that for a decadent breakfast? Cream scones, homemade spread and everyone’s favorite pork products. These scones could be paired with a beautiful fruit salad for a lighter breakfast, or simply snacked on by themselves with coffee or black tea. As always scones are best the same day you bake them. So eat up and enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Cream Scones adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Dreamy Cream Scones from the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped in to small bits
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup heavy cream, or half and half.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl. Whisk together.
3. Use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps.
4. Stir in currants and orange zest.
5. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
6. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to counter-top and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds.
7. Pat the dough into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cut the dough into 8 wedges.
8. Place the wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Delicious with butter and/or orange marmalade.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples

I made my first roast for Christmas this last year… aka a few short weeks ago. Not only have I not cooked a big, fancy center piece roast, but I am having a hard time remembering if I have ever had one. There have been large turkeys and hams, but steaks and chicken breast are much more common. But the cover of Bon Appetit magazine is often enough inspiration to try something new, create a showpiece of a centerpiece and learn a few things. I learned sometimes you really need to go to a real butcher, supermarket butchers just can’t cut it, literally and figuratively. I learned that going to a real butcher is really, really fun. Not only do they have better quality meat and a larger selection but the way they handle the meat is so careful and meticulous, it is an art form. I also learned how to tie up a roast. And I learned that a fancy roast like this has a lot of steps. Give yourself plenty of time, not only does this baby cook for over an hour, it needs to rest after and there are lot of steps before you can slide her into the oven. Good news is that almost all of the prep can be done the day before. And for a first attempt I couldn’t be happier. Kale, fennel, apples, onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary add color and flavor to this pork inside pork, covered in pork beauty. It is a perfect dish for winter, a perfect dish for a large dinner and a perfect dish to learn how to cook your first roast.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves at least 9

Filling
2oz (3/4 cup) dried apples
1 pound kale, center veins removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 fennel bulb diced
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons brandy or Calvados
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground pork

Pork
1 (trimmed) 2 1/2 to 3lb pork loin, butterflied (in a spiral, like a rolled up carpet). Ask your butcher to butterfly the loin or follow the directions here.
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
5 sprigs rosemary
4 medium apples, quartered. Or 8 small apples halved.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry hard cider

Filling
1. Place the dried apples in a small bowl and add 1 cup boiling water. Soak until very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain the apples, dice and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, blanch kale in boiling salted water until just wilted, about 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer kale to a colander, rinse with cold water, drain and refrigerate until cool.
3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and fennel; cook stirring often, until soft and lightly golden, about 8 minutes.
4. Add the apples, garlic, thyme and rosemary; cook until the flavors have melded, about 5 minutes.
5. Add brandy and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.
6. Stir in 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
7. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and let cool completely in the fridge.
8. Once cool, add ground pork and stir to combine well.

Pork
1. Roll out pork loin until it is laying flat. If the loin is uneven, cover it in plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound it to an even thickness. Then remove the plastic.
2. Season the pork with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Place kale leaves on top in an even layer, overlapping as need and leaving a 1-inch border. Spread filling on top or kale.
3. Roll pork into a tight cylinder.
4. Wrap one layer of prosciutto around roast.
5. Tie roast securely with kitchen twine in 1-inch intervals. Tuck rosemary sprigs under twine, spacing apart.
Do Ahead: Pork roast can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before continuing.

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Place apples in a roasting pan.
7. Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet. Brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes total, then set on top of apples in pan. Add cider and 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Pour mixture into roasting pan.
8. Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loin registers 140 degrees fahrenheit, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let roast rest for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.
9. Put roast on a platter, surround with the apples from the pan. Slice pork and serve with apples.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Apple Butter

The day that this apple butter was bubbling away, happened to be the same day that oranges were being shredded for marmalade and the kitchen never smelled more amazing. A passing roommate even proclaimed, "I am so glad my house smells like this". Apples, fresh squeezed apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice alongside the pungent aroma of a copious amount of orange slices. It was what I think those nasty, plug-in air fresheners aim for, just so much better. Like pie, and summer breeze, and citrus and endorphins and love. A little far? Maybe… But this butter, made with no butter, will make you smile as is reduces into a spattering, plopping lava like substance. Enjoy it spread on toast year round to get a taste of these lovely fall (slash early winter) apple flavors.

Apple Butter adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Yield: Roughly 80 ounces, so 5- 8oz jars.

4 pounds of apples, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 gallon of apple cider or freshly squeezed apple juice
2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Juice of one lemon

Prepare the jars: Heat oven to 225 degrees fahrenheit and place jars (but not lids) on the baking racks. Jars will need to stay in the oven for at least 20 minutes. Wash the lids with hot water and let them dry completely on a clean towel.

Make the apple butter: In a big, heavy pot over medium/med-high heat add the apples and enough apple cider to just cover the apples. Bring to a simmer. A bit of foam with form, you want to skim that off a couple times (don't obsess).

Cook the apples until they are tender, roughly 20-30 minutes. Start smashing the apples with a potato masher until the mixture becomes smooth. (It is okay to smash in stages or cool the apples a bit and use a blender to puree them).

When the apples are a smooth puree, bring to a simmer. You need to hit 220 degrees fahrenheit. While stirring, slowly add the sugar, cinnamon, mace, allspice and lemon juice. Continue to simmer over medium/med-low heat. It takes quite a while from this point until the apple butter reduces and really thickens up, anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Make sure you stir regularly, you don't want to burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. You are looking for the apple butter to thicken up and darken. Towards the end it gets a bit messy, the simmer becoming more lava-like. It will start to sound different, lots of plop and slop noises and lots of spattering coming from the pot. Remove from heat.

Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.

Using tongs carefully remove each jar from the oven and fill to within 1/4 inch of the top with the apple puree. Wipe off the rims with a clean, dry paper towel. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly. Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 1o minutes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Orange Chips

While the new year is now upon us, I am going to try to work through my back log of last year's final recipes. I spend the holiday season cooking, cooking, eating, cooking, eating. It was quite the marathon of homemade gifts, holiday dinners, dinner parties and plenty of desserts for all. These orange chips were a last minute gift idea that turned out so beautiful it was hard to give them away. But they were bagged in up cellophane bags and handed out so that they could be shared, because isn't that what the holiday season and celebration of the new year is all about? Sharing, making the world a better place, treating others as you would like to be treated and greeting the world with an open mind. A little nod to my childhood there, but for all of those out there with out a New Year's resolution, why not just strive for these principles? Surely nothing bad could come of it, only more hope, joy and beauty in this world.
Chocolate Dipped Orange Chips adapted from side note idea from Bon Appetit Magazine-January 2012

3 navel oranges
6oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, choppped

A mandoline slicer

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Trim the thick, pithy ends off of the oranges. Slice the oranges into thin slices using a mandoline slicer. Lay them flat, in a single layer on parchment lined baking sheets.
3. Bake for 2 to 3 hours or until the chips are crisp.
4. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring frequently. Dip half of each orange chip into the chocolate, and lay flat back on the parchment paper. Allow chocolate to cool completely.

The chips will last a few days, the chocolate covered half stays crisper. If you don't care about the orange side showing through, they would probably be delicious if entirely covered in chocolate.