Archive for the ‘Food fables’ Category

A Rooster Crows in BrooklynPortland

Every day or two I hear a rooster crowing from one of my neighbors yards. It’s not like I live in the boonies or wear plaid (often), but this town/city blurs the line between the middle of nowhere and a bustling somewhere.

Maybe its a trend, or a sign of the times — getting back to a grow-your-on mentality — but its certainly not uncommon for people to own a few chickens for eggs, a goat or a swarm of bees. They don’t live on farms, but maybe you could call them urban farms or eccentric households or dedicated foodies.

Hearing a rooster crow, oddly, isn’t new to me (or us). Every morning in a very Brooklyn neighborhood, we’d walk to the morning train to hear the same sound. Sure I could chalk it up to a local crazy, but it was actually a rooster. A rooster crows in Brooklyn, if you would believe it.

There was a poultry shop/slaughterhouse right near our old place. Every morning, we’d walk past the delivery truck filled with flat yellow crates and angry chickens. I think Kojak got upset by the site during his walks. Or, it might’ve been the smell. You couldn’t miss that smell three blocks away. That and the stray feathers pasted on the sidewalk and floating heavy in the thick wind. You’d catch their eyes on the walk passed and you could tell they knew what was coming. It never bothered me much. I can see what I’ll be eating and not cringe, but be happy I know it’s fresh. Not everyone can look at their future food (ahem Daniele/Kate).

I always threatened to serve Kate one of those very fresh birds. Just to get a rise out of her. ūüôā I can’t imagine if it tasted better than what was probably in the freezer for a week, then defrosted for four days in my supermarket. Not to mention, with “2% water” somehow injected into the meat. So, I’m paying extra for a drink with my chicken dinner, I guess. I’d take the chicken eye contact pre-dinner over a mass produced, corn fed robot any day. Of course, in Brooklyn, I wouldn’t exactly consider them free range.

Still, it’s weird to hear a rooster crowing anywhere. Growing up near shopping malls, strip malls, department stores and a distant beach hardly hints at a future in farm noises. At best your neighbors dog wakes you up again. And again.

It’s a welcome change to pick my own lettuce for dinner and watch my cucumbers grow from little cornichon impersonators to grocery store-worthy produce. I can’t say how long we’ll be here, living with the neighbor’s rooster crow, my raised bed of green things or my home office view of it, but I’d take the sound of the living thing over that of its future you-know-what any day.

As for whatever comes next, I can only plan as far as dinner and I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be making.

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Spice Girl

How this could happen, I just don’t know. With all of the excitement about my kick ass care package, I missed one of the all time most important kick ass presents. I saw what I assumed to be a roll of fancy cookies – given the mass of gummy bears and sweets, my mind could go nowhere else – and set them aside for a moment of weakness. I figured I’d open them when I could commit to eating all of them, or at least after Kate came back to help.

Well, how could I have not known? How did I not see the signs?! What was not in fact a roll of fancy cookies, was instead a collection of the fanciest, most delicious spice blends a girl without her kitchen could ask for!

Lisa and her dear, sweet hamantashen Lior sent a trio of his La Bo√ģte √† Epice spices:

Bombay: A blend of turmeric, clove and fenugreek for my stews, fish or really anything.

Pierre Poivre: A seven pepper blend that has “steak” written all over it.

Cataluna: A mix of pimenton and smoked cinnamon that I’m probably most excited about. I might wear it to work.

Anyway, I’m super excited about this little dose of happy. A girl without her spices is a sad thing. Thanks friends.

P.S. Can you see how excited Kojak is about this too?


Purim Hamantashen and Bingo

Purim showed up in my inbox this year. I was reminded via FW that the holiday was upon us. Now, Purim isn’t Shabbat… it’s not Hanukkah nor Rosh Hashannah. It doesn’t get the attention of its holiday all-star brethren. It’s like being a middle child. Once in a while, someone throws you a bone. As if the creation of Purim’s signature cookie, the hamantashen, was creating by its PR department. “Here, we’ll make you a cookie and people will love you.” Whatever the reason, this year it got my attention.

Kate was off running the world in London, so I invited one of my most fantastic characters for a little visit. Evan came in from Seattle for the day and when I told him it was Purim, he was all over it. When I said “Let’s make hamantashen” he was already picking out filling flavors. After a day of wandering the city, shoe shopping, eating bento boxes and such we made our list of Purim to-dos based on said FW email.

1) we must give charity to two people
2) we must bring food to someone
3) we must make hamantashen (ok that wasn’t a must for the holiday, but a definite for us)

So, we put two dollars each in our pockets – the first two people to ask us for money would get it. Charity. We would make hamantashen. Hamantashen. And we would eat them. Food brought to each other. Check.

Thanks to Whole Food’s bulk aisle, I didn’t have to fully break my Not My Kitchen Cooking rule on flour and such. For fillings, our search for Nutella ended with a dark chocolate almond spread. Holy hamantashen, Batman! And apricot jam, my old school all time fav. We planned to spend our evening making the cookies, but quickly found out the dough needed to rest for 2 hours! So, how can we waste time… oh, there’s free drag bingo tonight. Obviously we’ll just go there while the dough rises. Obviously. After an interesting night of losing at bingo, we returned to finish our cookies and eat as many as humanly possible. So good. Mom would be proud.

Purim success. Yes, most definitely we did Esther proud.

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In closing, the fact that WordPress keeps giving me spell check warnings on my holidays is insulting. It’s been thousands of years, people. Get with the program.

Cheese, Kimchi and Duck Sloppy Joe’s at the Portland Farmers Market

That headline says a lot about my Saturday alone at the farmers market. Kate left that day for her London-athon, so rather than sulk and eat my feelings, I marketed and ate cheese.

Ever since the notion of coming to Portland came about (which was, frankly, moments before we actually did) I couldn’t wait to get my hands, feet, belly into one of Portland’s famed farmers markets. It’s by far one of my favorite activities. This one was at the college campus and it was huuuugeee. They had bands playing – more specifically, a man playing the blues (I have a video. It’s too big to add… Kate? Help?).

They had dozens of vendors selling anything from homemade goat cheeses, apple ciders (soft and hard), every kind of local fruit or veggie, very expensive eggs ($7 a dozen!), freshly butchered heritage breeds, assortments of pastries and wines and a few handfuls of food trucks serving up the gamut of items.

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I did what anyone would do, or at least what my mother would certainly do, which is sample my way around and around. I tried every cheese, sipped wines, sampled kimchi and jams. And then when I decided it was time to eat, I discovered a magical wonder. A food truck with an unassuming chalkboard sign and a camping grill selling DUCK SLOPPY JOES. Holy crap, what a good idea. I immediately ordered one and thanked them for being geniuses. For 7 bucks, I feasted on this delicacy matched with some sort of greens…maybe mustard… and on top of two slices of buttery corn bread. Thank you very much.

Feasting as I listened to live blues and the sounds of happy kids playing in the grass, I felt fat and happy. Then, I bought a bottle of cider and a jar of freshly made salsa, and spent the rest of the day with the boys recovering from the cheese. Not a bad day by my lonesome. Of course, it would’ve been infinitely better with my Kate.

Not My Kitchen Cooking: A Pork Chop and then a Salmon

While I don’t intend to publish everything I cook – that would make this a daily newsletter – I will put up the things I thought answered to this challenge:

  1. Is it healthy?
  2. Is it flavorful but not because I buckled and bought sauce or extra seasonings or vinegars or anything?
  3. Would I make it again (read: would Kate eat it again)?

A Two-Dinner-in-One Post:

–RECIPE #1– Pork Chops with Orange Marmalade and Roasted Broccoli
In my delightful care package this week, I¬†received¬†a lone packet of Smucker’s orange marmalade (no doubt from the kitchen drawer at work). It’s the kind of thing you toss into the pantry and forget until you move and then have to toss it out because you have no idea how long it’s been there. But, since I don’t really have a pantry (aside from the mass of gummy bears and chocolate bars from Seattle) I wanted to use it for something… other than toast.

Well, I mean, I roasted it. Ask me if you want the details.

Seasoned, cooked in a pan until just cooked through. Takes about 6-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the cut – mine were an inch.

Orange Sauce
Reduced just under a half cup of orange juice with the marmalade until it was thicker and more syrupy Рscrapping up all those yummy bits from the pan. Added chops back in to turn a few times.  And voila! Delicioso. Clever-o. Not jello.

–RECIPE #2– Salmon with Cilantro, Garlic and Lemon with Saut√©ed Kale

2 salmon fillets
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, torn off the bitter stem
cilantro paste – I usually use fresh, but it’s one of the few things I got for the long haul
Salt & pepper – the only other things I got for the long haul
3-4 slices of lemon
oil & balsamic vinegar

Season the fish and put in a glass oven-safe baking dish with a little olive oil. Rub cilantro and garlic over top. Then, top with lemon slices. Into the oven at about 350 for 20-25 minutes, until fork flakes. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, saute kale with remaining garlic, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cover and let cook until wilted. About 10-15 minutes. Boom.

What I love about making greens like this is it requires almost no attention. Just cover and let ‘er go (thanks Kindi for the tip). And the salmon takes care of itself. Easy peasy and delicious.

Sorry, no photo of the chops. Just imagine it. Good? Yum.

Not My Kitchen Cooking: Shrimp & Avocado Salad w/Grapefruit Vinaigrette

I love to cook. For some, it causes anxiety. For me, it is both a creative outlet and somewhat relaxing. It’s also a way to show my love. They say (or should say) the way to a woman’s heart…

I actually enjoy putting thought into the menu for the week and finding creative ways to use the fewest amount of ingredients possible while still making something healthy and delicious.  I like going to the store and looking at all the produce, finding the perfect whatever. I like changing my recipe to accommodate something that just looks amazing and I must buy it.

Being this far away from home, more specifically my kitchen, I’m forced to be even more creative. I don’t have my gadgets, my good knives (these are like trying to use a piece of paper to cut anything), my sauces, spices, collections of oils and vinegars, even my larger cutting boards and decent pots and pans. I mean, they didn’t leave us with nothing, it’s just the way anyone feels about not having their stuff. At home I know how long it takes to heat my oven, what temperature it actually is, and I like my gas range over this electric thing. Takes FOREVER to heat up.

But, I’m getting used to it. And I don’t want our dinners to suffer because of my less-than-optimal kitchen situation. So, I’ve decided to take on this challenge. I’m going to find ways to make healthy, money-conscience, balanced meals without my stuff and without buying any sauces – we can’t stock up in a temporary situation. I’m going to try to post some of my better successes (per Erin and Kate’s requests). Of course, I’ve already missed a few things. But I’ll recap at some point.

Last night’s success:

Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette – Under $10

1 grapefruit
1/2 lime (leftover from another meal)
1/2 lb. shrimp (it was cheaper to buy them steamed)
2 avocados
2-3 cups fresh baby spinach
handful crushed almonds (sent as part of my care package yesterday)
olive oil, salt, pepper
ginger powder (Kate discovered that our grocery lets you measure out and buy as much seasonings as you want – I spent only a few cents and got more than enough for a few meals)


I segmented the grapefruit over a bowl and squeezed the piths and whatever fruit clung to them into the bowl. Added maybe half as much in oil. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and ginger to taste. Done.

Cut up avocados into slices, added to bowl with grapefruit segments, spinach and shrimp. Topped with almonds and lime juice.

Voila! Delicious, nutritious, ambitious?, few dishes? knishes.

p.s. I resent that “knishes” comes up in spell check.

Hanukkah Harry Comes Early to Portland

Somehow, and for reasons far beyond me (unless it was the doughnuts), I received the most incredible package in the mail today. By the looks of it, my first thought was Mom sent me a care package of cooking gadgets, spices from Marshall’s Home Goods, Sunday comics and grocery coupons. Wrong was I.

Some of my dear friends (along with a few shady people, no doubt) sent me love and other things all the way across the middle states, of which half I can name. What an unbelievable surprise to open a mystery box full of goodies.

The Contents:

  • Gummy Bears – Aliya? Everyone?
  • Gorgeous Brooklyn mugs from Fishs Eddy, my favorite place ever – Juls, I know this was you
  • A Judith peep – no idea who that’s from… it’s AWESOME. How long can I keep it before it lays an egg?
  • More peeps…mmmm peeeppppssss.
  • Gummy Bears
  • Gabe in a cheetah dress…. again
  • Totally tubular sweets. Yes, I said tubular.
  • White Plains train schedule – I love this, but heaven help me if I need it again. ::shudder::
  • Clippers. ahem.
  • Smucker’s orange marmalade. I’m gonna say it. It’s the jam.
  • Cascade dishwasher detergent – someone has been reading this blog. we thank you.
  • Peacock toothpick thing from my desk, formerly the property of Kenneth, obviously
  • Gummy Bears.
  • Audra’s note on the back of the envelope.

Now, I don’t know how to begin sending love and thanks back, but I must say I would’ve expected it in a Gilt box for sure. I suppose Crate & Barrel will do.

I organized a photoshoot of this momentous occasion with almost zero budget and two furry, not helpful assistants. Enjoy:

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Love you guys!!

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