Category Archives: meat

Cooking Challenge the First

Following up on that Portland foodie post, I wanted to show you that I’ve been making efforts in the kitchen myself as well. Not back to cooking lesson territory yet, for various reasons, but still having a walloping good time experimenting.

There are two recent projects that I’m proud of tackling, since they are a stretch for me.

The first concerns a food that I’m not particularly fond of: lamb. I had plenty of it while living in Turkey (now there’s irony), but didn’t particularly like the taste and always thought if I didn’t like it enough, I shouldn’t be patronizing the meat industry, factory farming being what it is today.

But avoiding the whole area nagged at me. Wasn’t there some way I could come to appreciate lamb? It’s one of the most common meats to find at the local, organic farmers’ markets that abound here in Stumptown. I decided to give it a chance, and bought a small piece of osso buco-cut lamb from one of the vendors at the PSU Farmers’ Market.

Weeks later, I finally found a recipe and room to roam in the kitchen, so I defrosted that premium cut from Deck Farms.

lamb cut osso buco

The recipe was from Melissa Clark’s latest cookbook, In the Kitchen with an Appetite: Lamb Tagine with Apricots, Olives, and Buttered Almonds (found on NYT here).

As always, I had to make do with a lot of substitutions:

no saffron, kalamata instead of green olives, pine nuts instead of almonds, and, it almost goes without saying, no garnish. I also scaled down 4:1 as it was just for me.

prep tagine ingredients

My ingredients chopped and ready to go…

lamb tagine

…and the same ingredients after being sweated, simmered, and braised for almost an hour, over basmati rice, another stand-in. It may not come out in the picture, but the succulence was amazing. The meat was buttery rich and everything had a nice savory-creamy-richness to it that lasted for the 3 meals it took to finish. I credit mostly the cut of the meat, since there weren’t any other big players in the lineup. Well done, Deck Farms!

So there you have it, a confrontation with one of my cooking bugaboos, and with a recipe from a book I’ve been dying to try, we are off to a running start with lamb!

For the second challenge, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next post! ūüėČ

What about you guys? I know there are a couple blogs out there who have made a feature of a particularly troublesome ingredient each month and then had a round-robin discussion of how far people got with it, which sounds fun.

But barring that motivation (and space not permitting at the moment), let’s start with the question: what do you avoid touching with a 10-foot-pole in your kitchen? And WHY is THAT?

 

 

A Portland Character Sketch

I thought y’all might like to see a bit more of Portland, my new home. I haven’t posted anything on it specifically since Tax Day, so here’s a bit more on its character, and why I’m still thinking it’s a great place…

William Carlos WIlliams

So Much Depends… a red wheelbarrow on NE Alberta St

Art. Is. Everywhere.

dutch baby

Lemon-anointed Dutch Baby at Helser’s on NE Alberta

So is good food. It’s pretty much a playground for foodies.

Ken's artisan pizza

THE famous Ken’s artisan pizza

After many months of wondering, I finally tried a Ken’s pizza (Pizza Night at the Bakery is every Monday night, and it gets a bit crazy). Delicious.

sandwich from Biloxi

A pulled-pork po-boy mash-up from new restaurant Biloxi on N. Mississippi Ave.

This fine sandwich was even served alongside the chance to view the entire crew of¬†Portlandia chowing down on N. Mississippi Ave. Those are julienned fried pickles, folks. Someone takes themselves seriously…

peach panna cotta serratto

Peach panna cotta at Serratto in NW

This panna cotta at a local Italian restaurant almost made me weep, it was so good. I’m not usually a plain-cooked-milk person, but the vanilla, the peak-of-perfection local summer stone fruit- made me eat more than I should have.

bacon sandwich Radio Room

PT’s Breakfast Sandwich at Radio Room on NE Alberta St.

This one I discovered while meeting a friend at the Radio Room, a restaurant that has defied the trend and NOT become a McMenamin’s. Its style and personality do it credit, as you can see from their site. Also, this breakfast sandwich was amazing, and I did manage to have leftovers from that colossus.

IMAG5044

The spread at Olympic Provisions has to be my favorite by far. They specialize in salumeria–curing, spicing, and drying their own meats–but if you had given us only their vegetable dishes or their chilled roasted shrimp masterpiece, we would have been just as happy. Everything was done to the highest standard and with the most vivid imagination for flavor combinations, and they worked! Amazing place in inner SE Portland.

hush puppies and pulled pork at bite of oregon

This was a find at the Bite of Oregon festival: hush puppies that rivalled those found in the heart of Virginia, if you can believe it. Crisp and dark on the outside, moist and flavorful corniness on the inside, with peppers and red onion. Scrumptious.

IMAG4997

Another local NW Portland place that I’d heard about long before I actually got to go: Smokehouse. Definitely takes it smoking seriously. We were there mid-way through the evening and they were out of their smoked chicken, so I’ll have to wait on that (I’ve only had it once before in my life, but it was just about perfect), but in the meantime, their pulled pork made for 4 meals, and their sides–baked beans and braised greens–kept up for two leftover meals.

Lovejoy chocolate tart with lemon and raspberry

Finally, just to show I’m not completely biased toward Ken’s, here is something I came across at Lovejoy Bakers, another sandwich/ bakery place in NW. Their sandwiches left me a little cold, but this, a chocolate tart shell with lemon curd and raspberry coulis inside? Bliss.

 

 

 

And of course, there is also the bizarre, hipster side of Portland, as advertised… (Collage¬†has awesome-sounding craft workshops for $5, 10, 25, which I’ve been meaning to try out…)

vintage german doll legs

Doll legs to be had, along with a lot of Dia de los Muertos-themed items, at Collage

Couldn’t resist this juxtapostion…

catholic church and pbr beer truck

PBR, Beer of Hipsters Everywhere

 

…so those have been some of my adventures! Largely spurred on by visits of lovely friends from around the country, but also by great recommendations from new-found Portland friends. (Thank you.)

Yep, Portland and me, we’re like two peas in a pod.IMAG5058

Disagree? Got any sizzling tips to add to this list? Jump in to comment, Portlandians!

Sorrento to Sicily: A Different Kind of Coast

Mediterranean coastal waters of Calabria
I grew up in an area called the Central Coast, but traveling this leg of my recent trip to Italy showed me a coast with a very different personality. If my home coast in California was the quiet Woody Allen heroine, the Calabrian coast was a battle-scarred, blue-eyed Warrior Princess. What makes me think of a warrior princess? The colors are fierce, for one. Look at those blues!
Sorrento Bridge High Above the Trees
This bridge near Sorrento, though not ancient, reminded me of the Roman aqueducts (another warrior reference…) constructed to move water hundreds of miles- I guess for these builders it was a case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ From Sorrento to Sicily, Mediterranean waters

As I bumped southward from the Naples train station to the toe of Italy’s boot, I was treated to breathtaking views, those vivid colors, and a special quality of light that comes out really well in some of the snapshots.

Light Traversing Sicily
The coast displayed its vivid colors on the sea side, and its homely, timeworn hill-towns facing it on the other. I wondered as I passed in the train what people did there for a living, and saw evidence of some agriculture, some tourism. It definitely felt very low-energy, content. Nothing like a newcomer, intent on a goal and working feverishly to attain it. No, the land I passed showed a quiet, sleepy face. Let sleeping dogs lie?

But then I arrived at one of my transfer points, Villa San Giovanni PortVilla San Giovanni, where I would have to hop off the train, find the port, search out the ferry or hydrofoil ticket offices, and decide how to get across to Sicily. For someone who is used to researching schedules, routes, and costs online, it was an exercise in letting go to have to uncover new information in real time and make a decision on the spot, but I managed not to burst into flames.

Before too long I was pulling out of the port in the hydrofoil, trying to take a picture through the I’m-sure-they’re-impossible-to-clean windows of this white stone monument above. No idea what it is. I’m taking the view that it’s to look after the souls who have perished in the maws of Scylla or Charybdis, purported to have been real-life¬† obstacles near here for ancient sailors.
Of course, once I got off the hydrofoil on the Sicily side, it was another round of: find the bus station, compare bus companies that go where you want on timing and pricing, decide, and jump on! I had time to dash into a quick cafeteria-style Messina mom-and-pop for some bread and a sugary treat, but that was it- and away we went!
 Windy Sicily Road
We scaled heights. (See that speck of asphalt down there? Yeah, that’s the road we were just on- yowza!)
The bus ride took between 2 and 3 hours, and it was more distant from the shore than the train had been, so I couldn’t see the water past the other side of the highway, the cypress screen, and some buildings, but the journey was painless enough, until we approached my destination- Taormina– and started CLIMBING. Then it became positively edge-of-your-seat. Apologies at this glimpse I offer: it was hard to get photos because you never knew what would be around another corner, and we were twisting up and up and up enough for us to be in a Dr. Suess tree by the end.
At long last, we emptied into Taormina’s town centre. I beheld this place, a cute little shop selling pizza and other dainties made with savory bread and tomatoes. It was a hard sell.

Sooooooooo satisfying… and I’m glad I got something to eat right away, since what happened next put my devil-may-care attitude about planning to the test! Stay tuned for that, in my next installment on Sicily.

And side note, if and when I try making these in my kitchen, I will be going straight to the authority on Sicilian food for a recipe. Happy eating!

What is your association with “coasts”? Do you prefer quiet or warrior-princess ‘bold’ in your landscape retreats? Let us know what floats your boat in the comments!