Archive for October, 2009

Dinner at home

I am guessing that most of you who read this blog might have gotten the impression that I do most of the cooking at our house.  If that’s the case, you’d be wrong.  S does at least as much cooking as I do.  He is the undisputed king of breakfast; famous for his waffles, pancakes and most delicious egg concoctions.  He also takes the lead on dinner quite often.

We do approach cooking differently.  I am an improviser.  I come home, look at what’s in the fridge, and throw something together.  Usually it is edible, and often it is quite good.

S, on the other hand, is a planner.  He likes to go to the grocery store with a cookbook (or review recipes before we head out and make a detailed list) and buy food for specific dishes.  As a result the food he cooks is a work of art.

He also likes to prep all of his ingredients in advance, setting up his mise en place carefully before beginning to cook anything.  I usually chop and saute and fumble in the refrigerator for the next ingredient as I cook.

Last weekend, S decided to make a seafood stew.  Oddly, he had not decided this before we went to the grocery store, but fortunately we had the ingredients he needed: Manila clams,


Alaskan spot prawns, red and white onions, lots of garlic, hot pepper, fish stock, and canned tomatoes.

After a few hours in the kitchen, the smells were mouthwatering.  And as usual, the finished dish was both spectacular to look at and incredibly delicious.


Along with the stew we had some of the last artichokes of the fall



which we served with a balsamic vinaigrette.


A perfect fall meal.  We ate it all


and washed it down with a little local pinot noir.


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Sunday bread baking

I am sure many of you have been wondering what ever happened to the “other” sourdough starter I was working on all those weeks ago, the one that I was going to use to make the panini I love from the Pearl Bakery here in Portland.


You may remember that when I first started working on that starter it wasn’t very strong.  Well, I was determined.  And ever since that last post over two weeks ago I have been faithfully feeding it.  Every day.  And, as promised, it got more and more active each time it was refreshed.

Finally, I decided that the starter was ready


and that this Sunday would be baking day.  That meant that I needed to refresh the starter one more time on Saturday morning and then, on Saturday night, combine 1 tablespoon of the resulting starter with bread flour and water to make the levain that would provide the leavening for the final dough.

This morning I woke up early and mixed the dough.  Once you’re at this point it is pretty easy.  You combine the flours (bread flour, all purpose flour, rye flour and whole wheat flour) with water and mix until the dough wraps itself around the dough hook of your mixer.  Then you let it sit for 30 minutes so that the flour can absorb all of the water and the gluten can begin to develop (this is also called the autolyse).

After the dough has rested you add the levain and some salt and mix the dough for another four minutes.

Now I have a confession to make.  I cheated.  I added a little bit (less than 1/2 a teaspoon) of commercial yeast to my dough along with the levain.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of failure after all of that work.  I hope that doesn’t make you stop reading right now.


After kneading in the toasted walnuts and raisins, I left the dough to rise for about four hours.  Then I cut the dough in half and formed two batards (kind of torpedo shaped loaves)


and left those to rise again for another three hours in baskets lined with floury, linen towels.


After this second rise, I baked the dough in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, rotating the loaves after about 20 minutes to prevent uneven baking.


The finished bread is beautiful!  Dark and crusty and incredibly flavorful, too.


I wish you could have a piece.

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Squid hat

Sometime last winter my friend R asked me if I could make him a hat.  He had a particular kind of hat in mind — one that he called a “squid hat” because he thought it was shaped something like a squid. He remembered them from Vermont, he thought.

He was not referring to a “real” squid hat (and there are some of those both knitted and sewn), but a classic ski hat with a squid shaped top.

Always up for a challenge, I got to work.  I first asked him what color(s) he liked.  Since red was near the top of his list, I went with that.


I didn’t have a pattern and what follows is NOT a pattern.  It’s more like a memoir:  Knitting a Hat.


To get started, I looked at pictures of hats online and decided that I wanted the “cuff” to be doubled, so I borrowed a technique from a baby hat I made a few years ago, knitting for 2-3 inches and then purling one row, then knitting another 2-3 inches.  At that point, I folded the hat along the purled row and knit two rows together to make a doubled cuff.

I continued knitting (this was all in the round, on needles slightly smaller than the ones the yarn manufacturer recommended) until the hat was about 7 inches tall.   Then I started decreasing slowly (about every 5 rows or so) to make the top of the hat taper a little bit.


Once the hat was tall enough, I cast off, pinched the opening together into a cross and sewed it up from the inside.


I know it’s not really a “squid” hat, but I love the way it turned out.  I hope R does too.


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Is it really fall?

I know it is fall — after all, it’s October 20th and the stores are filled with Halloween candy and other spooky supplies.  The days are getting shorter and the weather is rainy, cloudy and cool more often than sunny and warm.

Despite that, my roses are still blooming (I took these pictures on Sunday, October 18th),



and there are even buds on some of the bushes.


At the same time, the leaves are turning on the trees in the yard.




So you can see why I am confused.

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I’ve been thinking about a post about what, other than food, makes a good restaurant experience great.  But that’s not what this post is about.


I’ve also been thinking about a post about the sudden, and in my opinion, untimely, demise of Gourmet magazine (we got our final issue this week — well, actually, we got our final two issues this week because somehow, in a fit of over-eagerness, we ended up with two subscriptions for the past six months and never canceled the second one because it was about to expire anyway).



But that’s not what this post is about either. In fact, it’s not really a post about anything in particular.


Let’s just call it a chance to post a few recent photos taken around the house on a rainy fall Sunday.






tileNow I feel better.

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Chili for dinner

Another favorite meal at our house is a nice hot, spicy bowl of vegetarian chili.  This year we have the good fortune to have fresh dried Tarbais beans from our much-loved local Viridian Farms to add to the mix.


These beans are lovely even uncooked!


Before leaving for work the other day I put the beans in a pot, covered them with a generous amount of water, and left them to soak.  When I got home the beans had expanded nicely.  I rinsed them, added more water and simmered them over medium heat for about 30 minutes.  By then they were soft and creamy.

While the beans were cooking I chopped an onion, some heirloom carrots, and a lot of garlic.  I tossed it all into a big pot with a few tablespoons of olive oil and sauteed the mixture until the onions began to soften.  I added my favorite Penzey’s Chili Powder,


a small can of fire roasted tomatoes and some water.  Once that was all heated nicely I dumped in the beans and let the chili simmer for about 45 minutes (or until S got home from work — this is a very forgiving recipe when it comes to how long it can bubble away, you can just keep adding water if it gets too thick).  At the last minute I added some slices of Field Roast smoked apple sage vegetarian sausage and salt and pepper to taste.

As we got ready to eat, I tossed some organic romaine lettuce with apples, toasted pecans and a simple buttermilk dressing


and dished the chili into big bowls.


The verdict?  A perfect early fall meal.

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Dinner without pictures

This post goes against my personal blogging rules.  I didn’t take any pictures of the meal I am about to describe, so I am going to try to paint a verbal picture and see if I can get my point across.

Yesterday was one of the first rainy, almost-winter days that happen in fall in Portland.  It was damp, verging on, but not quite, raw.  When I got home I was tired and chilled.  I turned on the fireplace and upped the heat and started thinking about dinner.

I knew that S had gotten some Pacific Black Cod the other day, as well as some of my favorite Padron peppers from Viridian Farms.  After flipping through some of our fishy cookbooks, I settled on a recipe for Cod with Roasted Garlic.  Luckily the peppers came with instructions.  Wide egg noodles seemed like a good choice for another side dish.

The fish required the most preparation.  In my usual fashion, I used the recipe (from Leith’s Fish Bible) as a starting point, largely ignoring it once I got started.  I peeled about 15 heads of garlic and set them to roast in about 1/2 cup of good olive oil in a 400 degree oven.  Once that was underway, I seasoned some all-purpose flour with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed aleppo pepper.  I rinsed the Cod fillet (it was a nice thick piece) and sprinkled it with salt and pepper before dredging it in the flour mixture.

Once the garlic was soft, I removed it from the oil.  Making sure the oil was good and hot (I actually put it back into the oven to reheat it a bit) I slid the fillet into the oil and put it in the oven.  After about 3 minutes, I flipped the fish and left it to poach in the oil for another 8 minutes.  I arranged the roasted garlic cloves and some lemon slices around the edges of a small platter and laid the oil-poached fillet in the middle.

While all of that was going on, I heated some more olive oil in a small, non-stick skillet, added the Padron peppers and some salt and sauted them all until they were just starting to brown and blister.  I tossed them into a bowl and took them to the table.

The wide egg noodles were cooked until just done and tossed with even more olive oil and some of my favorite harissa, a little sweeter than many but with just the right amount of heat.

Served with a bottle of Ayres Oregon Pinot Noir it was a lovely meal, perfect for a rainy October night.  Sorry I didn’t get any pictures!

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