ozette potatoes and a sauce from garden herbs

IMG_8647I bought some delicious, glossy PNW-native ‘Ozette’ potatoes from Turnip the Beet Farm at the Lane County farmers market on Saturday.  I’ve written about them before, and think they’re fantastic for the locavore and armchair anthropologist.  They taste good, too!  As far as I know, Turnip the Beet is the only farm that produces them around here.  Farmer Lela says it’s the second crop of the year and they should have them at the next couple markets.

I like the Ozettes because they’re waxy and flavorful, so they make good fried potatoes and potato salad.  Or simply boil them and serve with the brilliant German green sauce, Grüne Soβe (or in the dialect of Frankfurt, Grie Soß).  It’s more of a spring thing, but if you’ve got a burgeoning herb garden, it’s a great summer dish.  All you need is seven herbs, a binder (e.g., sour cream) and something sour (e.g., lemon) and a little mustard.  The herbs that are traditional are sorrel, chervil, parsley, borage, burnet, cress and chives, but there are many variations.  Why not make a PNW herb blend?  I’ve seen basil and dill and marjoram included in some recipes, even.  Here are a few variations:

Mine was made with my very thick homemade sour cream (read: too thick for this sauce), a little milk to thin it out (bad idea, as it de-emulsified the fats), wine vinegar, mustard, and the traditional herbs minus cress.  Sorry about the poor picture, I was hungry.

I’m particularly excited about these potatoes because they represent yet another young farmer couple who are making a go of it in Lane County to bring us heirlooms and unusual produce, produced in a sustainable and labor-intensive way.  They’re worth supporting.  Even better, they just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for new greenhouses, so they’ll be able to extend the season in the future.  Congratulations!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

stalking the backyard daylily

IMG_7707A proud clump of orange daylilies or tiger lillies (H. fulva) graces one corner of my garden, blocking out a poppy and a lavender bush and encroaching on my daffodils.  Disdainful, I stopped in my murderous tracks a few years ago when I read one can eat most parts of the plant in a blog post by wildcrafter Hank Shaw.

I’ve since read more about them, including the history with some dubious tasting notes, and a chapter in Euell Gibbons’ classic, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, which seems to be a book that lights up the eyes of people who wish they were wholly foraging for food (while shopping at Whole Foods).

Being one of those people, mostly, I knew I had to take my dreams of a feral future and make them a reality, so I stalked the daylilies in my backyard.

What, you say you don’t know what a daylily is?  This is a daylily:

IMG_7709

Not a daylily (with an added bonus of an artichoke to symbolize the choking you will do when you eat a poisonous cultivar of true lily, below):

IMG_7714You can immediately tell them apart because the daylily grows in a big clump and has long, skinny leaves growing from the clump, but the true lily has many short opposing leaves growing up each stalk that culminates in a flower. Another things that differentiates them is that daylilies frequently repatriate to the wild, and they often resist the elements in parks, old lots, and meadows.  More on identification here.

The buds, flowers, stalks, and root bulbs of the daylily are all edible, but being a lazy hunter-gatherer, I went for the easy stuff: the buds.  Pick them when they are just about open, and don’t delay, since the ‘day’ part of daylily is not false advertising.  They ripen, bloom, and are gone in 24 hours.  You can see one bud just ready to be plucked to the left of the daylily in the image above the poison-choke-lilies.

IMG_7680Ever have Chinese hot and sour soup?  The “golden needles” or lily buds are none other than the dried buds of the daylily.  I dried a bunch and plan to use them in soups.  Apparently, they let off a slightly gelatinous ooze when you cook them, so they thicken up nicely.

The rest of the buds I plucked to eat in the manner I love vegetables the most: quickly dry-fried and salted.  You may have enjoyed padron or shishito peppers prepared this way, or perhaps Sichuan green beans.  Daylily buds rank right up there with the pleasure, and their unusual origin and utterly free cost to you will make you the star of all the foragers in your neighborhood.  OK, maybe not my neighborhood, since there are real foragers who live here, but if you live in a neighborhood without any, let me know and I’ll move there, since I could use a little stardom.

Anyway, the recipe in the first photo for dryfried daylily buds couldn’t be easier.  You’ll love the taste (but be careful, as apparently some folks are allergic or react poorly to the very mild and delicious greenbeany taste, likening it to armpit sweat).  Try just a couple at first to see if you are one of those unfortunate souls.

Heat up a heavy pan, cast iron if you have it, on high until it smokes.  Toss your daylily buds in a tiny bit of oil just before you toss them into the hot pan.  Smoke will ensue, so take the pan outside, flipping the buds with a spoon for just a few minutes until they are charred in spots and softened.  Salt with a coarse-grained finishing salt and serve immediately.

separate two eggs: party of one mix

IMG_3796Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Inspired by Judith Jones, editrix extraordinaire of some of the best American food writers, a widow who continued cooking elegantly for herself after the death of her husband, I think I’m going to start writing about cooking for one, and call the series “Separate Two Eggs.” It won’t be elegant, I assure you, but instead I promise never to let a dog lick a single plate in my house (Ms. Jones, really?).  So let’s see how many ideas I can devise.

The problem is I don’t really like cooking for myself. I never got the hang of it. I cook meals for 4 or 6, figuring on guests or leftovers. There aren’t often leftovers, but there have always been plenty of guests, so it served me well. Not having kids and living in a place with decent-enough dining out options gave me the strength: no one ever killed dinner for me.  But then, when my husband started to diet, I had to learn how to cook alone, and I got used to cooking for 3, then 2, and maybe, on a good night, 1.5. Tiptoeing around the food restriction du jour filled me with despair and I finally just mostly gave up on the daily dinner slog. Instead, I ate out or made big pots of things I liked and froze them, or just ate popcorn for dinner.

Now I have to rethink things, because the frozen prepared food won’t last me forever and I suppose I should relearn how to amuse myself at dinnertime, forging more boldly across the bloody dinner battlefields of our Puritan land.  When I’m alone and have nothing scheduled, I work all afternoon and well into the night. I’m finding more and more I can multitask less and less, so with the blessed and rare (and surely transitory?) life I’ve been suddenly given — no children, no husband, no pets, no conferences, no research trips, no immediate deadlines, no events, no classes — if I don’t think about feeding myself I will spend hours concentrating on writing. So it’s got to be quick or half-prepped in the refrigerator or utterly fascinating.

And nothing healthy will do, given there’s nothing more depressing than eating a salad when one interrupts one’s work with a glass of wine. Popcorn is the food of the lonely, and quite frankly, as much as I loved that man and still consider him one of my closest friends, I’m less lonely at home than I have been for a long time. I know you hear me.  I’m never that hungry at night, and certainly not at the unfathomable Eugene dinner hour, so I find a snack is much more palatable than anything else in the evening.  Finally, throw off the remaining chains of dinner!

Imperative now, intrepid voyager, is to amuse your bouche. So what’s a girl to do? Party.

Party Mix for One

Serve with a glass of lively rosé or cava. Or two. Or all of the above.

The general idea is to mix the five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, savory. The overriding principle is crunch. Use a tiny bowl; don’t be a piggy.  I suppose you could subsitute an aged gouda for the cured meat, but don’t use both so you don’t offend god.

  • 2 tablespoons tiny organic corn nuts (I have no idea what these are called without the trade name, sorry, but you can buy them in bulk at organicky markets)
  • 1 tablespoon chilled diced cured coppa or other dried sausage
  • 1 tablespoon dried cherries
  • 1 teaspoon Dutch “platte salmiakje” salmiak licorice drops, or substitute something weird like, hmm, fresh coriander buds? Diced sour gummy bears?  Fried sage? Chocolate chips? Just nothing moist or stupid.  Other than that, I’m not sure. You decide.

Dice everything as small as the corn nuts.  Blend.  Serve immediately: you’re waiting.

nose-to-tail eating in eugene

IMG_3012Surely not for the faint of heart, but a great pleasure for adventurous eaters: nose-to-tail cooking.  Popularized by British Chef Fergus Henderson, the concept asks cooks to honor the animal by consuming as much of it as possible.  This usually translates into sausages and terrines and soups, many European specialties, but there are also some wonderful options in Asian and Central American restaurants, too.  Many Americans find the idea of eating “the nasty bits,” as Anthony Bourdain calls them, revolting, but I think it’s worth our consideration as meat-eaters and ethical diners.

The duck chins, above, are Exhibit A.

IMG_3018At least with the larger mammals.  Tiny squid?  Well, it’s just pleasure to eat them whole.  Above, hotaru ika sushi at Kamitori, one of the finest preparations of squid I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Hotaru means firefly, and these little guys, about an inch or two long, bioluminesce in the dark water.  And since I’ve long suspected that squid were ruined for me after the most exquisite experience eating ika sashimi on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Japan, freshly hauled from the water, I’m so grateful.  Once again Chef Masa has filled me with unspeakable joy by serving sea creatures with respect and craft.  And no eyeballs, which were kindly removed.

Also, I was honored to join some of my students for an adventure this week at Spring Garden restaurant in Springfield, where we tried some of the more unusual items on the menu, including rabbit in a clay pot with ginger, salt-and-pepper fried chicken cartilage, stir-fried elk with onions and peppers, “saliva” chicken in a spicy sauce, and a dish that will horrify the local sportsfans among us, spicy duck chins with their little tongues a-waggin’ (top photo).  Below, you can see the English translation of the menu and the other dishes we enjoyed.

Spring Garden is a challenge, but it also has great possibilities on the Chinese menu even if you’re not into nose-to-tail cooking or exotic birds and reptiles.  You might also, if you must, order from the American menu with all the standards.  If you’re curious about the duck chins, which are of course the lower part of the duck bill, they are crunchy on the tip, and you eat the tongue, then pick at the meat at the base of the bill.  The chicken cartilage was crunchy, as expected; it was chopped into chunks and deep-fried in a batter lively with salt and Sichuan peppercorn, and decorated with chiles. Saliva chicken seemed to be steamed chicken in a spicy sauce — probably my favorite of all the dishes of the night.

IMG_3010 IMG_3011IMG_3015IMG_3016IMG_3009IMG_3014

Spring Garden Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

one of the best appetizers i’ve ever had: rabbit bistro

And there may even be a couple left, not sure.  Every Friday, Chef Gabriel Gil posts an appetizer and entree special on the Rabbit Bistro Facebook page.  They’re always fascinating, often mysterious, and sometimes challenging.  Separate the boys from the men, that’s what I say.  If you want to try it, relax your inhibitions a bit (might I suggest a cocktail special first?) and trust him.  I know this is contrary to the Eugene Way and the increasingly loathsome American practice of dietary eliminations and inspecting menus for their clinical traits.  So don’t go if you’re worried your needs won’t be met or you use “protein” to describe what you’re ordering for dinner.

But if you want to delight your tastebuds and widen your horizons…

How about a toothsome, cured and smoked venison carpaccio with the texture and flavor of pastrami sashimi?  It was brilliant, BRILLIANT, served with miner’s lettuce, slices of roasted rutabaga and perfect pickled tart apple, malt mayo (just a skosh too much), and iced milk that kept it cold and melted its milkiness down the mountain of cured protein, er, deer.

The picture, of course, doesn’t do it justice.  I rarely take pictures at Rabbit because the lighting doesn’t encourage it (and I’m the first to acknowledge it’s an awful habit, not to be encouraged at all), but I just had to share this one.  I wanted to lick the plate, pick it up and lick it.

We’re going to have Gabriel on Food for Thought on KLCC next Sunday, April 1, at noon, when I next co-host, so we can talk more about the culinary Renaissance in Eugene and what the Rabbit brings to the scene.  We’ll talk about ketchup, the Rabbit’s move downtown, and all manner of and creative possibilities for the future.  Tune in!  This Sunday (tomorrow), I hear that the delightful folks from Indie Pop will be there.

 

niblets: red carpet edition

 

Congratulations to Chef Brendan Mahaney of Belly for his James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef Northwest!  This award is one of the biggest honors in the culinary industry.  Images above are from my very first meal at Belly, dining al fresco with Retrogrouch in July 2008.  That beet-cabbage-parsley salad with a side of crème fraîche is still one of my favorite salads ever.

But an important omission, Mr. Beard & Associates: Chef Gabriel Gil of Rabbit Bistro, who was invited to the Beard House last year.  Boo.  You know what makes me excited, though?  Both Belly and Rabbit are moving to more spacious kitchens downtown, so the best is yet to come.  Watch out, Eugene.

Let’s not forget to congratulate fellow nominee Chef Matt Bennett of Albany’s Sybaris, here leading a round of applause for his staff at the Albany Carousel Dinner with Chef Brian Polcyn, and former Eugene bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Clyde Common in PDX for Outstanding Bar Program.

On the local front, see Chef Corey Wisun of Falling Sky Brewing in action, making cod over greens with pesto, on a relatively new and respectably produced segment, KVAL’s Tasty Tuesday.  I’m always horrified when I see food coverage on our local stations since it’s clear none of the reporters have ever been to a restaurant.  But Tony Gist seems to be clued in and articulate about food.  I hope they realize it and treat him well.

Marché’s own sous Chef Crystal Platt has been making local headlines among Those In The Know for her chicken croquettes served à la Buffalo, seasoned with hot sauce, Rogue Oregon Blue cheese, and served with a celery salad.  If you haven’t been to the pleasant new bar with the eponymous name, check it out.  Marché is serving breakfast now, too.

And speaking of new interpretations of Buffalo wings:

Yum yum, no?  Hot Mama’s Wings on 13th.  It’s really a cozy little place.  Clockwise from the top:  hot wings that taste a different than the normal Buffalo, glorious bleu cheese bacon, Thai peanut (a little gloopy for me), and sweet-hot raspberry chipotle.  (A p.s. from this perpetually grumpy correspondent to the perpetually grumpy server: a little hospitality makes everyone feel better.)

And last but not least in VIP news, spring is here.  Time to start thinking of tilling and starting seeds!  I suspect it’s going to be another distracted and travel-heavy summer for me, so no expansion planned, but will manage the usual.  If that’s not on your plate, consider a CSA this year.  You can meet potential farms and farmers at this Willamette Farm and Food Coalition event:

13th Annual – That’s My Farmer! Event
TUESDAY, MARCH 13th
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church
1376 Olive Street (Eugene)

$5-15 donation goes to subsidize CSA shares for low-income families

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

the sky is falling

And we have a brewpub in Eugene with food I like!  You may have a hard time finding a seat, since Falling Sky Brewing is already popular since their soft opening last week.  Grand opening will be February 7, and they hope to have at least a couple of their beers ready to go.

Executive Chef Corey Wisun, formerly of the Nosh Pit and Field to Table catering, whose cart graced the Saturday market for the past few years, has crafted a promising and thoughtful menu that isn’t too chichi…or too downmarket, either, thank goodness.  It’s really taking a smart assessment of changing tastes in Eugene, with many small plates and vegetables.

I tried the chef’s choice meat board and the pork belly on toast with quince jam and pickled vegetables with my glass of Two Towns cider, really the best cider I’ve had in the U.S.  Delicious!  I wish there had been a cured meat instead of one of the cheeses, and the chicharrones (directly above) were far too much for one person to handle, but I love the board concept and the pickles were quite good.

My favorite of all was the potted rabbit rillettes (top), as plain and nondescript a dish as possible, but almost addictive spread on bread.  The man across the table from me enjoyed his corn chowder soup and radicchio/frisée salad.  I also heard appreciative murmurs about the vegetarian version of what I was enjoying: a board of mushroom paté, beet terrine, winter squash rillette.

Looking forward to going back to enjoy Red Wagon Creamery’s beer-influenced ice cream, the poutine, the greens, and the beer!