10 christmas gifts for your favorite eugenius

IMG_0178Just a few tidbits you might want to consider for last-minute, local, food-and-bev- oriented gifts.  Or, you know, start your shopping NOW.  I’m saying this kind of gloatingly from my high horse of Canning Nirvana Christmas Presents.  Actually, I’m sitting on a mountain of frozen food and gloating.  Ouch. It’s chilly up here.  For those reasons, I’m always late on the food blogger giving buyable Christmas present lists.  Sorry.  That doesn’t mean these things aren’t worthwhile.

1)  A blown glass golden pierogi ornament, as pictured above on my mantel.  Forget those German pickle ornaments as so last year.  There are also golden ravioli, if you are so unfortunate as to not be Polish.

2)  A couple of bottles of O Wines chardonnay, which is an initiative to raise scholarship funds for young women, owned and managed by St. Michelle Wine Estates.  Read more here about the story and wine.  I received a sample of the red table wine and the chard, and both are pleasant and food-friendly and budget-happy, perfect for a gift for any family holiday party.  Also, the logo looks like our ‘O’ for University of Oregon, so sportsfans would dig it. Their website notes that many of our local groceries (Albertsons and Safeways, Fred Meyers, and the Market of Choice on Green Acres) all carry the chard; not sure about the Red Blend.

IMG_9633 IMG_96343)  Silicone goodness at Hartwick’s, if you can’t afford that sous vide machine or the Vitamix you’ve your loved one has been craving.  These perfectly square ice cubes are oddly satisfying; the trays are often used by high-end bars.  I’m not sure who else uses the silicone spatulas but me, but I wholly endorse them as one of my favorite kitchen items.  You can use the business end or the handle for stirring and scraping various-sized projects, and high heat is ok.

IMG_80264) A gorgeous wood pasta board or cutting board, custom-made by Bill Anderson in Eugene.  Chef Rosa Mariotti‘s partner, Bill Anderson, is a retired engineer and woodworker, and he’s been making these lovely pasta/pastry boards and smaller cutting boards from various hardwoods, some exotic like the striped tigerwood.  I have an entire album of samples here. They’ve kindly offered to sell the boards as a fundraiser for the Master Food Preservers of Lane County, OR. The pasta boards go for $90 and up (with the tigerwood being on the higher end), and Rosa can fill you in on the price of the smaller boards. I bought one of each, and they’re spectacular. For inquiries, send a message to Rosa on Facebook!  IMG_9619IMG_96185) Tomato-scented candles at Marché Provisions, because it’s almost summer again, right?  I like the scent of the tomato leaf one better than the prettier tomato one, but it’s up to you to choose looks over talent.  Or just buy any beeswax candle ever. They’re so sweet and slightly honey-sticky and that butterscotch color.  Yum.

IMG_9622IMG_9625 IMG_96286) Also at Provisions, some truffles with local spirits (Bendistillery, Clear Creek, House Spirits, among others); a “Sniffle Slayer” lolly with lemon, ginger, honey and cayenne; and Hott Smoke sauce, which would kick those truffles’ and lollies’ asses. IMG_9636 7)  Any number of fascinating little kibbles and bits at Sequential Biofuel, our loving local gas station with all kinds of healthy, sustainable, and gluten-free-friendly stuff, like a bison “candy” bar.

8)  An independent food magazine. So important now that media publishing has gone to hell.

9)  But the reason I’m really here is because I want to talk cookbooks.  If your loved one cooks, these are the ones that grabbed me this year:

  •  Molly Stevens’ All About Braising, an essential addition to your collection, even though you think you know all about braising.  I just got it and I love it.  Pair with her book on Roasting.
  • Tartine No. 3, the famed bakery’s new all grain baking book.  Probably not for the beginner, but you could try.  The recipes are thrilling for anyone who is struggling to perfect the no-knead technique.
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler‘s The Bar Book, also via Chronicle Books.  It’s pretty fab, unsurprisingly, as one of the only cocktail books out there to offer a solid, technique-based guide for the home bartender.  Expect to understand principles and classics, not fancy trends.
  •  Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Seattle chef Renee Erickson, whose restaurants — modern, chic, vibrant, shellfishy — embody perhaps the epitome of PNW cuisine.
  • Not a cookbook, quite, but Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book about the food history of our fair City of Roses to the north, Portland: A Food Biography, promises to be filled with fun facts and even some recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen, but be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher.
  • And two hyper-local farm-to-table cookbooks:  Anthony Boutard’s Beautiful Corn, the best treatment I’ve seen on the science and culinary merit of corn from a mellifluous farmer/writer in the tradition of Wendell Berry, and a great collection of local recipes for Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England.

IMG_018210) Aaaaand, for the ridiculous person on your list, one of the silliest things I’ve seen this year: costumes for your wine bottles.  Available alongside many more reasonable gifts at Cost Plus.  Or consider the leather cooler I saw on a clickbait site for gifts for the adventurous eater, or that damned “aroma fork” thing that makes your fork smell.  WHY.  Why not?

 

thanksgiving 2014

IMG_0025For the first time in as long as I can remember, I traveled during Thanksgiving week.  It was my first time in the south, and a very, very happy reunion in Atlanta hosted by my friends Ryan and Ashley Stotz, whom you may remember just as fondly from Marché Provisions or (in Ryan’s case) our dearly departed radio show, Food for Thought.  They’re doing very well in the South!

They showed me the city, market by market and restaurant by restaurant and grocery store by grocery store. We visited some of the best little local joints for breakfasts of fried everything and sliders, the massive international grocery store called the Buford Highway Farmers Market (where we spent four — FOUR — hours), and some pretty wonderful bars and restaurants.  We drank icy orange frosty beverages at the Varsity drive-in and ate foie gras duck soup dumplings at The Porter.

And dinner, of course, was fabulous. We cooked and drank and ate and laughed and stayed up all night playing Cards Against Humanity.  Then we watched this, which is seriously messed up and will worm into your brain — warning, so we suffered the song in about a thousand different jokes.

I hope your celebrations were as warm and lovely and filled with good company as mine were.

IMG_7006 IMG_0057 IMG_0019 IMG_0039 IMG_0017From top to bottom:  pumpkin pie infused with bay, fried chicken on a biscuit with cream gravy at Homegrown, some cheap swill with dinner, breakfast of vermouth-scented scrambled eggs with chicken livers, radicchio salad prep, collard overflow at the Piggly Wiggly (dba IGA).

 

freezer frolics: ajvar 14 and QUINCE (crossed out cranberry) chutney

IMG_8984I’m starting a new fad.  Since almost everything I eat at home is local, it’s kind of silly to belabor the point.  So I’m now celebrating the joy of eating frozen food, liberated from my chest freezer and made more available in my regular freezer.

Breakfast was delicious and 100% frozen: kibbeh meatballs with mint, a slice of rye bread, and red hot Ajvar 14 sauce.

Lunch? Thanks for asking.  75% frozen.  Green chile tamales with the rest of my refrigerated QUINCE (as I yelled on the lid, crossing out the former denotation of ‘cranberry’) chutney.  Good.  I HAVE ANOTHER JAR IN THE FREEZER!!!

(The photos will also be frozen leftovers from the vault: this one isn’t too old, but appropriately chickens in the commercial freezer facility at Fair Valley Farm.)

 

green chile posole

IMG_9582My efforts to cook down the freezer continue, and soupily.  I am off to pick up the beef today, and am proud to announce I managed to clear about half the space, so I should be fine.  A major part of the square footage was taken up by what I thought was a half of a pig’s head (nope, a whole; surprise!) from my butchery class with Camas Davis.  I also found a jowl and a cheek, as one does.

Because the head was so big, I roasted it and stripped it for tacos (cabeza), then added the leftover bits to pork stock for a wonderful green chile posole with the other parts I had uncovered in my latest archaeological dig.

Posole!  If you haven’t tried it, it’s wonderful.  I used up a bag of homemade posole (nixtamalized) corn, made last year, the last of my peppers from the two potted plants I had maintained until the frost, the last of the green tomatoes, some roasted anchos I found in the freezer, a big handful of oregano and tarragon still hanging on in the garden, and that wonderfully rich, gelatinous cabeza meat and some pork shoulder. The cabeza really added so much to the broth, and I recommend it if you should have a head in your freezer.  No questions asked.

If you’re making it, here are a few more tips: I threw in a handful of local cornmeal to slightly thicken the broth, and simmered everything for 30 minutes or so, adding a lemon and some powdered ancho pepper and garlic powder near the end of cooking. Perfect winter meal, all local, but with a taste of warm sunny skies.

caramelized gooey local syrup with windfall fruit

IMG_9581Do you remember that odd bag of pancakes in my freezer?  Well, I lived the freezer packrat dream for one glorious moment when I used them to test a new recipe.  Yet another from the oeuvre of Linda Ziedrich, whose work I rely on time and time again to inspire great Oregon canning recipes, the inspiration was sirop de Liège.  It’s a long-cooked, caramelized, thick, dark sludge made traditionally mostly of pears, with a little apple thrown in for good measure and pectin, traditionally eaten with cheese like membrillo.

Eugeniuses may find the Belgian city of Liège familiar, as it’s home not only to my syrup but also the waffles made locally famous by Off the Waffle.

What I love about the syrup is that it uses great quantities of fruit, perfect for those of us with pome trees or neighbors who want to get rid of pears, Asian pears, and apples.  You can make the syrup two ways: deliciously burnt-sugar dark sludge, or light peach-colored pourable butterscotch.  Since we don’t have our own source of maple syrup in Eugene, I thought it might be a good addition to those seeking local pancake enhancers.

Pear and Apple Syrup, Two Ways

Use a 6:1 ratio for weight of pears and/or Asian pears to apples.   Cut the fruit into quarters, leaving the peels and cores on, and cook it down on medium low until it liquifies.

Once the fruit releases lots of juice, carefully remove the fruit and strain the liquid into a large bowl. (You’re after the juice, not the fruit, so save your fruit to make applesauce with a food mill.) Press the fruit in the sieve to get as much liquid out of it as you can, then add the liquid to a clean pot.

Cook down the liquid on low heat for a few hours. After an hour or so, it should be the consistency of maple syrup with a slippery mouthfeel and a slightly caramelized color and buttery taste. Perfect for pancakes.  Stop here if you want to be able to pour it.

If you want a darker, richer, slightly bitter caramelized flavor (and more traditional version), cook for longer, being sure to watch as it gets thicker and more liable to burn.

The yield will be minimal for the fruit: warning.  Using 6 lbs. of Asian pears and 1 lb. of apples will yield about a pint if thin and as little as a 1/2 pint if thick.  As I said, it’s great if you have tons of fruit.  Not so great if you are buying at premium prices.

Variation: I recently came into a bunch of Asian pears, and thought I’d give it a whirl with a few apples and a handful of cranberries to make the color pretty (above).  The cranberries release some ruby redness and better yet, stay intact in the light syrup, so they become candied and really wonderful.

 

eugene restaurants open on thanksgiving 2014

IMG_6828It’s that time again!  If you forgot the turkey, or these magnificent fellows from Boondockers Farm managed to intimidate you, you might be interested in Eugene restaurants open on Thanksgiving, a range for every taste:

  • Marché (brunch)
  • Oregon Electric Station (dinner)
  • Keystone Café (breakfast/lunch)
  • King Estate (family style dinner)
  • Govinda’s (vegan buffet dinner)
  • Excelsior (buffet dinner)
  • All Shari’s locations
  • Hacienda Amigo Mio (Gateway)
  • Amici (Holiday Inn-Eugene/Springfield)
  • Kung Fu Bistro (lunch and dinner, 11-3:00 and 5-9:30)

This link has more details on the offerings at some of these restaurants.  It would be highly advised to call and reserve a table, as I’ve noticed some places are quickly filling up.

Did I miss your favorite Thanksgiving spot?  Let me know (with as many details as possible, including contact information) what else is on offer for Thanksgiving in Lane County.

separate two eggs: weight loss and mise en place

Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.
Detail, Market Scene with Christ and the Adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1559, Staedel Museum, Frankfurt.

I’m prepping to receive about 100 lbs. of the tastiest, juiciest, pasture-fed, local beef, so I’m desperately trying to eat down my standing freezer.  This is a bit harder as one person than two, especially one who has been battling appetite slumps and anxiety cooking jags and antisocial moods and dining out hopes and growing terror about a headlong dive into poverty.

I’m finding little gems squirreled away in corners, now that I’ve freed the chicken carcasses, the oxtail bones, and the half pig head, trotter, and jowl from their frozen prisons to make stock.  I bring you the cornucopia of my life, most of it put up in the last year:

  • two fine pieces of lasagna;
  • 4 cups of sour cherries;
  • a quart bag of home-cured posole;
  • 4 cups of ajvar;
  • 3 gallon bags stuffed full of, respectively, boysenberries, haskapberries, and cranberries;
  • 1 gallon or so of tomato paste, portioned into 2 tablespoon-sized cubes;
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini;
  • 4 cups of sauerkraut golabki, pink; consumed;
  • bag o’ pancakes (pancakes?);
  • 2 cups b’steeya filling;
  • bolete pierogi (yum);
  • 2 half-pints duck rillettes;
  • 8 or 10 pieces of injera;
  • local polenta;
  • 2 quarts corn;
  • 1 cup wild mushroom duxelles;
  • 1 quart raisins (to go with the two more gallons raisins on my shelf and other freezer);
  • 2 gallons grapes to make more damn raisins;
  • 8 cups roasted sweetmeat squash;
  • a big package of forgotten homemade sausages (yay!);
  • pancetta;
  • 1 pint pork/raisin/almond tamale filling;
  • pork skin;
  • a bag of chicken feet;
  • and the meats and stocks one might expect.

I’m not even down into the bowels of the freezer yet. Or addressing the daily-use freezer full of readymades in the house.  If I were a civilization, what would this archaeological dig say about me, other than I’ve an embarrassment of riches?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Separate 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).