10 great pacific northwest cookbooks, plus extras


I’ve done some thinking on Oregon and greater Northwest cookbooks and other food books after receiving such interest in the cookbooks section of my annual holiday food gifts post.  I thought I’d share them for you, my dear last-minute gifters.  These are books that are not just local, but actually provide singular and excellent recipes and/or comprehensive techniques (not the case with the still-in-print for its baffling popularity, A Taste of Oregon cookbook).

If you can’t get your hands on The Oregonian from 1942 or some of our earliest and most rare cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century — like the Web-Foot Cook Book (1885), A Portland Girl at the Chafing Dish (1890), or the Washington Women’s suffrage fundraising cookbook (1909) — and you can’t make a visit to the UO Knight Library Special Collections, might I suggest:

  • Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast is a comprehensive system from the esteemed Portland (and former Eugenius) baker/restaurateur.  It provides the intermediate-and-above home baker with techniques to make various starters and big, beautiful loaves.
  • The Paley Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley is one of the classics of PNW regional cooking.  As I wrote in a review in 2009 for Eugene Weekly, “The gorgeous photos and high quality paper make the coffee table-sized [book] a visual treat. […] Some fabulous dishes that can be recreated by the creative home cook, like lamb shoulder on hay and lavender, are just the beginning. I found myself marking so many pages: homemade cranberry juice, ricotta cheese, summer corncob stock for light soups … wow. A section called “Hazelnuts Make Everything Taste Better” and portraits of wild salmon fishermen and mushroom foraging stamp this book as a PNW classic. Some very complex dishes, such as the elk shoulder, are interspersed with simpler preparations, like a mint and fava bean pappardelle or a side of peas and carrots with bacon.”
  • The Grand Central Baking Book, from the same review: “I had to wrestle it out of my editor’s floury fingers. She was muttering something about gingerbread, so I thought quick and baked up some delectable oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a rosemary bread pudding before she could renew her strength and overtake me. This one’s a delight. Piper Davis, the co-owner of Portland’s celebrated Grand Central Baking Company, has partnered with pastry chef Ellen Jackson in a beautifully produced collection of breads, cakes and sweet and savory projects, all outlined with clear instructions and images on beautiful paper.”
  • James Beard’s tome, American Cookery, is not exactly a PNW cookbook, but it includes recipes distilled from years of writing a column in The Oregonian.  One might likewise check out The Oregonian Cookbook, which has a full chapter on Beard’s recipes, plus another good chapter on recipes by local chefs.
  • Beard’s good friend Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book, is the best cookbook from the 1950s I’ve seen and perhaps the only truly regional/locavore one from ’round these parts written in that era, full of historical sources and then-contemporary recipes from up and down the left coast.  She’s witty and has a good palate, too.
  • Scio, Oregon-based Linda Ziedrich’s twin preservation cookbooks, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves and The Joy of Pickling, are undoubtedly the two books I turn to most often for preserving local produce.  Everything from rosehips to peas to prunes, with most techniques based on her Master Food Preserver training, are covered in the books.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda for the Register-Guard a few years ago.
  • Modernist Cuisine at Home, by a massive team led by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, will delight the science/molecular gastronomists in your home.  This isn’t really my style of cooking, but everyone who enjoys it seems to be thrilled by this giant handbook.  It’s a less giant and more home-oriented version of the 6-volume monster version for the professional cook, which I have perused and written about and exhibited and pondered at length, so I can predict with some authority that the little brother is likely beautiful and precise and gel-dust-sous vide-foamy.

And here are two more for your consideration, not cookbooks but still excellent for the PNW food and bev lover:

  • Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest came to my attention after taking her class on beer glasses in Astoria, and I did a tiny interview with her for AAA’s Via magazine.  She’s part owner of Portland’s Belmont Station, and knows the PNW beer scene better than almost anyone.  The book provides breweries, beer lists, and pub crawls.
  • The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, a seed steward, agricultural activist, and Harvard-trained scientist whose vegetable lines are grown by local Willamette Valley farmers to great acclaim.  The book sets out a plan for improving your garden’s health and heartiness by cultivating the most nutrient-enriched foods, like squash (Carol’s own breed of ‘Oregon Homestead’ sweet meat squash, which I wrote about in Eugene Magazine this fall), beans, potatoes, corn, and reaping the best from small livestock, like her heritage Ancona ducks.

And these were the cookbooks I mentioned earlier, just for completion’s sake:

  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book, 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, briny — embody perhaps the epitome of contemporary 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 descriptive recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen; be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher. It also has a chapter on vintage Portland and Oregon 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.
  • Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England, whose second book concentrates on the local Renaissance of staple crops we’ve been experiencing.

Disclaimer:  Apart from the two books I reviewed for EW, I didn’t get any of these books for free, dang it.  Doing it wrong, as usual.  But the pleasure in the purchase is all mine.


mine! all mine!

We’ve read the glut of preservation blog posts about all the wonderful things an enterprising individual can put up to share with family and friends.  And yes, I’m pretty much on the sharing bandwagon.  I love the pleasure my food gifts bring to others, and knowing that it’s a continuing pleasure — that they open that jar of jam many mornings and feel the endorphin rush of deliciousness more than once — is honestly one of the greatest joys in my life.

But blah blah blah, summer of love is over, ya hippie.  This post is about the food I make that I DON’T share, the stuff that’s too good for others…or maybe too good for everyone except the one friend whom I deem might be able to sufficiently appreciate it. This is the selfish, food-hoarding side of the preservation movement, and I embrace that, too.

And it has a name in my house: brandied apricots.

These slightly tart, tangy, sugar and booze saturated little pillows of fiberous goo make even plain goat milk yogurt taste good.  On crepes, with similarly brandied cherries, they are divine.  When I eat them during the day, I feel naughty, as if I just slammed down a Manhattan in my kitchen at noon.  Just now, I was eating them, plotting to drive to eastern Washington as soon as the apricots hit the market, buying up a huge box and stuffing them in jars.  More jars!  More for me! Brandied apricots! All! Winter! Long!

I also, for the record, feel this way about my loganberry jam, my green tomato pickles, and my dill pickles.  So don’t even ask.

What do you make for yourself and hoard?

gifts from the kitchen class dec. 1 — don’t delay!

I’m very pleased to announce a fledgling non-profit organization, the Food Preservation Associates.  We’re a new group of former Lane County Extension Master Food Preservers working to (1) provide food safety and preservation education to our community, and (2) help the effort to bring Extension back.  And you can help by showing your support…and learning!  Our first class, Gifts from the Kitchen, is headed by talented craftswoman and baker Barbara Biggs and assisted by the FPAs, whom I am sure would be happy to answer your questions about food preservation and other holiday cooking.

  • What: Gifts from the Kitchen class
  • When:  Wednesday, December 1 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Where:  First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive, Eugene
  • RSVP:  541-747-3915
  • Cost:  $20.

We’ll be doing baked goods, spiced nuts and brittle, gifts in a jar, and an impressive range of wrapping and packaging with cost-efficient materials.  This has been historically one of our most popular classes, so please join us!

Please call and reserve your spot.  Send your checks, made to Food Preservation Associates, to P.O. Box 370, Walterville, 97489.

I have more news and will be providing an update after the class with everything I’m allowed to say…but I’ll just tell you know that I’m thrilled by the efforts of Laura Hindrichs and all the amazing MFP volunteers I’ve grown to love over the past few years, and the community backing we’ve already been receiving from supporters like Adam Bernstein of Adam’s Sustainable Table.

holiday gifts 2009, the purchasing version

I’ve done the whole homemade gifts in a jar thing — now it’s time for some brutal, aggressive commercialism!  With Hanukkah beginning this weekend, and Christmas not far behind, you’d better get crackin’.  Here are some ideas for unusual, inexpensive gifts for the food lover in your life.

Sideswipe blade for KitchenAid stand mixers, made with silicone fins that can scrape the bowl and eliminate the need to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides.  Cook’s Illustrated recommends and I am filled with desire, Santa.

2-quart Pyrex measuring cup.  Put your stocking in it just to show how much it can hold.  Seriously, this is one of the best gifts you can give a foodie — something they would never buy for themselves because they don’t realize how useful they are in making soups, canning, and even candymaking.

Pommery mustard, moutarde de meaux.  Best mustard ever, perfectly balanced with vinegar and heat, with gorgeous brown and yellow intact grains.  It’s imported from France in lovely crocks, and it’s a bit too expensive for the average Joe, so why not treat someone?

Excellent olive oil.  I recommend Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. available in Eugene at Newman’s, for cooking and regular use.

Datu puti spiced vinegar.  Smooth, slightly sweet cane sugar vinegar from the Philippines is punched up with garlic, onion, and hot peppers.  “This will change your life,” said the gentleman who gave it to me as a gift.  Bold to say to someone who makes dozens of vinegars a year, thought I, arrogantly.  But it has.  And he wasn’t kidding when he said they drink it neat at his house.  Try it to deglaze a roast, or just to pep up some stirfried brussels sprouts.  OMG.

Unusual heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, or, if you’re local, Eugene Local Foods, which offers an interesting red one and a white one.  Looking at heirloom bean varieties is like having a Lush or BPAL addiction.  So pretty, each a little different.  You.  Can’t.  Stop.  Ordering.

A giant hunk of manchego cheese.  Spanish or PNW cheese (Quillisascut offers one out of Rice, WA, under the name Curado).  I’m not sure why, but I’ve grown addicted to this mild, buttery cheese, which I snack on with dried Fellenberg prunes and homemade quince paste.

Robin Goldstein’s Fearless Critic Portland Restaurant guide, sparklin’ new.  His team is brutally honest and opinionated.  If you’re reading this, you probably are, too, so this would appeal.  There’s something slightly unlikable and shiny-corporate about the guy (at least on paper), but he did gather a team of locals for research.  And I *love* the honest reviews.  Down with sentimentality in food writing!

Best of the “Best of 2009 Cookbooks” Condensed into One List (plus my PNW cookbook list will be out in the EW next week; will link).  Will it be Ad Hoc, which promises an easily digestible Keller, or the entire cookbook dedicated to macaroons (why?), or the first comprehensive English-language Chinese cookbook in years?

Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The one bread-baking book I hear consistently recommended.  I haven’t baked from it myself, but I’d sure like to.

To replace a beloved Gourmet subscription, might I suggest browsing this list of food magazines (look at the comments, too, for more ideas).  I picked up a subscription to Art of Eating, myself.  Gastronomica is having their annual sale — buy up!  (copy and paste code GAEM091 on the UC Press website when you buy a new subscription.)  Also, check out the blog in which the link appears, Eat Me Daily.  It’s my new daily amusement, food for thought.

Take that special someone out to a dinner at a small local restaurant.  Stimulate the economy by stimulating your palate.  In Eugene, I suggest Café Arirang for a bowl of spicy, warming kimchi tofu soup.

And for those who are having a hard time with Christmas cheer without the edge off:

Fascinating bitters from The Bitter TruthCelery and Xocolatl Molé flavors.  Expensive as hell, but so unique they will catapult your holiday cocktails into realms undreamed.   Celery is an old flavoring for bitters; molé is new.  Both are wonderful for holiday drinks:  celery for something savory, grassy, limey, or peppery; molé for anything that could take a hit of chocolate and spice.

Clear Creek cranberry liqueur for everything else. Oregon Coast cranberries from the people who bring you pear-in-a-bottle brandy, raspberry eau-de-vie, and cassis that could break your heart with its sweet, sharp tang.

A make-your-own vanilla extract kit.  Premium vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka.  If that doesn’t scream Christmas morning, what does?

Images are from commercial websites selling products, plus one shot of my tuna and Rancho Gordo yellow-eye bean salad, and an outtake of cherries looking abstractly festive.

sugar plum jelly with victorian spices

Now that I’ve overseen my second annual “Holiday Gifts in a Jar” class for the Master Food Preservers, I’m in jar gift mode, and I thought I’d share the bounty of my research with you.  Once a week, from now until New Year’s Day, I’ll be posting a recipe or link to something unusual and creative I’ve found that can be jarred up and offered to your loved ones as delicious holiday gifts.

The class was a great deal of fun.  We offered two sections, an afternoon and an evening, and had a range of demonstrations and hands-on workshops, including some crucial tips for decorating jars and baskets.  There was a canning overview and workshop making (low) sugar plum jelly, a comparative analysis of chutneys and conserves, and creating layering of white powders for baking mixes in their regular and gluten-free forms.

The big hit of the entire shebang was Katya Davis’ homemade vanilla extract.  Who knew it was so easy?  She demo’d the process of slicing the vanilla beans and preparing them for their bath in spirits, and even gave out samples of vanilla sugar and apple pie/pumpkin pie spice mixes to include in a baking gift basket.  I think I’ll be showing up at her door on Christmas morning with my stocking…

We also discussed safely making flavored oils (sun-dried tomato) and vinegars, and the class took home jars of blackberry and herb vinegar made with the remains of my 2009 herb garden and frozen chesterberries.  There was a demonstration of making cranberry mustard from scratch by our local mustard experts, Jan Hurlow and Suzi Busler.  I spent some time discussing local products that are particularly notable, and how to find them.  Cindy Ambrose backed me up in the evening class by demonstrating how to make hazelnut brittle in the microwave.

If you’re interested in making sugar plum jam, we have a few 1-Q jars of juice made from donated plums from King Estates winery left over from the class.  We’re selling them at $2 a jar, a fantastic price for a high-quality, pure, unsweetened jar of juice.  The quart holds slightly less than 4 cups of juice, which would work well for the following recipe that was featured in the class.

(Low) Sugarplum Jelly

This jelly spread was adapted from my recipe for cider jelly.  It uses spices that are traditional in making Victorian sugar plums.  Makes 4 half-pints of low-sugar jelly using Pomona pectin.*  Perfect for Christmas morning on cinnamon raisin bread, or mixed in with ricotta for a crepe filling.

➢    4 t. calcium water (in Pomona pectin box*)
➢    4 t. natural pectin (in Pomona pectin box*)
➢    1 quart (4 cups) plum juice, either canned or freshly made in steam juicer
➢    Spice mix: one stick cinnamon, zest from one orange, big pinch of whole allspice, pinch whole cloves, pinch whole coriander, pinch cocoa nibs (optional)
➢    1 cup sugar
➢    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
➢    4 t. (divided into four) apricot liqueur (optional)

Macerate the spices in the juice at least several hours before canning.  Measure out your juice and place in a jar or bowl that can be covered.  Add cinnamon stick.  Place the other spices in a little cheesecloth square that can be tied shut with string, then add to the juice. Refrigerate overnight, if possible.

Before beginning your jelly, wash your jars and sterilize them by boiling them in your canner for 5 minutes.  Wash your new lids and your rings.  Keep the lids and rings in water at a simmer (180 degrees), don’t boil them, in a small pot on the stove.  Filter out the spices from your juice and pour into a medium-sized pot.

To make jelly, follow the instructions on the bottom of the Pomona instruction sheet. These are, basically, as follows:

Add calcium water and lemon juice to juice in the medium pot on high heat.  As juice is being brought to a rapid boil, mix together the pectin and the sugar in a small bowl.

When the juice comes to a boil, add in the sugar/pectin mix, stirring constantly for one minute, to melt the pectin.  If you don’t stir constantly, it will lump.  Remove from heat.

Skim foam that rises to the surface of the juice, if any.

Fill hot jars, leaving a quarter-inch headspace, and add 1 t. per jar of the optional apricot liqueur.

Wipe rims, cover with lids and rings, and process for five minutes in a boiling water canner.

* If you live in Eugene, you can find Pomona pectin at Sundance, Market of Choice, and Down to Earth throughout the year.  Do not substitute Pomona pectin for another brand of pectin, as they all process differently.

when she laughed she shook like a box full of jelly


I’m preparing my holiday gift packages, listening to Esquivel’s Merry X-Mas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad to console myself.  Word from the mountain is that the Retrogrinch has mandated a moratorium on Christmas jazz and novelty tunes.  Guess who’s getting a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce for lunch?  Locally made and organic, too.  (Am I the only one who pondered actually turning this line from the Grinch song into an appetizer — sauerkraut, sauteed boletes with a bit of cream, crushed almonds, puff pastry?)

Anyhoo, I have a sleigh full of jam and pickles to give away, and as I’m packing them up for shipping, I started wondering what other homemade gifts were being given this year.  Are you making your own food gifts?  Is this an old tradition for you or a new one?

I also wanted to direct Pacific Nor’westers looking for ideas to check out the post I made a few months ago about Oregon/PNW food gift possibilities.   The comments section has more ideas.  I’d love to list as many ideas as possible, so if you know of local products or ingredients you include in your own gifts, please add your own comments!  Also check out the links to the right to read other food blogs from PNW writers with fantastic ideas.  (Edited to add:  Some PNW cheese possibilities are here, courtesy of the cheese whiz at the excellent Pacific Northwest Cheese Project.)

For the record, the 2008 Culinaria Eugenius Cannery Catalogue follows.  All fruits and vegetables are local and either from my garden or a nearby farm, except the Grinch pickles, which fittingly (?) were made from cucumbers shipped in from CA to our neighborhood Asian market.

  • Oregon Albacore Tuna.  Young, fresh, single-piece, troll-caught days before I canned it, no mercury issues!
  • Pickled Green Tomatoes with Celery.  Kosher-style, with vinegar.
  • Grinch Extra Sour Pickles.  Fermented cucumbers stewing in their own salty juice, extra garlic.
  • Purple Cauliflower Pickle.  Brilliant magenta color comes from purple cauliflower.
  • Mixed Pickle.  Dilled garden vegetables: kohlrabi, green beans, cherry tomatoes, Hungarian peppers, ripe jalapeños, cauliflower, garlic.
  • Sauerkraut with juniper berries.
  • Vegetable Salts.  Carrot and celeriac.
  • Willamette Valley Dark Fruit Honey Jam.  Wild blackberries, boysenberries, blueberries with meadowfoam honey.  Low sugar.
  • Lingering Autumn Cider Jelly.  Willamette Valley fresh cider, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa nibs, hint of chili pepper.  Low sugar.
  • Strawberry Pinot Gris Jam.  Benton strawberries, Sweet Cheeks 2006 Estate Pinot Gris syrup, hint of Szechuan pepper.  Low sugar.
  • Oregon Strawberry Elderflower Jam.  Benton and Honeoye strawberries, elderflower syrup.  French-style (no pectin).
  • Tayberry Jam.  Pure, unadulterated, musky, complex tayberries, a blackberry-raspberry cross.
  • Raspberry Apricot Preserves.  Willamette raspberries, apricots.  French-style (no pectin).
  • Apple Cranberry Sauce.  Mixed local apples, Bandon cranberries.  Low sugar.
  • Brandied cherries.  Sour pie cherries, Courvoisier.

A personal note to my friends and family reading this:  let me know which ones you’d like, if you have a preference!  I can mail everything but the Grinch Extra Sour Pickles, which are refrigerated, but I’m driving to San Francisco and plan to bring a cooler.  Love, me.