christmas cheez-its

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Instead of cookies, I made Christmas cheez-its, powered by Crossroads Farm’s pasilla, esplette, and Hungarian cherry pepper powders.  They were a hit.  I may never bake cookies again.  Especially good served with smoked whitefish dip.  So my present to you is the recipe. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cheese Crackers

Yield: 2-3 dozen, depending on how thick

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into slices when cold
  • 2 cups white wheat flour or wheat/rye combo
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, or a cheddar/stronger cheese mix like aged gouda
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Smoked paprika or esplette or pasilla powder and sesame seeds for topping

Cut butter into pieces and let sit on counter to soften.  Grate cheese. Add an ice cube to a bowl of water to chill.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor bowl; pulse to combine. Add the butter and cheese and pulse until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse until the dough falls away from the sides of the bowl and can be formed into a crumbly ball, adding a little more water if necessary.

Divide the dough in two, forming it into a disk if you plan to roll it out, or a log if you’re lazy like me and just want to slice it.  Chill for 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Either roll the dough out or slice your log into pieces 1/8-inch thick (no more!).  You may need to let it warm up first on the counter a bit if you chilled overnight for easier rolling. You are aiming for thin, crisp crackers, so take care to make thickness even and consistent.

For Cheez-It-like bits, cut into 3/4-inch-wide squares and poke a hole in the center of each square with a skewer.

Place crackers on parchment-lined baking sheets and brush with egg white, then dust with paprika or the like and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake until the dough is not shiny/raw and barely golden on the bottom, about 20-22 minutes. Store completely cooled crackers in an airtight container.

*Note: I forgot to brush with egg white, so the toppings slid off for the photo.  Follow me at your peril!

 

 

restaurants open for christmas in eugene 2014

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Looking for a roundup of restaurants open on Christmas?  I’m so thankful that Eugene Cascades and Coast continues to gather up a partial list of some eateries open Christmas and Christmas Eve 2014.  This year, I noticed more Florence and Junction City places on the list, and fewer places listed for Christmas.  Please note that these restaurants are also open on Christmas, among others:

  • Kung Fu Bistro
  • Sizzle Pie
  • Izakaya Meiji
  • SweetWaters on the River
  • House of Chen
  • Sixth Street Grill
  • Empire Buffet
  • Rennie’s
  • Centennial Steak House (Springfield)

If you’re looking to volunteer or have a low-cost meal, see this useful handout from 2012. Some info will have changed, but it’s a good start.

 

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?

 

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.

a prayer for fat tuesday: paczki day 2013

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A souffle-waffle experimentIMG_4320A slice of chocolate mousse cake from Bon Appétit circa 1980IMG_2878Truth in Portlandia

Thank you, cruel Dominates of Moderates, for leaving your groveling minion one last day of respite: Fat Tuesday, the day we celebrate all that’s excessive and fat and delightful in carne-vale-esque fashion.

For I sing (softly and despairingly and despondently at times, but I sing) the body electric, for those of us who look like paczki and act like paczki, for we endeavor to lick the creamy filling out of our mortal days on earth.  I sing against watering down bourbon and decreasing diversity and kneecapping the tasty and pleasurable and loving.  I sing against the heart made of stone and the heart heavy as a stone and the body denied and the breath captured and the unseeing eye and the muted word, even though I know that Lent will still come and what will rise in the place of pleasure is not nearly enough.

But today, wearing my new perfume — no, not THAT perfume, Jesus — I will sally my pączek form forth into the daylight, and greedily, desperately, try not to feel the legacy of enforced continence, the pinch of the present, the undeniable, frightening, slouching-toward-us-inchoately horrors of the future.

Nothing better we can do, really.

Culinaria Eugenius Paczki Day coverage throughout the years can be found here.

new year’s eve experiments in asian fusion

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The year ended for us with some food play — a joint special dinner with the new Asian fusion restaurant Mame and our local favorites, the PartyCart duo.  The green interior, unfortunately, makes the light less than appetizing in photos, but I could save a few, and I think the others adjusted pretty well in black and white.

My favorite dishes were cured yellowtail nigiri sushi; a version of chicken Kiev by way of Buffalo and Paris, with blue cheese mousse and celeriac; Thai deep-fried “son in law egg” with quince caramel and fried shallots; and the lovely, tender raw scallop with “shaved scallop bacon” and a jalapeno vinaigrette.  Retrogrouch models the scotch quail egg with chorizo and a miso honey mustard sauce, above.  The courses were paired with a range of intriguing beverages, each wholly different from the next: a pink bubbly, peach mead, beers dark and white, and one flavored with saffron.

I’ve posted a few of the more intriguing specialties here, and a full set on my Facebook page.

Top to bottom: most of menu, skewered chicken skin with “weird sauce,” fried chicken, son-in-law eggs, toro nigiri with black truffle, soba with greens, scallop.

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Hope you had as many delights and more as 2012 drew to a close!

another crabby christmas

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Hope you had a happy Christmas, either celebrating or not celebrating.  We had our usual feast of crab.  Just crab.  Nothing else.  Simple, no?  We usually get enough for leftovers — sometimes I make traditional crab soup.  This year, I’m making California rolls from the crab, tobiko fish eggs, and avocado. It’s appropriate, since we had to buy California crabs this year due to the Oregon crab season’s delay.  Not opening ’til December 30.  Argh!

Retrogrouch is from Baltimore, where they eat crabs whole and hot, so we’ve learned instruct Oregon fishmongers not to clean our crabs or (egads) put them on ice, and then I quickly re-steam them with Old Bay and beer.  Boris the cat helps by eating the mustard, the yellowy innards that are harder to eat on a Dungeness crab than on a Maryland Blue crab.  Yes, he sits at the table.  No, he isn’t allowed to do this at any other time.

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We finished off the evening, or I should say *I* finished off the evening, with the rest of my special Tyrkisk peber (a salty, spicy black licorice candy from Finland) cocoa gingerbread cookies.  They are the ugly ones above. And a serving of eggnog bread pudding as a nightcap.

I suppose I should really cook the crabs properly by purchasing them live, but they’d have to hang out for a day and I’m not sure I need that hassle.  Christmas is a day of indulgence for me: no errands, no real cooking, no email, nothing but being present in the moment.  Very hard to do.  I flirt with the idea, occasionally, of following the Jewish Shabbat traditions where one just checks out for a day of rest each week from sundown to sundown, Friday to Saturday, to enjoy the company of one’s family and friends.  Unfortunately, this is difficult to manage when one’s family and friends are connected mainly by internet. :) Not to mention, of course, you wouldn’t see an observant Jew eating crab to celebrate Christmas.  But dunno. Maybe this idea is worth pursuing in the new year.  I need a little more peace.  Don’t we all?

eugene restaurants open on christmas and eve 2012

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Jan Steen’s portrait of a baker and his wife, 17th c.

This post is from 2012.  For 2013, click here!

A skosh late, but here’s the annual update of restaurants that will be open on Christmas in our fair (and currently not raining!) city of Eugene, Oregon in 2012.  What else is open on Christmas?  Please comment with additions to the list.

Christmas Hours:

  • Eugene Coffee Company for all your caffeination needs (8 am – 2 pm). “It’s always a fun and busy day on Christmas at the shop. So few places to go and be with people but we are here for you! And a big thank you to Brandie and Jess for offering to work today! Have a great day everyone.”
  • Izakaya Meiji — open normal hours (5 pm – 1 am).
  • Marché Restaurant — open until 1 pm for breakfast/brunch.
  • Barn Light — 6pm – Midnight (only open until 8 pm Christmas Eve).
  • Sweetwater Grill’s Christmas Buffet — open 12 pm – 6 pm
    $ 45.00 adults $ 20.00 children 5-12 years
  • Sixth Street Grill — open 2-10 pm.  “It’s Tuesday which means it’s Burger-n-Brew night! A charbroiled burger topped with cheddar & swiss, thick smoked bacon, avocado, grilled onions & mushrooms on a toasted bun with mayo, lettuce & tomato. And it comes with fries and your choice of a pint of beer or soda for only $7.50!”
  • If you’re interested in national chain restaurants in Eugene and elsewhere open on Christmas, try this helpful link.

Plus, two special Christmas Eve Dinners (call ASAP for reservations — King Estate is 541-942-9874 ext. 132 and Marché is 541-342-3612):

King Estate’s Specials — Christmas Eve

  • Whole Dungeness Crab with Orange Cranberry Slaw, Pommes Frites, Aromatic Butter and Aioli, $27
  • Holiday Meats: Venison Sausage, Duck Breast Prosciutto, Crispy Pork Belly, Lamb Rillet, Sweet Potato, Braised Winter Kale and Apple Cider Sauce, $28

Marché’s Reveillon de Noel Christmas Eve

A Menu in the Spirit of the traditional Christmas Eve Supper in Provence, $40.

  • Hors d’Oeuvres Varies: brandade in puff pastry, celery salad & anchovy dressing, and tapenade croutes
  • Mesclun avec Fromage Frais de Chevre et aux Oranges: mixed winter greens with goat cheese & oranges
  • Canneloni Aux Champignons Sauvages: pasta with wild mushrooms and truffles
  • or Gigot d’Agneau a la Provencale: roast leg of lamb with herbes de provence, creamy polenta & roasted root vegetables
  • or Bouillabaisse: pacific rockfish and shellfish poached in a saffron broth with fennel and leeks, served with croutes & aioli
  • Les Treize Desserts: lavender honey nougat & hazelnuts, pistachio ice cream & dried cherries, date & walnut cake with tangerine creme anglaise, milk chocolate coins with figs, almonds & orange peel.

last minute food gifts?

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If you’re anything like me, you’re out on the sodden streets of Eugene today, scrambling to buy some last minute gifts.  Here’s stuff that appealed to this cook.  May it appeal to the cooks in your life, too!

A beautiful, high-quality, sturdy, imported Swiss fondue set.  Even better, buy one yourself and have friends over for a fondue party.

Good recent cookbooks from the PNW, plus Hank Shaw’s (who gets a geographic pass), curated by Kathleen Bauer.

Naomi Duguid’s new Burma cookbook (available locally at Provisions).  I have a number of Thai cookbooks, and none is perfect.  So I’m ready to move to Burma, whose food is close to Thai but has more Indian influences.  I noticed that interpretations of many of my favorite Thai recipes are in this book, and the pictures are gorgeous.  Even better: we’re hosting Duguid on our next show on KLCC’s Food for Thought!

A set of teenage-oriented cookbooks from British celebrity wunderkind chef Sam Stern. They seem less fussy than Rozanne Gold’s teen cookbooks, and much less insulting than the “OMG I am a cooking idiot!!” style book of basics. I don’t love the whole celebrity chef thing, but he seems to have a good sense of what teens might like to cook and eat, so I bought one for my seventh-grade nephew for Christmas.  We’ll test this idea out.  Could crash and burn.  What do I know?

A set of soufflé dishes made from French porcelain in 1/1.5/2 quart sizes.  Alas, I bought the Chinese stuff because I’m cheap.

RabLabs-ESPERA-Fruit-Nut-Bowls

Speaking of cheap, these gorgeous stainless footed perforated bowls are not.  Modeled on the complex pattern of an elegant lacy sea fan by my childhood classmate Anna Rabinowicz, either a nut or fruit bowl would make a lovely conversation piece. (Photo is RabLab’s.)

Since the Mason Shaker is sold out, consider this DIY bar shaker made from a canning lid and a drill.  Redneck Manhattans.  Then you wouldn’t feel bad about spending all that money on the soufflé dishes and the nut bowl.

A little terrine mold, complete with a wood press.

An All-Clad food mill.  Between that and the terrine, I’ve become very interested in mashing all my food together lately.  Not sure why.

A meat grinder attachment for a KitchenAid mixer.  See above.

An Imperia pasta machine.  You spend too much money on crackers and should be making them at home, to say nothing of pasta.  This machine would do the trick.

Put your mashed foods on a pedestal, literally.  I saw these clever Serveitup pedestals that can attach to any dish with a suction cup while I was shopping at a local kitchen store today.

A pH tester suggested by Punk Domestics alongside many other DIY gifts.  It can give you a sense of which fruits and vegetables are low acid for canning (but do use a safe recipe).

Imported yellow Nordic split peas (they have them at Newman’s Fish Market, where you should also pick up some smoked whitefish dip and wine-marinated herrings).

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Little packets of ground chile powder in all kinds of colors and flavors done by the chile farmers who roast ’em live in season at the Lane County Farmers Market.  In the winter, they stock single-strains of various smoked chiles from mild to hot — find them at the holiday market at the fairgrounds.  I’ve been relying heavily on the green pasilla chile powder this fall for everything I’d normally use with paprika — baked winter squash, mashed potatoes, popcorn…

And speaking of spice mixes, I was rather obsessed for a while with the Bengali spice mix called Panch Puran (a blend of fenugreek, cumin, black mustard seed, fennel seed, and onion seed); it’s terrific with fruit chutneys, cauliflower curry, and baked quince.

A bottle of the herbal liqueur Bénédictine to make the classic drink B&B with equal parts brandy and Bénédictine.  This wintry cocktail was introduced to me by my neighbor the other day, and I’m sold.

Aaaaand, Michael Ruhlman’s new offset tasting/basting spoons.  Seems like a simple thing, doesn’t it, so why hasn’t anyone made them ’til now?  Buy three bundled with some lovely wood “paddles” and a slotted offset serving spoon.

A RELATED NOTE: do not buy the following — a hunk of pink salt; a panini press; pretzels topped with white frosting and pink and green squiggles; this banana slicer (read the reviews); Christmas ceramic anything; mulling spices; pocket-sized one-ingredient cookbooks; plaques that make pronouncements about the cook’s mood or sexual availability or types of food being served here (with or without prices).  If you can’t think of anything, just go to a wine shop and ask them for a nice bottle of wine.  Maybe something to go with fondue?

PLUS EXTRA POINTS for anyone who can tell me more about the white sticks on a string used as Christmas decorations in Amsterdam, above.  Anyone?

thanksgiving in eugene 2012

In addition to the Fill-Your-Pantry event with local beans, grains, and produce available for bulk sale in Eugene (deadline to order ahead is today, event on Nov. 18), and the Holiday Farmers Market at the Fairgrounds beginning this weekend, you might be wondering what else is available for a local Thanksgiving supper in Lane County.  Well, wonder no more, and make your plans soon!

Poultry and Other Meats

  • Biancalana Pork Growers have their own turkeys and chickens this year, although I can’t find anything on their Facebook page.  Great sausage (try the apple-rosemary) for stuffing, too.  Email da915@comcast.net.
  • Boondockers Farm has succulent ducks and chickens.  More information on their website.  They might be able to make one more delivery run to Eugene?
  • Long Tom Grazing Company has pastured turkeys at $6.25 a pound. Every turkey comes with a bonus — free vegetables!  5 lbs. potatoes and onion and decorative gourds! All organically grown. Email ltgrazing@gmail.com.

Need help with your turkey preparation?  Call the annual Oregon Statewide Holiday Food Safety Hotline at 1-800-354-7319.  November 13 – 16; Tuesday thru Friday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm; November 19 – 21; Monday thru Wednesday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  Staffed by Master Food Preserver volunteers from Douglas and Lane Counties.

Pies

Visit these local bakeries/shops for more information about varieties. Plus, you’ll be able to sample some of the goods.

  • Mom’s Pies (traditional pies from a venerable Eugene baker)
  • Noisette Pastry Kitchen (traditional pies from our newest, wonderful bakery)
  • PartyCart (traditional pies to order, all local ingredients)
  • Red Wagon Creamery (ice cream pies and a layered ice cream cake, local ingredients)
  • Vanilla Jill’s (ice cream, frozen yogurt, and traditional pumpkin pies with sugar-free, vegan, gluten-free options)

Prepared Dishes for Takeout/Order Ahead

  • Ivy’s Cookin’ (vegetarian meals? I don’t see their menu on their website yet)
  • Heidi Tunnell Catering (from her post on the Food for Thought on KLCC Facebook page: “We’ve got a list of Thanksgiving items that folks can purchase from us. Items are all available a la carte from appetizers to the whole turkey (brined or roasted), sides, bread and desserts. Menus are available by a link on our website. Or they can come pick one up at our kitchen in Creswell we can also email menus as well. Orders are due on Sunday, November 18th; pick up happens the day before Thanksgiving and items come complete with cooking instructions.”
  • Marché Provisions (Beaujolais Nouveau tasting and lots of other goodies)

Restaurants Open on Thanksgiving:

  • King Estate (full Thanksgiving spread)
  • Govinda’s (vegetarian)
  • Marché for breakfast
  • EDIT: Excelsior (see comments)
  • EDIT: The Barn Light after 7 p.m. (sandwiches, full bar, coffee downtown: see comments)

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