Lost in the Clouds

I dropped by one of my favorite stores today to pick up a few specialty items. It’s always fun to plan a weekend visit, because the folks at Roth’s Market in Silverton go out of their way to feature tastings and innovative offerings.

Out front, they had their usual grill area set up cooking off their notoriously fantastic burgers—the smell is enough to draw you in and seal the deal.  As I skirted past the crowd to make my way into the store entry, I caught a whiff of another oddly familiar smell that jerked me around and took me back outside again.  It made no sense, but clearly, I was downwind from an unmistakeable cloud of roasting hatch chile peppers!

Yes, indeed, behind the tent of barbecuing burgers, a roaster was gyrating about searing and tumbling the elusive, elegant, elongated hatch chile peppers.Hatch roaster  A team of three was busy removing and bagging them as fast as they could for waiting shoppers.Roasted hatch Shades of New Mexico and Austin! How could this happen? The lady ahead of me carried off 10 pounds of peppers; she clearly knew what she was doing.

Hatch box resizedApparently the word is out: that small window of opportunity called hatch chile pepper season is upon us, right here in Silverton, Oregon. fresh hatch resized If you have not experienced these amazing peppers now is the time, and it will not last.  That is why people in the know, freeze enough of the freshly roasted peppers to last them an entire year.

Of course hatch chiles are amazing on burgers, for more information and ideas on these marvels, check out earlier posts:

The Land of Enchantment

Yup, Hatch Pepper Manicotti

Chile-Cheese-in-a-Hole

Tea, from Oregon with love

Minto Island Tea Company stands in a class all its own.  They are leading the way in the specialty production of certified organic, handpicked, small-batch crafted teas in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley.Minto Island Tea

Who knew temperamental, labor intense teas would grow in Oregon—or in the US, for that matter?  First planted back in 1988 as an experimental project, their plants and techniques proved to not only thrive but they have flourished over the years. Minto Island Tea leaves

As small batch growers, this family operation continues to adapt, perfect their art, and gain acclaim along the way for high quality green, oolong and black teas.  For more information their teas can be sourced at their Minto Island Farm Stand in Salem, from their website, or at the Portland State Saturday Market. 

First look: Pine Street Market, downtown Portland’s new food hall

-36dffb6c9b4cbf21After months of construction and permitting delays, Pine Street Market, downtown Portland’s hotly-anticipated food hall, is set to open in the coming weeks.

The 10,000-square-foot food hall spans entire ground floor of the 1886 United Carriage and Baggage Transfer Building and will bring nine, big-name Portland restaurants, bakeries and more together under its skylit roof.

Pine Street Market, from project developers Jean Pierre Veillet, David Davies and Rob Brewster and culinary curator Mike Thelin, will give Portland its first taste of a red-hot modern food trend, the curated food hall, which has already found success in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Get to know all the tenants opening inside Pine Street Market:

Source: First look: Pine Street Market, downtown Portland’s new food hall | OregonLive.com

 Oregon Truffle Festival

Wee doggies!  For mushroom and wine lovers, mark your calendars for the ultimate event:

Truffle Dog

The 2016 Oregon Truffle Festival
January 16 & 17: The Joriad™ 2nd Annual North American Truffle Dog Championship

January 22-24:  Newberg and the Yamhill Valley

January 29-31 Eugene and surrounding truffle and wine country

For more than a decade, the Oregon Truffle Festival has been the leading voice for a burgeoning industry, and an exciting culinary festival that sells out its popular dinners and tasting events year after year. From James Beard award winning chefs to truffle industry experts to food journalists and food enthusiasts, many renowned culinary figures participate in the Oregon Truffle Festival every year.

TruffeIt’s the only event of its kind in the country, and the foremost wintertime culinary event in the State of Oregon.As the first truffle festival in the English-speaking world, and “one of the top 5 destinations in the world for truffle lovers,” the Oregon Truffle Festival offers a culinary experience that simply cannot be found anywhere else. This is an international event that joins truffle fanciers and truffle experts from all over the world in three days of celebration, educational seminars, and hands-on experiences.

NEW IN 2016! Now in its 11th year, the Oregon Truffle Festival will expand to three weekends beginning with the Joriad™ North American Truffle Dog Championship, moving to an exploration of the terroir of Yamhill Valley truffle and wine country, and concluding with the festival’s popular Eugene weekend of events to close out the festivities. That means more events, more chefs, more education, more truffle hunting and more opportunities to celebrate Oregon’s most treasured culinary ingredient.

Source: About the Festival – Oregon Truffle Festival

 

Kid’s Play: Petite Banana Bread Panibois

I’ve been going small lately.  After years of resizing recipes upwards of 50+ servings, this is clearly a novel situation.

Banana bread slices
Petite Quality Control

Baking small may be a new world for me, but it is far more efficient and less energy wasteful, thanks to my recent purchase of a mini convection oven that is big enough to hold a 9” pizza (just sayin’).

BD toaster oven
Mini convection oven

Turns out, the new Black and Decker countertop oven is ideal for tasks like baking two petite loaves of banana bread―yielding a sweet gift in hand for a lucky friend and a perfect quality control loaf for moi.

I felt like a kid again playing with an Easy-Bake toy oven.  In the same spirit, I kept it simple by using a basic quick bread recipe that requires no special tools.

As with most quick breads, the dry and wet ingredients are combined separately then quickly mixed together. However, I did change up the oil by substituting half melted coconut oil; a very nice touch.  For a sparkling flourish I sprinkled the tops with a dusting of Demerara sugar.  Kid’s play, for sure.

Banana panibous
Banana Bread Panibois

Panibois wooden molds are a handy solution for dressing up those spur of the moment acts of kindness.  Technobake offers a full line with all sorts of sizes and shapes.  They are so attractive I keep an extra woven tray on my desk to hold daily action items.  Even better news, you bake right in the molds, since each includes a paper liner for added protection.

Come to think of it, it’s time to re-order, holiday gift giving is coming up fast…

Petite Banana Bread

Makes two 5×3” loaves

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium/large)
1 large egg
4 Tbsp vegetable oil (part melted coconut oil is nice)
1/2 cup heaping, packed brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using metal pans, spray with baking spray and line bottoms with parchment.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients through salt and whisk to blend.
  3. In medium bowl, mash banana, whisk in egg, then the oil; add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth.  Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients just to combine.  Spread into two 5×3” loaf pans.  Sprinkle with Demerara sugar if desired.
  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the loaves begin to shrink away from edges of pan, are nicely browned, and the centers are dry when tested. (Since these brown quickly, I reduced the heat to 340 degrees half way through to insure they were thoroughly baked). Let cool for 10 minutes on rack, turn out of pan and cool to room temperature.    Yield: two 5×3” loaves.

Farmers’ Market Life in Austin

Bird's Eye Market View
Bird’s Eye Market View

Yesterday was market day at the Austin Downtown Farmers’ Market, part of Austin’s Sustainable Food Center network.  I’m told it is one of the largest in Texas, and although not packed with vendors, there was still plenty of variety to choose from.  Good things are happening in the realm of charcuterie, too; we found more than one source for such delicacies as duck, quail, and goose.

Springfield Farm IMG_0076

I am such a sucker for arugula, I jumped on a huge bag of tender greens offered by Springfield Farm out of Moulton, Texas, about 90 miles to the southeast.

And that’s nothing in Texas.  Many vendor’s farms are considerable distances away and think nothing of making three or more weekly trips to work the circuit of popular markets.  Even with outlandish transport costs this is just part of doing business in these parts.

I was impressed with the wildflower honey at Austin Honey Company.   Their creamed honey is just that: light and incredibly smooth, showing a mixture of floral notes―which change, based on the bees’ grazing tendencies at any given time of year.

Lemon Ginger Shrub MG_0117Another discovery came from the Shrub Drinks booth, where co-owner Cynthia Guido jokingly cracked that “they aren’t selling bushes”.  No, they are marketing a wide variety of artisanal drinking vinegars apparently enjoyed way  back in early Egyptian days (i.e., a long time ago).   In 17th century England and during colonial times shrub was used as a way to preserve fruit.  The resulting bitters-like syrup was used in beverages with water or soda or as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails.

Much later back at home, we put our feet up and treated ourselves to tall icy glasses of  Pelligrino water infused with Apple, Lemon, & Ginger Shrub.   Ah yes, very refreshing indeed―after another grueling day at the market.  What a life.

IKEA: Yellow Brick Road

IKEA kitchenI could be the last person in the US to discover the wonders of IKEA.

Yesterday, on a visit that went on for hours, I had my first astonishing experience at the Round Rock, Texas IKEA store.   Thankfully they have a restaurant and café where I could take a break (or two) for rest and recovery before heading out again.

The store is so big (rumor has it that they are in the throes of expanding again!!) that one really does need to take advantage of the maps included on their Shopping List handout.  Of course, I did not understand the IKEA shopping philosophy and made the mistake of first entering the Swedish food market and bistro, where they offer a fairly small assortment of imported beverages, condiments, snacks, frozen items and such.   I settled on a jar of Sylt Flader & Apelsin, or Orange and Elderflower Marmalade, and thought I had completed a sensible shop.  Beyond that space the self-service and check-out areas carry on in a well-organized and fluid manner.

As I headed out, I thought I’d take a quick peek in door number two: the Marketplace is an endless cavern of kitchenware, bed and bath décor, textiles, home organization and accessories.  Then, on to the Showroom, another huge circuit in its own seamless maze.  As I followed the signs and arrows from department to department, I felt as if I had not only set down on the Yellow Brick Road but I had entered the Land of Oz, never to return.

At one point, I began to wonder if I could go on, land-locked forever, and questioned whether I had become so completely desensitized that I lacked the ability to recognize the fear of being lost.  What the heck, I had plenty of time, it was all amazing, and I was confident that food was not far away. white-dish-9[1]

Everything is displayed with simplicity, functionality and organization in mind.  The kitchen utensils, dishware and cabinetry are all beautiful, well-crafted, smart and affordable.  If I was lost, I was o.k. with that, because I had just stumbled upon heaven, too.

The Land of Enchantment

Hatch PeppersOn my recent road trip to Austin, Texas I made a weekend stop in Las Cruces and nearby Hatch, New Mexico, proclaimed Chile Capitol of the World and home to the famous hatch chile pepper.  So highly regarded are these peppers that even neighboring Texas holds festivals in their honor.   There are different degrees of heat in these green chiles, but all are known for their bright citrus flavor.  As they say in New Mexico, the poblano is no competition.

Roasted Hatch Peppers It was dark when I pulled into the quirky Big Chile Inn in Las Cruces.  New Mexico had me as soon as I stepped out of my car and was enveloped in a sweet smoky cloud of roasting chile peppers.  I knew the next day I would be making a pilgrimage to Hatch, in search of their legendary roots.

Las Cruces’ fertile Mesilla Valley is also the depository for the Rio Grande River and a rich flood plain that grow pecans, pistachios, corn, chiles, grapes, and peppers.  While friends and family extolled the amazing sauces and dishes of New Mexico, I was far more curious about exploring this strange pocket of agriculture carved out of sheer barren desert.

The next day I browsed an artisan’s market set in the historic town square of the quaint adobe style village of Mesilla.  Locals overwhelmingly recommended Sparky’s in Hatch for one of their world famous Hatch Green Chile Cheeseburgers.

Well, ok. I’m on my way.  Some may say Sparky’s is just another hamburger joint, but don’t tell that to the locals.  On weekend afternoons, live music is a popular draw.  There is plenty of barbecue, tacos and burritos, but the burger was really delicious―loaded with melting cheddar cheese and tons of hatch chile pepper strips.   That’s it, and well worth the trip.   Love those peppers!

Hatch is about 30 miles outside of Las Cruces, heading north on Hwy 25 toward Albuquerque.

Olives Galore

BasketAbout a week ago I packed up the car with coolers and picnic baskets and headed south out of Oregon on a road trip to Austin, Texas.

Half the fun of traveling for me is the planning and preparation of a few tasty treats to enjoy along the way.

As it turned out, I had enough for a round trip with chicken tandoori, couscous salad with marinated vegetables, hummus, fresh vegies for dipping, and even a cheese-covered frittata filled with potatoes and sautéed vegetables.

There were the planned stops along the way that further expanded my food larder.  The Olive Pit in Corning, California provided an energizing break with some serious olive tasting.  For over 50 years this roadside attraction has been an institution for travelers, and it is still run by the Craig family.  Along with the tasting room, there is a restaurant for those with more serious appetites.

Olive Pit Samples
Olive Pit Samples

On this stop I came away with a few real jewels.  I couldn’t resist their Mediterranean style olives, big fat dark green olives soaked in a mild olive oil, red wine vinegar and herb marinade; or the small crisp Picholine olives, elegant and herbal; and of course the must-have bottle of fruity California Olive Ranch’s award winning Arbequina extra virgin olive oil.

Here’s my favorite concoction for tapenade which I tend to modify based on olives on hand, and not just meaty Kalamatas.  This is good spread on nearly anything, or simply tossed with pasta.

tapenade imageTapenade

Ingredients

  •  ½  pound olives, any combination of black and green, pitted
  •  3    cloves garlic, crushed
  •  2    tablespoons capers
  •  ½  teaspoon thyme
  •  ½  teaspoon rosemary
  •  1     teaspoon lemon juice
  •  1     teaspoon Dijon mustard
  •  1     teaspoon anchovy paste, optional
  •  2    tablespoons olive oil
  •         ground pepper, plenty
  •  1     tablespoon sherry, more if needed
  1. Process all ingredients through herbs into a rough puree.  Add remaining items and process, but retain some texture.
  2. Adjust seasoning and chill well.

Spread on crostini or raw vegetables.  It will hold for weeks with a film of olive oil over surface.  Makes about 2 cups.

The Zen of Morning Rituals: Coffee


What does morning mean to me?  Since I am an optimist, I like to consider that magical transition between dark and daylight as pure ripening potential: a time to open my mind to all the possibilities and new experiences looming on-the-horizon, coming my way for the plucking.

As part of my morning wake up, I typically head for the kitchen to prepare a lively pot of hot coffee; it’s my signal that a new day is underway.   

Over a fresh cup of well-made coffee, I spend a little time in quiet contemplation: I write a bit, set a few goals, and I create a list of my to-dos for the day ahead.   Since I look forward to this special time, my morning coffee has become associated with comfort, anticipation, pleasure, and creativity. 

My coffee making history is also a reflection of an ever-changing lifestyle. For many years the plug-in coffee maker with the drip filter was just fine.  It was during those hectic days that the novelty of a built-in timer became a must-have addition. When espresso makers hit the market I was all over that.  During this period, a favorite called the three-in-one made filter coffee, espresso, and also frothed milk for lattes and cappuccinos.  What could be better?! 

When I lived in Florida, the Cuban influence took over and I got hooked on the simple stove-top aluminum espresso maker.  However, I finally had to admit that a little of this espresso was like drinking jet fuel, that the jolt was rocket propelled, and perhaps more suitable for an afternoon pick-me-up. 
   
This was also a time of serious weather upheavals; we had one wild hurricane after another.  I was in luck.  Armed with the stove-top espresso method and my propane catering stove, I was set and assured of my morning coffee ― under any conditions.    

I’ve always believed the French press was a kinder and gentler way of preparing and enjoying coffee.  In this Zen manner (if that is possible), the coffee beans are not ‘cooked’ over high heat; rather, briskly boiling spring water (preferably) is held briefly to reduce its heat, then a slight amount is poured over the freshly ground beans ― allowing them to expand and bloom.  More very hot water is poured over the ground beans and then allowed to stand for a few minutes to further develop their essential flavors and aroma.  

With that approach to coffee, you can well imagine my reaction.  A small individual portion would surely not suffice.  It was not long before a larger unit was mandatory.  

I have since moved on to an even bigger and better  48 ounce thermal press, plus an electric water kettle ― for the maximum Zen experience. 

Ah, yes, there’s nothing like a fresh cup of coffee to launch my day.