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EVOO Cooking School

Wine and Food Tour under the Tuscan Sun with EVOO

Note posted 8-24-16: This tour has been postponed until 2017. Please watch for update.

Would you like to come along?  Our itinerary is a nice blend of Tuscan Wines with Tuscan Food Culture and we are going back to the first villa we stayed in on our first trip with guests to Italy.

Click through here to read the details of the trip. 2016 Tuscany with EVOO tour lenore’s revisions


WFO Project

See a the first flame
Bob keeping good notes while he fires up the oven
Olivia was quite chatty over the new oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, finally we are getting closer to being able to use the oven. Being careful not to make any mistakes has taking longer than expected. The last hang up was waiting for help on what the chimney pipe should look like. It was days getting to the decision, another day installing and trimming the apple tree so branches didn’t get close enough to get too hot. Yes, tree branches were trimmed. So sad since is starting to look like best apple season yet for this tree. But better now than after the mature apples weigh it down till they touch the exhaust pipe. Could make for a nice apple sauce.

The first day for lighting the fires in both the oven and grill started early. Bob, Lenore and Olivia went to the back yard, gathered the fire extinguisher, some long handled tools, oven mitts, and something for notes. Have I said yet that we are happy we added a gas starter? We may have been all day instead of the 45 minutes it took to get a good flame on the wood in both apparatuses (or should that be apparati). Anyway, the oven gas jet provided a powerful flame to ignite the smaller pieces of oak inserted near it. Soon the pile was powering itself, so gas shut off, and we moved the pile to the opposite corner.

We then moved to the grill, where the wood is stacked on an iron rack inside the chimney , perched above the gas started. We turned on the gas, and it worked well enough to get the wood above it lit, but everything seemed too slow. About that time our neighbor, Dwight, popped up with a proper way to place the wood for best coverage–his stack was vertical not horizontal and more like the teepee shape we strive for making a beach fire. It worked.

We then realized that our food safety thermometer scanner keep shutting off when the surface reached a temperature it thought was hot enough! It flashed HI, we wanted to know if it was 500 yet.  Dwight again to the rescue–just happened to have an electrical scanner in his truck that demonstrated we were reaching very close to 500F on the grill itself. Just right to cook staff lunch.  A few rib eye steaks and the skilled hands of Florencio and in a few minutes the steak was done.

 


WOOD FIRED OVEN PROJECT, continued

The grill turned and put together backwards, making the chimney on the right side as desired. But...
Here is the view of the base which the oven is to be built on--this our contractor built and we haven't even opened the oven kit yet.

Okay so we bought a wood fired oven kit! It is a 2000 pound puzzle and one might think my Lego building past might come in handy with this. Sadly, we have already run into a snag–we ordered the wrong version of the wood fired companion grill. Little did we know there was a right and left side version of said grill. This is even more disturbing because we have already set the base of the oven in place and are learning the grill with left sided chimney that we purchased is not the one we wanted with a right sided chimney. After several reconfigurations we decided we could build it backwards, and access from the back instead of its proper front.  Well that was a great idea, but as soon as we realized it required cutting some of the puzzle pieces, a move that might be fatal to the project, we went back to building it the way it is intended. Alas, we will live with a left sided chimney and like it.

I defer to Lenore in design areas like this. From a usability standpoint it is functional, especially with the proposed table top prep area and under counter storage. But visually Lenore is concerned it may be visually out of balance and somewhat awkwardly lopsided with the chimney in the way. And it is entirely possible we are both overthinking this! In the end I am confident it will provide an awesome addition to our current cooking options.

Oh, and Lenore wants me to tell you that the reason we didn’t just opt to get the kit with the chimney in the desired place is that there are none available in the USA and we’d have to  order one from Italy and wait for it to be shipped. Could be months. I for one am not good at deferred gratification.


BACKYARD KITCHEN EXPANSION–THE PROJECT BEGINS

Todd is the engineer on this project
Laying concrete to hold the weight of these two monsters
2800 pounds of pieces to our oven and grill

Yes, we are finally putting in the wood fired oven I have always  wanted. It has landed, all 2800 pounds of it in our driveway, now covered to keep dry. It is in multiple pieces and goes together like a puzzle. It comes all the way from Italy via a company in Portland. What a lucky find–we saw the same ovens many places in Italy when we were there. It is not quite the biggest one, but it is large. We decided to put in its companion piece, the wood fired grill. This is the same set up we saw so many places thorough out Italy. The grill will replace our current stainless steel model gas grill, pretty typical of around here. Both new pieces are to be fired by both wood and gas. This way we conserve the wood and time it takes to fire up to the maximum temperatures we need for breads and pizza. In the process of making this all come together, I am journaling to make sure I don’t forget anything; I’ll be posting some photos as I go.

We couldn’t do this without help of a rather knowledgeable builder, and luckily we have secured services of Todd, friend and  owner of his contracting business. The first day of construction he began digging up the place that the concrete will go.

 


SOURCING OUR INGREDIENTS

It occurs to us that while there are many signs of progress in the area of using ones food dollars to vote for the more sustainable and even humane production of food ingredients, the progress is still very slow. In fact I for one have not always put my money where my mouth is, and so I am not being critical, as much as I am wishing to influence my colleagues and our customers to catch up.

The subject for this blog was prompted by a recent copy of  “Mise En Place, ” the alumni magazine from my alma mater, the Culinary institute of American, Hyde Park, NY. It makes a strong statement that chefs must lead in the effort to connect the so called farm and fork. It is a nice validation for Lenore and me because it comes from that very respected institution.   That said I see colleagues still too often choosing a “sometimes stance” rather than “all or nothing.”

I confess Lenore and I did it too in the beginning, as we began to know the local farms and vendors, we learned of people (farmers) who were changing to all sustainable practices, but didn’t have certification because of cost. After a time, we decided that organic is the only way to ensure sustainable food practices in the world, so we changed to ALL organic.

Still it wasn’t easy. And we do sympathize with chefs in more typical restaurants who try to purchase responsibly. Besides the obvious, higher cost, most restaurant menus are static, and so if a chef wanted to serve only sustainable ingredients, they end up using the unsustainable alternatives just to deliver what their menu says. That we own our business, we can be fully true to our own convictions as long as we are willing to pay more for those products, and as long as our customers are willing to pay for it, too. As a result, we are tracking pretty close to our desired sustainable, green, clean mantra. Restaurants that commit and advertise their sustainable practices have only benefited, especially now since the general public is becoming more and more aware.

Some restaurants are practicing the 100 mile radius sourcing of ingredients, which is admirable, but difficult to strictly adhere.The reality that we live in a global economy has led us to practice some latitude in our commitment, latitude that is also responsible we think. Truth is we want to participate in the world of commerce knowing we don’t want to give up bananas, coffee, or chocolate either; so our guiding principle is to stick with the 80-20 rule, meaning about 80% of our products are local and 20% global. This in no way applies to those ingredients that for us must be humanely raised and harvested, where our commitment is  “all or nothing.” Oranges in season in California is a reasonable exception, despite the shipping distance, since we most likely will not be harvesting oranges in Oregon. Would we include shipping sustainable lobster from Maine cross country for our menu, not likely, and probably not from Japan either, but we also leave it open for case by case discussion with the 80/20 rule.

Today is all about sharing our self-imposed rules for sourcing our ingredients.

Produce: First we buy in season in the PNW. We apply the belief that local in season ingredients produce the best results, besides being more sustainable. That means we have given up tomatoes out of season for good. There is simply no substitute for a tomato that is in season and grown in the earth without benefit of green house. This rule right now only applies to tomatoes for us, because we do sometimes bring in strawberries before they are in season here, but are in season in California. We argue (or rationalize) that when a bride wants strawberries on her menu, we will make that happen! So the majority of our purchases are, of course, organic, in season produce, and as for local we go to Oregon first, Washington second, Idaho, Alaska, BC Canada, California and Mexico third.

Beef: We look for pastured, antibiotic free grass only fed and finished beef. We prefer processing to be nearby the ranch so animals do not experience the trauma of long travel. It was important for us to weed out those companies that pasture for grass feeding, but who also provide grain in bins out in the field. It is like they are conflicted about why grass feeding is important not just for us, but for those animals that by nature cannot eat grain. And lastly we ask for full term cattle, in other words, those that have been raised as long as it takes to reach market weight, creating a better tasting meat.

Fish & Seafood: We frequently check what the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch recommends. This is the first organization that rated the harvesting of fish whose numbers are dangerously low or that are temporarily in short supply. They let us know which species are caught or farmed in ways that supports the health of the ocean and fish, now and for future generations. We choose “best choices” and if not available we look for “good alternatives” or eco-certified options found on their app and website.

We also know our vendors here on the north coast of Oregon. And they know us. So by now, when we ask for fresh salmon, they might just say not yet available, even though we see it in the markets. This is because we opt only for line caught fish, so fish have not been traumatized by nets that trap and hold them till they perish before pulling them in. It is obvious to me every time I see a fish caught by trolling–there are actual bruises and tears in the flesh. That also creates off taste in the meat.

Dairy:  We source pasture raised milk, antibiotic free, knowing that it is more humane and also grass translates to better nutrition for us and makes for better tasting cheeses. We prefer to choose cheese labeled  “farmsted,”  because it means the milk from which it is made comes from animals raised on the same farm. Transporting to a factory makes sanitation more challenging. It already requires enormous care making cheeses sanitary, especially for the cheeses which do not need pasteurization due to their aging process. In general, where food safety is concerned buying local and sticking close to home is one of the best ways to help prevent FBI. (food borne illness) And that is another topic for another day.

Staples:  For flours, (wheat, corn, whole wheat, rice, etc), cinnamon, sugar and chocolate, we ask for certification of GMO free and fair trade. It isn’t always possible to be sure just from a label so we ask the vendor to provide the proof. There has been lots of discussion around olive oils and other oils. We believe the Italian problem (improperly labeled as EVOO) has by now been taken care of but it is always a good idea to talk to the grocers about their products. If they cannot answer to the quality then shame on them. Most vendors want to please; they want you to return. If they don’t know something they most likely will try to find out. As customers our questions help shape what is carried in their stores. We find it difficult to find non-GMO oils. We therefore steer clear of the corn oils vegetable, and some canola oils, unless we know the brands or the label states GMO free.

 

Footnote: At EVOO we are not entirely where we would like to be on the topic of sourcing ingredients. It is not only the health of the animals, sea creatures and organic farming practices that are important to us. Yes, healthy products are healthier for people. Tastier too, and buying responsibly is the path to preserving quality and quantities for generations. We must also do what is healthy for the planet. Eating more of a plant based diet will enormously help the planet. Raising cattle and milk cows creates a very big carbon footprint; one that can be controlled by cutting the amounts we consume.

The entire world seems to have too large an appetite for beef, which means controlling farming practices alone will not be enough to lessen the impact on the environment. We all must decide to eat less beef. We would also add, that eating only the best cuts of beef is not sustainable no matter how little we eat.  We must equally consume the lesser cuts as part of our quotas. We enjoy raising awareness of our guests when we serve them grass fed/finished tenderloin of beef, but we know once we get that message across, we must show by example with menus utilizing all cuts.

And by example we hope to inspire a plant forward style of eating. Eating the true Mediterranean diet is the closest diet pyramid to this end. Making plant foods more prevalent on the plate and using animal foods under 3-4 ounce servings is going to make for good eating and reduce the demand for meat. Choosing other meats like lamb, goat, and bison is healthier for the planet, and yet they are still red meats that must be limited for human health.

Lots to consider, and yet we must consider how what we buy/eat influences our future. It is also important to be open to new technologies; ones tested enough before we jump onto the band wagon. We remain open to change, believe in education, and endeavor to make enlightened responses.


IN THE WORKS AT EVOO

With two months into the new year, we still have so much to do; things we wanted to have nailed down by now.

#1. Let’s see– our domestic tour to New Orleans. We are going most likely the first week in OCTOBER, and we are very close to finalizing all of our details. Shoot us an email at info@evoo.biz if you have the dates available and want more details.

#2–to pizza oven or not to pizza oven. That dance is finally over. Yes, Bob has finally won and there is a very good possibility this will happen by April of this year. For starters, we have purchased the oven. The important parts were all built in Italy and will need to be assembled and finished once they arrive in the backyard of the school. Looking for handipersons help for that!
#3 is to take a specialty food product to market. We already have our line of spice blends,  and our sea salt, and now we are hoping to add our Blackberry Catsup (Ketchup), as well as Bob’s Tomato Jam. Both products can be made from recipes posted on our website, but for the convenience of us all, these two items will be very useful additions to our pantries.

Bob and Lenore are all about up-scaling the pantry so that we take ordinary staple foods (i.e., rice, beans, pastas) to the next level with some very clean, green and tasty purchased ingredients.

Okay, yes, we have been going to do this for a few years now, but are learning how tough it really is to get foods to market. First to find a local manufacturer to partner with who will honor the recipe and concept is harder than one might think. Price is always a concern–even very good products can be priced out of reach and fail. It does makes sense to be as frugal as we can, but to change from a fresh garlic, for example, to a dehydrated garlic, can potentially derail a successful outcome.

Our plan is to keep the recipe the same as the “homemade” recipe. Happily we have found a co-packer who really cares about his business partners, preferring to help small companies like ours. He is willing to shop for price on our behalf. And he has good suggestions for substitutions that we can taste before deciding. Needless to say, though positive, it’s still time consuming.

 #4-– This year’s Oregon Red and White Chefs Blends are yet to be bottled. It looks like we have a date to do so in April so it should be ready by the time our 2012 runs out. It gets complicated, but we believe we can continue the “Chef’s Blend” brand with the reds for sure. Our current Chef’s Blend 2013 Oregon White is still plentiful enough we can skip a year.


THE GARDEN IS CALLING US!

Typically we do not plant our garden until after Mothers Day. This year we are experiencing so much sunshine that it is hard to believe it is still April. Longing to put in some lettuces and herbs like basil. Our little raised garden at home should be able to keep us in basil all summer. That is the plan but do not want to plant too soon.

The twelve days of EARTH DAY is being celebrated right now; 12 days before the actual event. After all Cannon Beach has too much natural bounty to appreciate in just one day; so how about 12 ending on April 22, 2015. It is the trigger for us to get our gardens ready. This is when local farms and nurseries start selling vegetable starts. It is the time when we typically over buy starts then run out of room to plant them. Regardless, we appreciate our own enthusiasm for getting the garden going because we are never sorry when the crops are ready to pick.

Meantime at our dinner shows we are already enjoying spring crops that are rarely seen in the market. This year morel mushrooms and fiddle head ferns and stinging nettles have become available; and all have been added to our menus. Also using local asparagus and snap peas, too. We are told local cherry tomatoes are not far behind and there is rumbling about Hood Strawberries being early this year. We are getting in line for those! Get ’em and eat ’em as they do not last long after picking. They are the best strawberries in the world! Meantime we do have some strawberries on our menu as rhubarb is in season and nothing compliments rhubarb like strawberries.

Here’s our strawberry rhubarb sorbet:

BOB & LENORE’s COOKBOOK
© 2011 EVOO CANNON BEACH COOKING SCHOOL

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB SORBET

By:

EVOO Cookbook

We often save leftover strawberry rhubarb sauce until we get two cups or enough to freeze into a fresh sorbet. We don’t usually start by making both recipes, but if you want to make our version follow the simple recipe for rhubarb sauce first.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds strawberries, diced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups strawberry rhubarb sauce (see recipe)

Method:

Bring fruit and sauce to boil and remove from heat. Cool. Puree all fruit and strain through fine sieve if you prefer a finer texture. Otherwise leave chunky. Add honey, sugar and salt and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s direction. Remove and place in air tight container. Seal and freeze.

 

 


SUMMER HELP AND QUALITY OF LIFE

We recently changed our work week; Wednesday through Sunday, five days a week, for the whole year.   In the summer we have always been open Tuesdays through Sundays, or six days a week. We have done it for ten years and seemed to always manage to get through the summer. It takes focus on the day to day–no extra projects. And because summer season is really short, only about 6-8 weeks, our stamina with this schedule seemed to work. Six to eight weeks of the core business of hospitality and dinner shows. The pace is rather manic and cannot be sustained any longer than summer season. So, as we enter our eleventh year, we decided to take two days off regardless of season.

A good business decision from the standpoint that only one employee shift is needed for five days a week. That is even challenging to fill all of our summer needs.  Our business instincts that tell us our store really needs to be open every day. After all people on vacation rarely know the day of the week or date and they may not be forgiving if they happen to be here on a Tuesday and it is our day off. Needless to say, the decision to close two days is a very tough one to make.

As always we still need a few more associates to round out our summer schedule this year. We need a full time dishwasher, day time hours, from 11-5, Wed-Sun. For now Lenore and I come in on Sundays and for the most part we are alone. It has been nice. It reminds us of in the beginning. But to be honest, the quality of life index goes down when there’s more work than we two can do alone, so our reminiscing bliss is short. We also need a full time retail sales clerk for the summer season. Pay for both is above minimum making it a good opportunity for high school juniors or seniors and even retirees who want the work more than the dough.

The balancing act between work and play takes on its own rhythm.  The pace of summer yields to a slower pace once fall arrives, though regrettably we’ve have to lay off some employees each September. The core of our business, our dinner shows, goes from one extreme to another; from six nights to two nights a week, leaving us with more down time than we need. It is productive time though, because we use it to get special projects done; such as getting our spice blends to market and figuring how we can make a green/clean sea salt.  Winter is the time we look for new ways to broaden our EVOO brand and perhaps add another source of income. One of these new projects turned out to be more fun and play than work — our tours to Italy with our guests each October. Actually we should make the distinction that by “work” we mean scheduled time. Everything we do has a high element of enjoyment so that taking tours with guests turns out to be our vacation is not a surprise.

While summers have been energizing, exciting and yes, exhausting, sort of like doing a 5K run for a good cause, it is clear we cannot sustain it. We must do something to slow and most importantly, even out the pace. So not only are we cutting summers to five days and nights a week, we are also trying to bring enough business in during shoulder seasons to sustain our five day week schedule all year.

No doubt about it, meeting this all year goal may allow us to keep our full time staff and sanity at the same time! Considering all that our little town has to offer all year round, we think it is doable.


Valentine’s Day?

Lenore here. How can it be Valentine’s Day already? The weather here at the beach has been warm–high 60’s. We haven’t even experienced a freeze for a long time, and seems I am not the only thing conflicted by the weather. The flowers we usually only see in the spring are popping out everywhere, like the Camellias that are by now even nearing the end of their bloom. What?  This week I saw a commercial on TV for spring clothing that made me double check the calendar. Is everyone rushing spring like the weather is? Well that might mean changes in the menus we’ve planned, because things are going to be early; but no worries, spring brings such freshness to the culinary world.  And, regardless of the current disharmony in weather, we have truly enjoyed wearing our light jackets on the beach and picking the rosemary that is blooming beautifully right now all around our property.

It's the middle of February and yet the rosemary thinks it's spring!

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OUR TOURS TO ITALY OCTOBER 2015

 

Cooking lesson in Tuscany Italy 2013 with Bob and Lenore

Dear Friends: Below please find the links to the two tours we have planned for Italy 2015. They are  PDF documents that can be printed. Note that pricing is based on per person, and airfare is not included. 


Please contact us with any questions using our email: info@evoo.biz or call 503-436-8555 or 503-440-2793. To sign up follow instructions on the PDF sheet under “next steps.” 

 

Thanks! Lets go to Italy together! Bob & Lenore

 

Lenore & Bob in Italy 2013

 

Our trip to Sicily is planned for the week of October 10-16, 2015. For details, please click here:  SICILY OCTOBER 2015

 

Our trip to Umbria is planned for the week of October 17-23, 2015. For details, please click here: UMBRIA OCTOBER 2015

 

 


A FISHERMAN’S PERSPECTIVE THAT WE APPLAUD!

Toward the end of summer we had a private class with  group called the Fish Camp Company. Seems they all love to fish and had many varieties for us to cook; they came here looking for new recipes and ideas. Having been fishing in the past with folks who seemed to use “fishing” more for the excuse to drink beer, and because of past experiences when we were gifted slightly under par specimens, we were fighting our skepticism.

So imagine our delight that the seafood the Fish Camp Company brought in to us was the best we could hope for.  Why? Because their seafood was perfect examples of themselves, we learned, because they had been properly handled and cared for from catch to arrival at in our kitchen. We enjoy meeting folks that honor the circle of life that they become part of when they embark on a fishing trip, or clam dig, or go crabbing, and even the smoking of their catch.

So to close the circle on this, we asked John if he might write up his rules for fishing to ensure good results! He did and we have nothing more to add–great job, John! And thank you for sharing this information!!

This is John and his story.
“CATCH A FISH, CARE FOR A FISH, EAT A QUALITY FISH”

35-pound King Salmon caught off the Washington Coast southwest of Cape Flattery.

Just about everyone savors a freshly caught fish from the ocean.  But, too often, the fisher diminishes or destroys the superb quality of a fresh fish by failing to take proper care of it from the time it is caught until it is placed on the grill, the frying pan or in the oven.

Here is the process I follow from the moment the fish is harvested in salt water until it is consumed:

  1.  Take along a generous supply of ice.
  2. As soon as the fish is netted, stun it and bleed it.  Bleeding the fish enhances the flavor and prolongs its ability to be frozen for many months.
  3. Immediately put the stunned and bled fish on ice in a cooler or the boat’s fish box.
  4. Before returning to port or a boat launch, fill a five gallon bucket or two with fresh, clean salt water.
  5. Clean or filet the catch and rinse it immediately in the clean salt water, not fresh water.
  6. Place the cleaned or filleted fish in a waterproof food grade plastic bag.
  7. Immediately cover the fish in ice.  Do not allow water from melted ice to touch the fish flesh.
  8. Keep the fish iced or refrigerated as close to freezing as possible until consumed (if it is to be consumed within a few days of harvest).
  9. If the fish is to be frozen, cut into desired portions and wrap in several layers of food grade plastic wrap.  Then, wrap the fish again.  Essentially, double the wrapping process.  This method is much less expensive than vacuum packing and it does not fail to hold a seal like some vacuum bags.
  10. Place the wrapped fish portions on a large cookie sheet and put in the coldest part of your freezer so that each portion freezes individually as quickly as possible.
  11. Once frozen, keep frozen at -10F if possible.  (Keep a thermometer in your freezer to keep track.)
  12. When it is time to thaw and consume a meal of fish, take the frozen portion out of the freezer a day before it is to be used and let it thaw slowly in the coldest part of your refrigerator.  It will thaw sufficiently in about 24-30 hours.
  13. When ready to cook, remove the fish from its wrapper.  Cook your favorite way and enjoy.  It will be as good as it can be.

It might seem like the process outlined above is excessive, but it is not.  A freshly caught fish is a treasure in today’s world.  Special care is essential if you want to enjoy the best that fish can be.  The extra effort is rewarded.   Fish that has been cared for properly and iced from the moment of capture is unbeatable when eaten fresh.  And, if wrapped and frozen properly, and then thawed slowly under refrigeration, the thawed fish will also reward you with the exceptional taste and nutrition of one of nature’s finest meals.

John D. Hough

Bainbridge Island, Washington

 


WE’RE CELEBRATING 10 YEARS! Read about our top ten lessons, tips, strategies and food-mantras gleaned over a decade in the EVOO kitchen!

With our ten year anniversary rapidly approaching in August, we set down our whisks and Bob’s coriander mill and reflected on our top ten lessons learned. Our takeaways might surprise you, hopefully they’ll inspire you, and more than likely they’ll validate what you’ve also discovered if you’ve attended one of our dinner shows, and if you haven’t, well, there’s never been a better time to join us at the Oregon coast!.

THE 80/20 RULE – In the beginning we thought we could be totally sustainable, and soon realized 100% sustainable is perhaps an elusive pursuit for most if not all. Now we strive to be sustainable and local about 80% of the time. We subscribe to globally inspired menus that are locally acquired, and throw in some imported ingredients that we cannot live without, i.e. EVOO!

WINE IS A FOOD GROUP -that is the way it was growing up in Bob’s family, where tradition dictates that we only drink wine with food at a meal, and not as a cocktail. No wonder we have embraced the philosophy and regularly amplify the flavors on the plate by choosing complementary flavors in the glass.

USING FOOD AS A  PIVOT POINT – Not surprising wine plays a role in another important lesson repeated regularly during our shows. Pivot points are added to keep our taste buds happy longer. Often our strategy includes a purposefully placed ingredient that serves to cleanse or surprise our pallets back to consciousness. A well-chosen wine often serves as a contrast in flavor, temperature, even texture to help jog our taste buds alive once again.

ALWAYS INCLUDE RAW FOOD COMPONENTS – Despite enjoying three whole menu-courses, plus dessert, often our guests tell us they are surprised they feel so satisfied after such a full meal. That is just the validation we need to continue adding raw whole foods on the plate since they help with digestion.

IF YOU DO NOT TASTE AS YOU COOK, YOU ARE NOT COOKING – This old saying from one of Bob’s culinary mentors means that to cook well, one must taste and taste and taste. Taste the raw ingredients before you start, do it again while cooking, and once more before adding seasoning. Also remember to consider the rest of your ingredients. For example, if you will be adding a little lemon juice at the end of cooking, that might be all that is needed to bring the salt to where it should be. And ingredients containing their own salt (such as parmesan cheese) should be added before you make the final application of salt.

GROWS TOGETHER, GOES TOGETHER – You say tomato, we say basil. Even for novice home cooks, compatible flavors are easy to develop when you think about what grows together. This is a favorite tip we share with guests to help them gain confidence when building menus.

WE’RE GENERALLY ANTI-CASSEROLE: Don’t get us wrong, there’s always room for amazing lasagna at the table. But a casserole often delivers only one flavor note after the first few bites – whereas a plate featuring a balance of sweet, salty, bitter, sour (or that elusive “most savory taste” umami) more deeply engages the taste buds and the brain, increasing enjoyment.

GOOD ALONE BETTER TOGETHER – Did you know that when alcohol is added to spicy flavors, the dish may become even hotter? Alcohol and acid foods like lemon and tomato can also increase the saltiness of a dish. The cause and effect of putting some flavors together is worth consideration. We strive to season dishes well by themselves, and make sure they actually only get better when put together with other foods on the plate. When flavors are combined with this in mind, they complement each other; in other words, each flavor is balanced. Take salt for example. Wait to salt until food is at the table and you’ll just taste salt. But season while you’re cooking, you’ll bring out their flavors, set colors and give balance to the whole dish.

THE 24 HOUR RISE – Even our gluten sensitive guests are able to eat Bob’s Daily Bread without any problem. Wonder why? We think it must be because we do a 24 hour rise – giving the yeast plenty of time to transform the gluten to more tolerable form. It is after all the way bread was made from the beginning centuries ago.

WE’RE ACTIVE DINERS NOT JUST FOODIES – We coined the phrase, ACTIVE DINERS, because we think it goes beyond what defines foodies. We believe when anyone cooks with whole foods and natural ingredients they are almost always happier with the results. Being active in our dining habits also means knowing where foods come from and how they are produced, raised and processed (or not processed). An active diner makes conscientious decisions about the foods they purchase. And for some it means eating from a family garden, foraging for foods in the wild, or raising some of their own livestock. And “active diners” set an example for their children and invite them into the kitchen to cook together. 

 


What’s in season now?

I am often reminded that anyone who was born well after WW2 may have missed out on a natural process of learning what’s in season just by eating what mom fixed from what she found in the grocery store. Today agribusiness brings us everything any time of the year. It also brings comments like “remember how tomatoes used to taste?” And “remember how kids used to get oranges in their stockings at Christmas?” Some of us we remember when foods showed in seasons. We remember foods tasted better too. So what is happening? Why are guests asking us how do I know what is in season? Perhaps the fact that they have only known one season combined with their interest in joining the eat local and therefore seasonally movement is what’s behind that question. So no wonder there are websites proliferating the internet describing what we can expect in our local markets.

It is a few days away from the start of spring here and since we are on the coast we need to be more patient than in the interior of our state. Still the new potatoes are arriving;the asparagus is tuning up and, get ready for it, the morels are here as well. This means ramps, cherry tomatoes, English peas, spring onions can not be far behind.

We are leaving winter squash, citrus season and braising greens behind. Not that we won’t see them, as we will. They will just not be local. But you say, oranges are not local at all!

Good point! Our orange season is in the winter because that is when they are at peak in California our closest access. We do eat outside our food shed, meaning what grows naturally about 100 miles from where we live. Our goal is to be local about 80% of the time. That keeps our local economy strong while being realistic at the same time.

Our April and May menus reflect spring season while our march is somewhat of a transition from winter to spring. Many old cookbooks show root cellared foods in spring menus along with the new garden produce. This is a throwback to the days when it became time to use up winter stores so to make room for new crops. Every Easter my mom would combine spring lamb with rutabaga, she tells me, because her mother did and so did her mother’s mother. All a natural progression, and why is lemon part of spring menus? Citrus is a fall/winter crop in California on the left coast and in Florida on the right coast. I even remember when oranges were part of our stockings at Christmas. And though they are around all year these days, they still taste better in the season. So in the old cookbooks that give seasonal menus, you will see citrus in the winter and early spring menus so its just natural that I now also think lemon is for spring menus.


OLIVE OIL PRESSING

A beautiful day greeted us on our last full day in Tuscany 2013. We started the day right outside our rooms at our villa, harvesting olives on the villa, both mariaolo and frantoio, two major olives of the region. We received a lesson in the viticulture of olives, and learned that the mariaolo trees do not self-pollinate. We learned that pruning practices are very specific because the weather can be harsh and sometimes blow trees up by the roots. We picked or should say combed, 30 pounds of both varieties, clearly not enough for the yield we needed, but the hired field hands had already harvested nearly 10 times that much. Obviously we need more practice.

Anyway the first step in making olive oil starts in the field. Good organic farming practices not only ensures good oil but good stewardship of this beautiful country. Next we drove the short distance to the local “frantoio,” the word commonly used for “olive mill” in Italy, this one in the little town of San Polo, about 12 km south east of Florence. Here at Prunetti Frantoio, local farms arrange for an appointment to press their olives and by scheduling these, the olives are picked same day and held only a few hours before they are weighed, washed, sorted and press into the pristine oil. In some towns, we learned, the locals are not as picky and just drop off their olives to be pressed whenever they get to it. At some of these locations, olives might sit in the large tubs out in the elements for days. Each day olives sit without pressing increases the amount of acidity in the final oil. Better oils have less acidity. The older the olive before pressing, the more acid the oil becomes.  However, lower quality oils actually have the same nutritional value, and the acidity provides a higher smoke point so a virgin, oil is a good cooking oil and not a big step down for some uses. The flavor may be a bit more mild and a little smoother and since not as expensive, people may use it more frequently.

So the facility in San Polo is the best example of an olive mill one could hope to find anywhere. They are not only dedicated to making the olive oil as good as it can possibly be, they are also good stewards of the land, recycling the olive waste by composting and enriching the land. The are also perhaps one of the most architecturally well designed and state of the art facilities we visited. Very streamlined and functional, but also perfectly designed. The two brothers who run it are well educated and have divided their duties so that each has become the most proficient at the tasks they do. One is the maestro who makes the oil. He knows just when to press, how much, as he controls the perfect temperature for extracting “cold.” The other brother is the one who has learned English well enough to be the sales side of the business. He travels and sells to Europe and America. These oils are consistently receiving the highest ratings over all other oils rated from Europe and America. Click here to see the actual process at Prunetti.

Next we watched our olives get sorted and washed. Then they were then sent through the press, followed by centrifuging. It was tasted by the maestro a few times before he called to  our hosts to bring in their fusti, a stainless steal seamless milk-can-like container for catching the oil to take home. And there it was! Running very green from the spigots into the fusti, the oil delighted our hosts. Just the sight of it seemed to make them salivate with anticipation of this special oil on our menu that night. American guests who accompany us to Italy are often unfamiliar with this new oil, or olio neovo. Unless one lived near an olive grove in CA, one most likely never heard of it. Some olive growers now bottle it for sale, with an appropriate use by date of about 3-5 months only. The big difference with the nuovo oils is that they still contain the particulates from the pressing of the whole olives. There are leaves, stems and pits. These materials eventually fall to the bottom of the holding container and the oil is pulled off the top into bottles. That oil has a shelf life of a year or two, again depending upon how it is cared for. Oil in cans and dark bottles will fare better than those in clear bottles. Storing near heat or light can decrease shelf life too. So handling once it is home is also quite important. If one uses a fusti at home to hold the oil, one must invest in a canned gas product that will replace the oxygen as the oil is used and the air space above increases, more gas is needed.  Oxygen is an enemy of oil too, just like with wine, but unlike wine, even when protected from oxygen abuse, the oil quality doesn’t get any better as time goes by. So best to plan on using it up. We are committed to using more olive oil than other oils in our food preparation, so it is easy to use a typical 25o ml bottle in a couple months. If you can, taste before buying and then only buy a small quantity until you see how quickly you consume it. Then buy the large more economical bottles. But do remember, once opened that oxygen situation happens and so best to use daily.

Why is it the best thing you can do for your health today, or so some doctors will tell us? Because it is full of antioxidants and advantages over all other oils. In fact, docs say just consuming 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil daily is going to improve your health. No need to anything else but why stop there. Continue to cook for yourself in the style we use at EVOO, i.e. whole foods, mostly plant based, and you will add even more benefits to your health. Use extra virgin oil, cold pressed and only buy from reliable sources, i.e., where they know when it was bottled and how old it is before you buy it. Because you know it will not age well in the bottle–best consumed same year it is pressed and bottled, or 1-2 years when the bottling is pristine, and no oxygenation occurs. Once purchased then use daily and protect it from light, heat and oxygen while storing.


NEW ZEALAND SHOUT OUT

We just heard we are mentioned by a NZ travel writer who was in Oregon this summer and came to a farmers market dinner.
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“EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School With quips like “Garlic is a vegetable”, “Go large or go home”, and “I’m Jewish- Italian – there’s nothing subtle about what I do”, chef Bob Neroni is an entertaining guy, especially when he’s dealing with gentle verbal sparring from his wife, fellow chef Lenore Emery.

Based in relaxed Cannon Beach, around 90 minutes west of Portland, the Farmers Market Dinner Show at their EVOO Cooking School is a surprising dining experience. Seasonal produce – their culinary manifesto is “If it grows together, it goes together” – is sourced from a co-operative of Oregon farmers, and Bob and Lenore supplement ingredients from Cannon Beach’s excellent farmers’ market.”

Thank you!  Click this link to read the whole article.


LUCCA

Well we can finally say Lucca! Paola is very superstitious so up until now we could not say Lucca without poking the cosmic bear and possibly jinxing our trip to the walled city. Our day began as all do at Villa Fabroni with a traditional Italian breakfast consisting of fresh bread, croissants even, cheese and deli meats with espresso and juice. But of course we need the American version as well so Sergio whips up an egg concoction each day with eggs produced farm their ” silky” chickens. Today it was a frittata of spinach and another of Roma tomatoes.

It went from a down pour at our villa upon departure to sunny skies and about 70 degrees at the bakery where we had a lesson after which we were able to shed the rain coats, stacked the obsolete umbrellas, and peeled some layers. Our baker, Pedro, was gracious as ever, and very shy until our group show interest and he talked about what he knows very well. His wife, Petra was teaching today.
Anyway, after baking and a bread lunch we headed to Lucca.

Lucca is a great place to shop or people-watch while having a coffee, a.k.a. Espresso. We were able to work it all in for a couple hours. Bob searched for a new scarf. By the way he only wears scarfs in Italy. Smiley face!

Tonight our group is gathering for dinner of pizza by our hosts,Sergio and Stefanos. Update tomorrow.


OCT 21, Lucca

Rain! The locals reported this as very unusual this early in the season. Our plans for an early morning start to go the two hour drive to Lucca was in vain. Our tour guide half jokingly stated something about a plan “b” due to the weather report. The bus driver came without checking the weather report so we climbed a board. Before long lighting was flashing and thunder clapping instantly after. We were still in the hills but water was rushing in the ditches beside the road. Then Paola’s phone rang. It was the baker stating the river between Lucca and them was rising rapidly. Paola puts down the phone and says she thinks we will not be able to reach the bakery today. Plan “b” becomes a reality.

She begins to rearrange our activities so we won’t miss anything. Paola starts calling our artisans; what may we move to today? After several dropped calls and waiting to get a connection, Paola announced she was now up to plan “m.” Nobody could make the change to accommodate. Understandable given that all were responding to the same worsening weather. So our driver turns around and heads toward Greve. There we can shop and enjoy the cafes.

We had lunch at the butcher in town, where we tasted wines at will while eating their cheeses and prosciutto. Chianti Classico is the region’s famous varietal. Here and only here the term chianti Classico may be used on the label. The symbol for the location is a black rooster, the legend of which is another story. If a wine maker is a member of the union, they may use the rooster on their labels indicating the terroir. Only so many barrels of chianti from here each season are allowed, as designated by the state, and all extra wine may not be called Classico. With the “extra wine” they blend what are known as Super Tuscans. These are more robust and all are more expensive than a single chianti. We like the very much.

Our wonderful hosts at our villa have agreed to move their cooking class to this afternoon. We will make our own dinner. By now our guide, Paola, has figured out the rest of the week. And by now the rain has stopped. No more lightening and thunder, and even a patch of blue sky.


Savoring Italy 2013 first morning…

Each year as lenore and I prepare for Italy, it seems that the reality doesn’t kick in until we are in hour 18 or so of getting there. By that time its been long enough that our twisted muscles and lack of sleep, not to mention a real meal has rendered us spent. Our conversation turns to the reality that in a few more hours we will be in Italy, and the thought of the italian hospitality is making the any discomfort in the air transit seem insignificant.

When our connections finally land us in Milan we hear the bellowing familiar sound of our guide, “CIAO Bob and Lenore,”a sound we equate with all things Italy. We plan these trips to arrive a day or two before our guests so we may acclimate and prepare. Today we travel to Florence, an opportunity to walk the streets, hear the bells from the Duomo and sip an espresso or two, a treat we indulge in often, especially since Paola is with us. Seems she needs frequent visits to the bars in the area, espresso bars, that is!

Our welcome reception will take place this evening at the villa castle after we pick up our guests. First they will have free time to unpack and take in the enormity of the vistas from the property; get to know the mascot, Lucio, an English bulldog; and watch the silky hens that roam freely.

On the menu are chicken breast with truffle ravioli, some salad for the Americans, and tiramisu for for dessert.

Nothing like a shopping trip in Florence to make one’s day. The three of us set out late morning for a day in Florence before meeting the guests who will be gathered at a hotel to catch our bus.

But first we must have lunch. So Paola said she knows of a place where the food is like what locals eat, so that sounded like us. It was simple, and delicious.
Bob chose bacala, salt cod in tomato sauce with rice. Lenore got Tomino con verdure, grilled vegetables with melted aged soft cow’s milk cheese. Paola got one of her favorites–chicken liver pâté served warm in an earthen ware crock with crostini . We got complimentary sparkling from the owner and a glass of chianti colli florentini red wine 2011. Decadent chocolate cake split three ways completed our repast. We were now ready to shop!

Just so you don’t think we are only eating, the time after lunch was spent shopping the leather kiosks of Florence. Are three pairs of shoes too much! The thing about being in Italy is that you walk to most destinations which keeps the calories at bay. That being said let’s discuss dinner…..the wines consisted of Proseco, Strozzi Vernoccia and Tenuto la Novella reserva chianti Classico.
Antipasti of puff pastries with porcini and Torino cheese alongside ham and Brie. Fresh buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan pecorino fresco, green olive bread and what seemed to be the best bruschetta with tomatoes from the villa, fresh oregano and baby garlic, yum! Then the primi course of lemon ravioli was as stuffed with lemon zest, ricotta and a sauce of lemon juice, zest, parmigiana and reduced cream. Secondi of pan seared chicken breast with black and white truffle cream with a reduced balsamic smear, a perfect juxtaposition of acid against fat. Thankfully they included a salad of bitter greens. Finally tiramisu and espresso, dopio! No worries about sleeping after this day. Ciao!

Monday, October 20,
Morning came early since we have a long drive to Lucca today.g src=”http://evoo.biz/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/image5-230×230.jpg” alt=”” title=”Paola and Bob having wine on our arrival” width=”230″ height=”230″ class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-23554″ />


RECIPE OF SUMMER! Summer means……potato salad

SUMMER MEANS POTATO SALAD

To begin with, there are things like no others than can take me back to my childhood summers. The slam of the creaky screen door; the smell of beach fires (now, fire pits); the way the fresh air of the outdoors mixes with picnics on the porch or deck, and camping to make the food taste so much better! Yes each by themselves can bring me to a happy summer place.

Summer itself can elicit food cravings, too. Like charcoal grilled hamburgers and pickles and, of course, potato salad. I never think about potato salad in the winter, but come the 4th of July, it must be on my menu somewhere. Over the years we have a few favorite versions. All start pretty much the same way with cooking the potatoes in very salty boiling water (3 Tablespoons  salt to 1 gallon water). This salty start ensures the potatoes will not be bland. While still hot, a drizzle of sherry vinegar is a favorite trick too, also imparting flavor that if we wait till the potato gets cold, it may not penetrate the starch meat of the potato rendering it a bit bland.

Some tips for making a potato salad “wow!”
1.  Chill all ingredients before mixing; then chill again before snapping into a Tupperware- or like container to take to the picnic.  That means chill the mayo, mustard, eggs, pickles and vegetables too. It will still warm up a little during preparation, so chilling again after it is mixed is a good practice when planning to take it on an outdoor picnic in the summer. When eating it right away, mix away and serve.
2. Using commercial mayo rather than homemade is really a good idea for food safety since its pH is regulated and safely acidic.
3. Try taking the separate components of a potato salad to the picnic and let people assemble what they want. We definitely include our salty potatoes on a picnic, sometimes all by themselves; and when we let people choose what they want for their salad, we leave the dressing on the side for dipping instead of coating before leaving home. Don’t be afraid of the amount of salt we use when cooking these salty potatoes–remember the skin on the potatoes must not be broken for best results–rendering the outside salty and the inside creamy!

If you like the classic potato salad of egg, celery, pickle with mayo dressing, check out this recipe for our version of a not-so-typical classic potato salad!


TRIP ADVISOR

Well, it finally happened. Our five star run on Trip Advisor has ended. We have been holding our breath, much the way we do before we get our first scratch in the paint on a new car. Knowing it is inevitable, when it finally happens we are bummed but somewhat relived. And this one comment was a good critique! We can learn from it, and we intend to! We will react with a change in the service during our Market Dinner Show as a result. So what was the comment?

The whole review was really a good one. Our food and show was highly praised. The comment made was translated by Trip Advisor as a ding against our service. The comment was that our dinner show started at 6:00 with a plated appetizer dish, and the buffet wasn’t served until 8:00. Our intention was that the starter, a pasta cheese dish, would hold them till the buffet opened, as they watch it all come together. We have in the past done two waves of buffet and we can easily go back to that.

One of the blessing that there is such a thing as Trip Advisor is that we have many new friends coming from all over the country and the world for that matter. Our customer base has grown and we are grateful. The fact that we are not exactly a restaurant can be confusing to our new guests. They go to Trip Advisor looking for a restaurant and see us. Even though every event at EVOO includes a meal, the “show” is also part of our product. Trip Advisor doesn’t really have a category for that!

We often have a difficult time reading the reviews because they are so good, and because we know it makes us perched for a fall; it’s only a matter of time. So our position regarding our performance has always been what is known in the food business as, “you are only as good as your last banquet.” Meaning, don’t rest on your laurels. Everyday is a fresh start and we need to deliver the hospitality standard we want to be known for at EVOO every day.

So when a guest does make a comment that critiques us, (rather than criticizing), as this one did, we are grateful to learn from it and we take it to heart.

 


PERFECTING PUDDING

We really don’t eat much pudding. At least not the cornstarch variety that is in the older cookbooks. It isn’t on restaurant menus much any more unless as a mousse or pastry cream. Maybe in the South where Banana Pudding was made famous with the Nilla* Wafer cookies we might see it on a menu. But for the most part the ingredients are very simple for this a softly thickened sweet milk cold dessert.

Seems most pastry chefs never make pudding they make pastry creme. Pastry cream is a very egg yolk-y vanilla pudding. So about the same. When we were writing our version a southern favorite, banana vanilla pudding for our APRIL DINNER SHOW, we found ourselves wanting to perfect the vanilla pudding.

We started like the chef-sleuths at Cook’s Illustrated might, with our own pastry cream recipe since we know it best. We knew we wanted a rich pudding, and since pastry cream uses egg yolks exclusively, while pudding might use some whole eggs, we chose to use only yolks for the richness.

We also wanted to determine once and for all whether to use all milk (cornstarch pudding is almost always made with whole milk), or would we add a little cream, all cream, or half and half cream. One other ingredient that seems to be present pretty consistently is cornstarch, thus the old fashioned name “cornstarch pudding.” But even our pastry cream recipe includes some flour for thickener.

We first made our pudding with only cornstarch so that when/if we have a guest who cannot eat gluten, our recipe would still work. We simply were not sure until the first test whether we could convert the flour to an equal amount of cornstarch. We also were not sure if the flour also performed something other than thickening, but were willing to drop it and find out for ourselves.

Next we tackled the whole milk or part cream option. We decide the logically way is to make it with an equal amount of half and half. We liked it; still quite rich, but not heavy as all cream might be. It also still give us the option to fold in whipped cream to really light up the pudding if we wanted to.

Well in the end, our new recipe is probably not much different, but it is “vanilla” enough (no pun intended) that it will work for many different dessert variations; just like our original pastry cream recipe does.

THE PERFECT PUDDING

2 cups half and half
1/2 vanilla bean scraped into sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste mixed into 1/2 cup granulated natural sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch (level but not packed)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup more sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional

Method: Blend vanilla and 1/2 sugar and cornstarch in sauce pan. Add milk and bring to simmer over medium heat while stirring occasionally. Meantime, beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar; add small amount of the warm milk mixture to eggs to temper(warm them slowly) eggs a little, and then stir all egg mixture into warm milk whisking quickly.  Bring mixture to almost boil while stirring; it will bubble but should not go to full boil ( not over 200ºF). Hold steady there for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter if using.  Sieve through fine screen to remove any lumps. Pour out into stainless steel bowl or shallow non-reactive container Cover pudding with plastic film by resting film directly on the pudding surface; cool in the refrigerator. At service, spoon into dishes and serve. Or make one our our listed variations.

Service variations: Serve with whipped cream, Swiss meringue, or as a parfait layered with fruit and cream and graham crackers. Or spoon into individual bowls layered with vanilla wafers and bananas and for the famous southern dish that started this quest. See Banana Pudding Cups When making the south’s favorite banana pudding, after you have made the appropriate layers, they must sit in refrigerator for a minimum of four hours and even overnight. It just gets better when you let the flavors meld and soften the cookies.

Recipe Variations: Add 3 tablespoons rich bitter sweet cocoa powder to the sugar and finish with 2 teaspoons butter and 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces, stirring until melted. Cool and you have a rich chocolate pudding. Add 2 teaspoons espresso powder with the vanilla to make it espresso chocolate pudding.

*Chef’s Note: Ever wonder why the wafers from Nabisco are called “NILLA” and not VANILLA? Apparently they cannot because there isn’t any vanilla in the recipe; it is artificial.


WINE BLENDING

WINE BLENDING CLASS

Our town just experienced SAVOR CANNON BEACH WEEKEND 2013. This wine and food festival started three years ago to attract folks to town for wine thinking, drinking and seeking-good wine, that is. The culinary side of the event is not yet as well developed but none the less, it is a very robust event including a wine competition, blending throw-down and opportunity for the guests in town to taste the wining wines. The event brought in forty five wineries to town for a very long wine-walk where the true wine aficionados can be picky; while wine walkers “do” as many wineries as they can in the two hours.

So we had high hopes of attracting some wine geeks, not walkers, to our wine blending class on Saturday afternoon.  We wanted our guest to experience the art of blending wine. A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of blending our very own private blend. We met Jonathan Oberlander, wine maker and owner of J. Scott Winery, half way between EVOO and the winery, at our wine distributors, Jacqueline and Stephan’s, home. Jonathan brought several of his own wine varietals and even some he bought from Washington state. We got started and had so much fun developing formulas; mixing blending tasting as we went. Some of us were spitting and some were swallowing. Shortly it became pretty obvious who was doing what. Anyway, the blend we liked was finalize a little more than an hour into the effort. Jonathan was very supportive and really let us do what we wanted to do. What we ended up with was a blend we dub, Bordeaux meets Rhone. Very French.

Before saying good-bye and heading out for a great lunch with our hosts, Jonathan agreed to bring some wines to Cannon Beach to help Bob with a wine blending class during Savor weekend, March 8 & 9. Our guests would have the opportunity blend their own and taste ours. When Jonathan came, he threw us a curve; he said he wanted to blend a little variation of the one we did, because he thought it would be even a little better. You see our wine isn’t bottled yet, and he was kind of setting up a throw down between his proposed new version using the same varietals and the one we decided on a few weeks earlier.

Our guests were to follow Jonathan’s recipe, by remove the varietals in the right proportions with a pipette and dropping it into a clean wine glass. Thus the new formulated blend. He then asked them to taste the one he brought already done and compare with the new blend. Guests definitely had a preference, though we heard votes on both sides. Everyone seemed surprised at how a little variance in the amounts made such a noticeable  difference. They told us that while the one they had blended was pretty good by itself, the other one was best with the cheese and bread, so in other words with food.

Little did they know, this was the affirmation we were hoping for. We set out to make a wine that would become a food wine. One that gets better with food and the food gets better with the wine. And so you might say, our blend won Jonathan’s challenge.

To get this wine to market we need to design a label. But first we actually have to become a new d.b.a to be compliant with Oregon wine label laws. Our new d.b.a. is called CHEF NERONI’S  WINE BLENDS. We have asked our designer to come up with a Neroni family crest as the subject of our label; we asked that ours be more personal than the ones we find on the internet that already exist for the Neroni name. So though our crest isn’t finished yet, we can tell you you will know it is ours. We’re not sure if it is the toque that replaces the traditional helmet at the top of the shield, or the poodles adorning the sides that will give it away.

Stay tuned–we will let you know when our wine is on the market. The date we are hoping for is SPRING UNVEILING 2013, which is our town’s art festival which again means art galleries hold an open house with wine and food to show off the work they have collected over the winter.  This happens May 3 and 4. So you might say we will be unveiling our winter’s work then too.

Pictures: Left-top, Jonathan removing wine from the bottle with a pipette. Right -top, Bob uses pipette like a straw to get the right amount of a varietal. Bottom-left, some of our guests; looks like Julie started blending hers already; Bottom-right, dueling pipettes!


MARCH MENU ROCKS

Pictures may tell the story but let me just describe our first course of the March menu and see if you miss the picture. Lenore says the broth and vegetables are crazy good alone, but there is so much more to the dish. Starting with the aromatics, shallots, onions, carrots and celery, I get a little sweating action going by crowding the pan and adding a bit of salt. In go the previously blanced red potatoes, skin on. Then I add the first defining flavor, that of the Navarre Spanish Sausage, which has been diced about 1/2 inch. Next more defining flavors are the white wine, about two cups, and when that is reduced a bit, the fresh halibut stock itself. For herbs, a pinch of about .5 grams saffron, oregano, parsley and chives. Then I let it simmer just long enough to pan-sear the bias cut halibut fillets to get a nice brown crust, which I then add to the simmering broth just to finish the job before placing in the bowl. By now those vegetables are to the tooth done, the broth a subtle gold from the saffron and beautiful against the white bowl. The fillets are just done and still crisp from the pan sear. But wait there’s more! While the simmer was going on, I refreshed the Dungeness crab stuffed piquillo peppers in the oven just to warm through and placed them on top of the stew, garnished with anchovy aioli and that bright red and yellow on top of the dish just pushed it over the top! Oh and sop that up with my crusty bread.

first course in March Dinner Show 2013

 

Roast lamb loin with wild rice lentil pilaf cake & Dessert of Apple soup, apple sorbet, walnut strudel & apple chip
Second course in March Dinner Show 2013

 

 

 

 


March Schedule

WHAT’S GOING ON?

There are so many good reasons to come see us in Cannon Beach. First we rarely get out so we need friends to come to us! Second and most importanly, the beach! It has been a fantastic February! Good weather and good fun to be had! Sun is warming my back through the window as I write this.

Too many events to list in our email blast. So keep reading if you want to know more about what’s going on.

MARCH DINNER SHOW MENU
SAVOR CANNON BEACH Wine & Food Festival and our SMALL PLATES WITH WINES
Raffle for a SOUS CHEF OF THE DAY & DINNER ($2 OR 3 FOR $5)
How one winemaker comes up with his BLENDS-see our blending class!
Wine maker Dinner with J. Scott Cellars
We’re going to Tuscany–again and again! Still have room for you.
EVOO on the Road again–going back to Red Ridge Farms–The Art of Risotto

Newsletter has more too.

March 1 & 2 New Menu for our DINNER SHOW
Pan-seared halibut with Dungeness crab stuffed piquillo pepper in a chorizo Navarre broth; chicory endive with vegetables and anchovy liquor; Bob’s crusty bread
Wine: David Hill Farmhouse Red

Lemon ricotta raviolis with bias cut asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted walnuts, tarragon and brown butter bread crumble topping
Wine: J. Scott 2010 Roussanne

Rack of lamb with garlic rosemary; wild and basmati rice pilaf with mint, pecans, and currants, aisins, lemon & spring onion
Wine:Punto Final 2010 Reserva Malbec

Golden Delicious unsweetened creme fraich bisque, apple sorbet; paired with walnut-strudel and five spice whipped cream
Caffee Umbria Mezzanote Decaf fresh-brewed Coffee

March 3, SUNDAY SUPPER 1:00-3:30 pm
Kale and feta filo bundles with hot leek & potato soup
Braised lamb shanks in wine olive stock; root cellar vegetables; and  creamy polenta with mint pesto

Roasted sweet potato and beet salad with frisee and arugula in light emulsified  mustard caper vinaigrette with smoked salmon and white-yellow sieved egg
Pickles, Olives, Crusty Bread & Homemade butter Bleu Cheese, sharp cheddar

Angel cake, warm ganache, fresh strawberries, stawberry rhubarb sorbet and peanut crumble

March 5 SKILLETS SUPPER 6:00-8:30 pm
Starter: Sauteed french green beans & artichokes with hazelnuts, spring onions; topped with buttery salt and pepper croutons

Entree: Beef skirt or hanger steak, wild mushroom saute,
herded buttermilk onion rings; 
Garlic mashed potatoes, pickled carrot & tomato fondue sorbet

Cheese course: Oregon bleu with apple flatbread & blackberry sauce

Dessert: Tiramisu and pistachio brittle

March 7, 8 SMALL PLATES WITH WINE 6:00-9:00 pm
Braised beef short rib ravioli with herbed butter-demi; house pickled chili’s; sautéed escarole with garlic, pistachio and balsamic currants
Wine:  Punto Final 2010 Reserva Malbec

Andalucían risotto cake and fennel crusted scallop; citrus-fennel slaw; orange-herb pesto and chive crème
Wine:  Li Veli Primitivo 2010 Orion

Albacore tuna-lemon garlic confit with baby greens, tomato puttanesca aioli, pickled shallots, and crostini
Wine:  Adelsheim 2009 Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Grilled vegetable tamale quenelle, on a chile arbol enchilada sauce, with avocado dried lime mousse and strawberry tequila sorbet
Wine:  J. Scott 2010 Petite Syrah

Tamarind sesame crusted lamb loin, cashew cream, green tomato chutney, mint micro green salad
Wine:  Tamarack Cellars Ciel du Cheval Reserve 07

Toasted coconut gelato, dark chocolate shot, assorted cookies (cardamom-pistachio biscotti, Nina’s pizzelles, bolitas de nuez), and bacon brittle
Wine:  Bernard Griffin 2010 Syrah Port



March 9, WINE BLENDING CLASS 12:30 pm-1:45 pm Tastings, of course
A recent blending collaboration between Jonathan Scott Oberlander, winemaker of J. Scott Cellars, and EVOO’s Chefs Bob Neroni and Lenore Emery resulted in our own new red wine that we are calling, CHEF’S BLEND. We invite you to learn more about the art and science behind creating a winning wine blend.  Join us for this unique SAVOR CANNON BEACH event,  as chefs and wine maker reinact the making of  CHEF’S BLEND. Tasting of individual varietals and the final blend are included, of course, as well as opportunity to buy in advance of its release, scheduled at this time for SPRING UNVEILING, May 4, 2013.

J. Scott Cellars is located in the Willamette Valley wine country and is currently producing Petite Sirah, Viognier, Roussanne, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, many of which have been featured wines in EVOO Dinner Shows.

March 9 SAVOR CANNON BEACH SMALL PLATES WITH WINES WINE MAKER DINNER WITH J. SCOTT CELLARS 7:00-10:30 pm
 This is a special wine maker dinner featuring J.Scott Cellars created to celabrate the Savor Cannon Beach FOOD & WINE festival. All plates tonight are created especially for the wines. Jonathan Oberlander, winemaker and our guest, will be at dinner to share his inspiration for each varietal.

In addition, EVOO is helping to raise funding for THE CHILDREN’S CENTER in CB. All shows this week, THU-SAT, March 7, 8, 9, 2013, will donate $20 per ticket to the CB Children’s Center, and each participant will automatically be added to our raffle drawing for SOUS CHEF OF THE DAY & DINNER . Raffle tickets are $2 each or 3 for $5 and all proceeds also go to the Children’s Center of CB.

Braised beef short rib ravioli with herbed butter-demi; house pickled chili’s; sautéed escarole with garlic, pistachio and balsamic currants
Wine:  J. Scott Grenache
Andalucían risotto cake and fennel crusted scallop; citrus-fennel slaw; orange-herb pesto and chive crème
Wine:  J. Scott Syrah
Albacore tuna-lemon garlic confit with baby greens, tomato puttanesca aioli, pickled shallots, and crostini
Wine:  J. Scott Viognier
Grilled vegetable tamale quenelle, on a chile arbol enchilada sauce, with avocado dried lime mousse and strawberry tequila sorbet
Wine:  J. Scott 2010 Petite Syrah
Tamarind sesame crusted lamb loin, cashew cream, green tomato chutney, mint micro green salad
Wine:  J. Scott Cabernet Sauvignon
Toasted coconut gelato, dark chocolate shot, assorted cookies (cardamom-pistachio biscotti, Nina’s pizzelles, bolitas de nuez), and bacon brittle
Wine:  Bernard Griffin 2010 Syrah Port

March 13 6:00-8:30 PM SKILLETS
March 15,16 6-9 PM DINNER SHOW
March 17 6:00-8:30 PM  SPECAIL SKILLETS
March 19, 20  6:00-8:30 PM SKILLETS SHOW
March 22, 23 6:00-9:00 PM DINNER SHOW

March 24, 1:00-4:30 PM at Red Ridge Farms & Oregon Olive Mill
THE ART OF RISOTTO
Once again EVOO takes to the road. We are delighted to be going back to this beautiful venue to teach a class in the ART OF RISOTTO.

We begin with an appetizer and a little splash of Durant Vineyards wine while you watch our demonstration before you begin to cook your own batch. Then in teams of two you make your own version of risotto, choosing the stock, seasonings, sofrito and finishes.The finished risottos will be tasted by all with light salad, Bob’s bread, Olive Mill EVOO, and more Durant wine. And of course we won’t send you home without a sweet taste!

March 27, 6-8:30 SKILLETS
March 29, 30, 6:00-9:00 DINNER SHOW

March 31 EASTER 1:00-3:30 pm
Our Easter Sunday Buffet reflects a bit of spring with dishes the whole family will like. Wines may be chosen at our shelf pricing if desired.
Lamb two ways: lamb lollipop and fried lame sausage with pan peppers and onions, mint-pine nut pesto
Salmon coulibiac torta – oven roasted wild king salmon, wild rice-bulgur salad, Bob’s creamed spinach wrapped in puff pastry
Winter green salad, orange blossom honey champagne vinaigrette dressing and caramelized cherries
Pickles, Olives, Crusty Bread & Homemade butter
Strawberry Angel roll, fresh strawberries, rhurbarb strawberry sorbet, almond crumble
Caffe Umbria Coffee  &   Steven Smith Teamaker Tea



SAVORING ITALY TOUR in TUSCANY

2013  EVOO TOURS  After our first visit years ago we became charmed by Italy.  The allure of the scenery, the history, the rich culture, especially the food and wine culture, and the famous Italian hospitality was so seductive that we  dreamed of sharing the experience with our customers. In 2010 an energetic enthusiastic vivacious woman knocked on our door at EVOO. Paola Roselli turns out to be a tour guide who studied languages and who has hosted many tours throughout Europe and especially her beloved Italy. She is now living with her American husband in Portland! We all hit it off and immediately began to put together our first EVOO tour to Tuscany.

In the beginning Paola asked us to describe the perfect tour. We told her we are not interested in seeing traditional tourist attractions. We wished she would concentrate on immersing our group into the artisan food and wine culture of the regions we visit. We wanted to see real people who are living out their passions, just like we do at EVOO.

We asked for a single villa or agriturismo from which to base for the week. Our day trips should include some cooking lessons, visits to artisan producers of local products from cheeses, pasta, salumi (Italian sausage/hard salami making) to wines, followed by tastings and sometimes lunch or dinner with our artisan hosts. And most importantly, our tours should be small–small enough to fit onto the smallest tour bus in Italy so we keep our numbers including us under 20 guests.

Paola has always delivered and is as involved during the trip as she was before the trip, when she visits many vendors and artisans to made plans for our group.

Now on our third year and fifth and sixth tours, we once again invite EVOO Encore Members and friends to join us for a culinary journey through Tuscany.  Each week is €2680 per person, paid in US dollars applying current exchange rate. This does not include airfare. Exact details are forthcoming to guests who inquire.

October 20-26  2013TUSCANY COOKING, EATING, WINE TASTING CULINARY TOUR

Etruscan castle in rural Tuscan where we call home for the week:

Travel the rural back roads with us to learn why Tuscany is world renowned for its food and food products. From exquisite olive oil to Florentine steaks, we explore the farms and the artisan producers who give us the real Tuscan  experience.

Off the tourist track, we stop at an olive mill near our villa  where we watch the pressing of the olives we have picked. You learn all  you need to know about olive oil! Shipping product home is available.

We  enjoy several artisan workshops in meat and meat products, cheese, gnocchi and Tuscan breads and bakery products. And there’s wine, of course; we visit three wine producers of Chianti and other wines of the area.  We visit the villages of Greve, Castellina, and Lucca.

The villa where we will call home for the week is a former castle located along an old Roman road  deep in the country side. Quiet, spacious grounds and vista views define its ambiance. The chef-owners of the property give us a cooking lesson in how to make many Tuscan favorites as well as to cook breakfast daily and dinners for opening night and for our farewell.

The rustic dining room at our Tuscan villa
Bob in a Greve cheese shop

 

 


DEMYSTIFYING RISOTTO (written for the Gazette in October 2012)

We just returned from our culinary immersion Italy tours, one leg in the Southern Campania, specifically in Sorrento, region, and one in the Northern Piedmont region where we tasted that frequent alternative to pasta—risotto. Early October was still very warm by our standards in both regions, but still clearly fall in Italy, like here, so seems the flavors of risotto we saw there are very suited to the fall flavors of our own area; pumpkin, squash, and kales and cabbages. Yes, cabbage in risotto was one of our favorites, but before we share that recipe, we want to describe how we like to make all risotto.

Over time risotto has developed somewhat of a mystique, surrounded by “truisms” and “hype” relating to how to cook it; one must do this and never do that to be “true” risotto. Seems it isn’t just Americans who are confounded, as we heard such contradictory rules from our Italian encounters, too.  So we have decided to extrapolate the techniques that work for many recipes and adapt for ingredients that are in season and available any time of the year. To that end let’s start by describing the characteristics that define what we are looking for in a well-made risotto. Note: we consider “risotto” a method, not just a recipe; it can be applied to other grains like barley and cracked wheat, but for today our focus is risotto made with rice.

“Risotto is creamy, smooth and rich even without the addition of butter or cheese; the grain texture is still “to the tooth” firm; it is thick enough for the spoon to stand up alone when finished; and the flavors of the individual ingredients are clearly discernible and fresh.”

The main components then for a risotto are (1) the rice (grain), (2) the sofrito, the Italian word for aromatics, always onions and, perhaps, garlic, and typically, the addition of wine, and (3) the stock; and, lastly, often but not required, (4) fatty, creamy additions like cheese, butter or olive oil, and cream.  

(1)    The rice itself must be short grain to achieve the creaminess without adding cream or cheese, accomplished by continuous or frequent stirring with a wooden or silicon spoon helping the rice to give up its starch resulting in creamy texture. Only short grain rice is said to have this quality, and many of us believe the best varietals come from Italy, right from the Vercelli region of Piedmont, where we visited a rice farm on our tour. There are a few different short grain rice varietals and the most well-known and easiest to find in the states is Arborio.  

(2)    The second prominent ingredient in risotto is the stock or liquid. We consider the stock carefully since it plays such an important role in the flavor outcome. It can easily overpower the rice and the rest of the ingredients if it is too strong, and likewise, it may get lost if not flavorful enough. Our guiding rule to choose homemade versus store purchased stock rests on how prominent the stock is in a dish. When the stock will dominant, we typically choose to make our own; or when the quantity of stock is small, we may choose a quality low sodium store bought stock.

Chicken stock is often the first choice for risotto; with our own vegetable stock a frequent second. In Italy, we saw vegetable stock, flavored with cured meat as an economical option. Seafood or fish stock is appropriate for a seafood risotto and we always prefer homemade there, too. Whether or not we roast the bones and meat for a stock or just simmer without roasting is another consideration. Roasted stocks produce a very much more pronounced flavors in the finish product, and may mask the more delicate flavors in the risotto. For example, when making a traditional Milanese saffron risotto, where a small amount of saffron is added to the stock, a roasted stock would be too strong, so we would opt for the lighter homemade unroasted version or to water down the roasted stock when making this dish from Milan.

(3)    The sofrito or the flavorful aromatic ingredients seem to always including onion; other aromatics such as garlic, sausage, and tomato are added in this step. In addition, the rice goes the pot here, followed by wine or other acidic liquid. If the ingredients in a sofrito cover the bottom of the pot before the rice is added, they can be removed while the rice is being warmed for about 3-7 minutes depending on amount.

When using watery vegetables ingredients such as cabbage, squash and pumpkin, they would typically not be part of the sofrito, but rather cooked separately and held to the side and then added to the pot when the rice is about half done, so as not to absorb too much stock or add too much of their own liquid watering down the stock.

We saw an exception that was almost bazaar to us at the rice farm where we watched the local  risotto cook (hired by the farm just for our visit) make a large batch of risotto, called Panissa, in a caldron over portable stove on the outdoor patio. The stock itself was a mixture of cabbage, beans, carrots and more onion. Then solid parts of this stock were also added to the rice with each new addition.  

So here are the A, B, C steps for making risotto; it is going to take about 25-30 minutes to make and your attention will be required for the duration. Having everything ready is a requisite for success.

  1. A.     In a wide heavy bottomed pan, sauté the onion and other sofrito ingredients until they are translucent. Add rice and continue to stir while rice begins to polish and a few become slightly translucent about 4-6 minutes. Add the wine or acid liquid, while stirring until it is evaporated dry. Usually the wine is a white, but red wine is used when the dish includes tomato and a meat. Also tomato juice or other acid fruit juice may be used.

  2. B.     It is time to move on from this wine step when all of it is absorbed and evaporated, at which point you start adding the hot stock a little at a time. Note: the stock needs to be hot in order to properly release the starch from the rice. Add stock, one half cup at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula, as a metal implement may break the rice kernels; as we perpetuate one of those risotto truisms.

    If adding a cooked vegetable, such as previously cooked pumpkin or squash, add it about 12 minutes or half way into the addition of the stock. Be sure it is hot when adding it. At this point continue to add stock until the rice is very creamy and almost fully cooked, but still al dente or firm to the tooth when tasted.

    You will want start to tasting for doneness about 20 minutes into the process. When the risotto is creamy and your spatula/spoon stands straight up by itself; the grain is “to the tooth,” or, still slightly firm in the center of the kernel, you are ready to adjust seasoning and/or add any finishing ingredients, step C; or, if not adding more ingredients, cover 2-3 minutes before serving.

  3. C.     The finish is known to increase the rice’s own creaminess as well as richness and flavor.  Cream, butter, and cheese are common ingredients used in this Italian called, “mantecatura,” step. Here are some popular combinations.
  • ·   Most common is to add grated Parmesan cheese or other hard cheese to plain risotto or even meaty wild mushroom flavored risottos;
  • ·   For seafood risottos, the fat of choice is rarely (Italians would say, never) hard cheese, and often no cheese, but some soft cheeses such as triple cream, soft mascarpone we think totally tasty for seafood risotto.
  • ·   A gorgonzola cheese is popular in risotto simply prepared with roasted walnuts, as gorgonzola wants to be the star in whatever it is in. It is also a prominent ingredient in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Today’s recipe, PANISSA RISOTTO, is a cured sausage risotto from Vercelli (Piedmont) area in Italy where most of the rice for Europe is grown. This recipe is made with a cabbage-bean cooked stock and is shared here with our best “reenactment” of the dish, as we didn’t received a written copy of the recipe from the farm.

  1. Ingredients for the sofrito:
    3 Tablespoons lard or EVOO
    1 onion, rough chopped
    4 ounces dry cured Italian salami, skin removed and broken up or whirled in food processor
    2 1 /2 cup Arborio rice
    4 ounces red wine
    2 ounces tomato sauce, strained
    6 cups, approximately, cooked stock (see recipe)
    Method: As described above, create the flavorful sofrito, cook the rice, add and evaporate the wine and tomato, then add the stock, stirring after each addition.
  2.  Ingredients for the stock: (have this ready before making the risotto, of course)
    1 gallon cold water
    1 large yellow onion, minced
    1 head green cabbage, rough chopped
    4 carrots, peeled, left whole so they can be removed
    3 cups cooked pinto beans; if canned, drained and rinsed well
    2 teaspoons sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Method: Combine all stock ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes. Vegetables and beans should be tender; remove carrots before adding stock to risotto along with vegetables and beans. (no carrots are in the served portion of the recipe; they are there for stock flavor)
  3. Ingredients for the Mantecatura, or finishing step:
    2 ounces unsalted butter
    1-2 cups freshly grated dry aged Grana Pandano cheese, if you can get it; or Parmigiano Reggiano, is a good second or first choice
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper only if needed for taste
    Method: Remove risotto from the heat; add butter and cheese and fold into the rice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.

WELCOME TO SORRENTO, ITALY Sep 2012

We’re back from Italy, where we enjoyed our two tours with our EVOO guests. We had so many food and wine experience that we should have lots of material for our blogs going forward. For now it was easy to see that Bob would rather be on the other side of these activites because he did the dinner show last night, first in two weeks, and he was pumped! He belongs in the kichen at EVOO.

Our welcome dinner in Sorrento was our first night together. Almost everyone arrived at the hotel in time to freshen up, maybe even take a swim. They dressed up a litte and we went by bus to a local family restaurant, barely six months old. The entire family was involved. Mom and daughter were the chefs and dad and son, Giavanni, were in the diningroom. They have very high standards, ones that they won’t compromise, even for local customers. For example, they told us they once had pizza on the menu and a local family really liked it. When they returned it was no longer on the menu and the customers insisted. They owners told us that they will not make a static menu like so many other restaurants in the area, because they know that the quality of the dishes they serve depends upon the freshest and best ingredients that are available. Giavanni and Bob went to the fish market the next day, a routine that Giavanni makes daily. That way he has only the best.   Sound familiar? Bob won’t compromise on the quality of ingredients either!

More to come soon, Lenore

Bob and Lenore with the family at our first local family restaurant for our welcome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antipasti of fried mozzarella; croquette of lemon & potato; fried pumpkin fritter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lori, Michele and Nancy in fore ground enjoying apparitif at our welcome dinner, on their terrace overlooking the terraine of the Sorrento area.
Bob and Giovanni went to the fish market together the next day.

HOOKED ON FISH

As it appeared in the CB Gazette, 8/30/12

Running a cooking school on the coast, it is just a natural expectation that we do a fair amount of fish. And we do.

Let’s start at the beginning. Perfection is what is needed to convert a fish skeptic or to change the minds of those who “have had a bad fish experience.” We believe starting with our local varieties is the first step, since they are bound to be freshest. Then give fish the respect it deserves by keeping it as fresh as possible while holding or in preparation, and lastly, cooking “au point.” We think it is a special skill to cook fish to the point of perfection. The goal is “to the point” or perfectly done! In other words, the point at which both flavor and texture are just right!

So I will do my best to describe cooking a first class fillet using a couple different techniques.

To begin with, success is a bit easier when we start with a fatty fish with very flavorful fat, such as salmon. The catch from the pacific and in the Northwest waters is unique due to the water temperature and currents. We can usually count on more fat of the native species to allow more aggressive cooking preparations. And they may be served with highly flavored condiments such as chutneys and paired with more earthy wines, than a more delicate fish.

So before you decide what cooking method and accompaniments to put on the menu, find out exactly what is available. Shop! It is amazing how quickly the catch of the day turns over. The waters are being regulated and everything isn’t always available when you need it. If it is, ask questions to learn when it was caught and/or if previously frozen. Take along a way to bring home your choice from the grocery. You must know that fish and seafood demand proper handling once they are caught. The fishers do their job, and so do the grocers. So why not take along an insulated pack to carry your purchase home in. Every minute left in temperatures above 32˚F diminishes quality. Once home, continue the 32˚F atmosphere by packing in ice while holding in the fridge. Again, put over ice while you work in preparation at room temperature, and finally, when marinating or holding for later cooking, keep ice nearby to help lower the refrigerator’s average temp, typically, 38˚F.

If you choose salmon, you might ask for a block cut when it is caught prior to taking the long journey back to their birthplace to spawn. You see they eat ravenously to build fat. This will enable them to make the long journey. They get much leaner closer to their destination.  By catching them just before they enter the river, you can cut them straight down the middle of each side, then into blocks of 4-6 ounces, and know that both the belly and back pieces will taste and cook the same.

These fish are prime for the two step method of cooking. We start by skinning the fish or not, but season the skin side generously with salt, pepper and coriander (my personal favorite for salmon). The first step is to get a heavy bottom skillet up to temperature, as high as you can before adding the cooking oil. Then add a little grape seed oil, our pick for the qualities of high smoke point, neutral flavor, and its healthy benefit of omega 3’s. Fish goes in as the oil lightly shimmers, placing one at the handle of the pan and going clockwise around the pan until filled but fish is not touching each other. This way you know what went in first second, third, etc.

Don’t try to move or manipulate the fillets for the first 30-50 seconds. Give the fish a chance to crust up on the cooking side. All food is pretty wet and when placed into a hot pan, it will stick until it is crusty and the water on the surface has evaporated. Then it will release itself allowing you to remove it without tearing the flesh. Out of the pan, placing it crispy side up on a waiting cooking sheet, and you are ready for the second cook-step.  Using the oven actually helps you manage the process as you strive to cook it to “the point.” You now have a little window of time to finish cooking other menu items. Clearly to cook fish properly, you need to focus only on the fish; no distractions. Just before needed then, place the pan of fish into a 400˚- 450˚ F oven, for about 3-5 minutes. For the record, you will know after doing this a few times with the same species and same size fillet, your own pans and your oven, just how long it will take. It is prudent to set your timer lower than you think it will take; you can always add on. The goal, of course, is to pull the fish a little before it reaches “the point,” so that you can allow it to continue to cook, but not over-cook, on the serving plate.

So what to look for in a perfectly cooked fillet? Along with timing and temping, I go by feel. The center of the fish will respond to my pressure with a little push back, while pinching the sides and thinner edges, it will begin to break along the natural layers of the muscle. The temperature for done fish is about 140-145˚F. I would pull it before that, hoping for a good 60-90 seconds of further cooking after I pull from the oven. A couple signs of going past this point are the appearance of a white milky secretion and a fishy smell. This is the protein in the fish rising to the surface as it gets too hot. Pull it out before this point whenever possible. Over cooking is one sure fire way to achieve a fishy result. We tend to believe fish that smells fishy is old, but it could just be overcooked.

Planking is a traditional Northwest-style of cooking fish, utilizing a variety of aromatic woods, usually cedar, alder or fruit wood. These are untreated pieces of hard woods, cut into any shape that will support the size of the item to be cooked. Most cooks recommend soaking the planks for approximately 30 minutes or longer in water so that the wood absorbs enough water to inhibit the plank from catching fire, while on the outdoor grill over direct flames. Water soaked wood will smoke rather than catch fire. We don’t soak planks for those 4-6 ounce fillets we cook in our oven, because they won’t be in the oven long enough to catch fire, and the wood aromatics are greater with dry wood. We generally brush a little cooking oil on the wood before placing the fish on top and season with sea salt, ground coriander and other aromatics.

For grilling outdoors, place the water soaked plank with fish directly on the preheated grill and cover. Check after 10 minutes. The fish should be opaque throughout before removing. Use the same touch and visual as before.

As I said, because the wood plank is water soaked before cooking it generates a small amount of smoke that imparts a subtle but rich flavor, that with the fat from the fish, gives a great mouth feel. You can see why this might create a nice foundation for introducing other flavors and interesting condiments such as salsas, chutneys, not to mention full bodied wines. We have enjoyed other planked creations using dark meat chicken or turkey, lamb and pork. Always the key to success is working with foods that have a fatty background to support the smoke-flavor.

Another popular Northwest fish preparation is to brine and smoke the fish. We do this then finish in the oven. The outcome is a smokier flavor than the planking method gives, and more caramelization from the sweet soy brine I use. I cannot describe this process without recalling the origin of the recipe and the first time I did this.

One summer I took a job in Alaska at a fishing lodge. It was at a high end fishing experience for the likes of the owner of Cabela’s sporting goods stores, who was there. The lodge itself was minimal and rustic! It was located on the Alagnak River, where one has to float plane in and out. I should have known right away I was in for a summer adventure that I would be talking about for a long time, when I could only call Lenore from a two-way radio phone, before cell phones and no wires. At the time, I also taught at North Community College in Seattle, and Sheldon, one of my students, former lumberjack retraining to be a chef, decided to come along to help. And turns out good for me that he did! Sheldon’s presence helped me get past some bumpy times when the guests and staffers started razing me and my way too citified demeanor for the rugged conditions of the lodge and tundra. After all, Sheldon, a 6’6’ native of Alaska, could not only speak the “language” of the area, he also gave anyone pause just by his presence.

So Sheldon and I fell into a routine of cooking starting around 4 in the morning after a night in our sleeping bags on a slab of cedar planks—in our guest rooms. It was never dark so I just plain lost track of time, but had to crank up the propane stove early enough to have scones and coffee cakes for breakfast. In no time, the guests were grooving on the food. So my confidence in my safety rose. Often we would meet the guests for their lunch break at the river’s edge and prepared fresh caught fish over the open fires, while the guides watched for bear with riffles.

Like the bears, I was in salmon heaven! So many in fact, you could almost reach in the river and pull one out with your bare hands, just like the bears. And so much fish that we put the smoke house to work on a daily basis. Sheldon shared his family recipe for brining then smoking the fish. It was very good. The way I like smoked fish. Not so strong that you don’t know what species of fish you started with, so smoky that smoke is all you taste. His recipe had the salmon in the brine about an hour before it was smoked slowly in the smokehouse. After a while I notice he would disappear every afternoon. I wondered if he was doing something he wanted to keep secret, so I followed him. There he was in the smokehouse with his tongue in the fish! I called out, “Sheldon, what are you doing?”

Then, quite like this gentle giant of a man, he said, “You know, Bob, we sense salt on the tip of our tongue and I was just trying to gauge whether the fish had enough salt yet before I take it out of the brine.” This was the way he had always done it, and his dad and grandfather before him. I asked if he thought he might “time it,” so we didn’t have to put our tongue on it, you know in favor of public food safety? We did and it was exactly 70 minutes in the brine.

That summer gave me the recipe I still use, with time in the brine only 70 minutes. But without a smoke house, I learned that I could smoke, indoors, top of the stove, (smoke detectors disabled for a while), and get the exact smokiness needed in just 4 minutes. I create a homemade smoker using dry hard wood chips in the bottom of a disposable foil pan, cover the chips with a cooking grate, place the fish on the grate, cover the pan with foil and place over high heat. When it starts smoking, time 2 minutes; turn off heat, time 2 more minutes. Remove to the back yard and take off foil lid. That is all the smoke needed to impart smoke without destroying the fresh salmon flavor. The fish is placed uncovered in the fridge for about an hour before I cook it, so that the wood residue has a chance to dissipate. You will see a coating of brown sticky residue on the foil lid, which I believe to be on the fish as well, so I let it rest uncovered to air it out before cooking and locking in the bitter wood residue.

Again, I like to use the stove top and oven method to finish the cooking. I sear one side of the smoked salmon in a hot sauté pan with a little grape seed oil. The caramelization forms quickly because of the sugar and soy in the brine. Into a 400˚F oven for about 4 minutes for 4 ounce fillet and it is cooked to perfection! I can almost taste it now.

Here is the recipe for brining salmon from that summer adventure in the Alaskan tundra so many years ago.

BRINE FOR SALMON TO BE SMOKED
1 quarts water
8 ounces soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (light)
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 – 6 each six ounce portions of salmon fillets, block cut, bones removed

Method: Combine water, soy, sugar and salt in zip locking baggie. Mix to dissolve. Place salmon fillets into brine and close top of back, carefully removing air. Place onto pan of ice and refrigerate 70 minutes, no more, no less. Remove fish from brine and pat dry.

To Cold-Smoke:
1-2 cups dry hard wood chips (cherry, hickory, apple, etc)
Salt, pepper, coriander–to taste

Method: Prepare smoker pan using desired dry wood chips on bottom under cooking rack. Place salmon onto rack. Place over heated outdoor grill, or on high heat indoors. When chips begin to smoke, cover pan tightly and start timing for 2 minutes. Turn off heat–walk outdoors if not already outside, and time for 2 additional minutes before removing cover. Remove salmon and place onto clean plate and refrigerate uncovered until needed, or at least for 30 minutes to allow bitter wood resins to dissipate.
To cook:
Pan-sear in pre-heated fry pan with small amount of grape seed oil or other high smoke point oil. Over high heat, add salmon for about 2 minutes or until starts to caramelize and lifts out of pan without tearing. Place seared side up on cookie sheet and bake in 400ºF -425 ºF oven for 4-7 minutes. Always check in 4–looking for the salmon to be about 140ºF in the center and starting to flake when sides are lightly pinched together. Fish will continue to “carry-over cook” a few more degrees. Season if needed and serve.

Suggested serving accompaniments: Bob’s Blackberry Ketchup; Stone fruit chutney
Suggested wines: Capitello Sauvignon Blanc, Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir Rose, J. Scott Petite Syrah, Sineann Abondante.


SUMMER COOKING

As it appeared in CB Gazette  8-2-12

Today I am reminded why I love the business I am in so much. I have chosen to be a cook for my life’s work and that never sounds as good to me as it does in the summer. Suddenly I think of my craft as “the art of cooking” and my medium dramatically rich with colorful, full flavored abundant varieties of plant based foods. Markets are now so full of the best examples of the plant world that it is almost frustrating that I must limit my urge to make everything in sight. The good news is there will be another market next week.

So this time I am writing about some of the tastiest recipes I make with vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits. Lenore and I have dedicated the last eight years to teaching the craft of cooking, and we have developed guidelines for the recipes we make in our dinner shows. First our recipes must be attainable to every cook. We limit our use of exotic and hard to find ingredients. We pretty much stick to the belief that simply prepared ingredients that are chosen close to home and seasonally are going to propel the end result without trying very hard. And when we combine ingredients our mantra guide is “what grows together goes together.” That alone gives us so many successful combinations.

The summer seems to start at our place with cherry tomato season. They are the first tomatoes to hit the scene and we incorporate them into our menus early. After all, we have waited a long time for fresh tomatoes as we stick to our promise to eat them in our local season.  One recipe we have served this month gives us lots to talk about in our classes. It is what we call SUMMER RATATOUILLE.

To the French I suppose it is just ratatouille, a vegetable stew, but adding the word summer changes it for me. We don’t stew it at all. When we roast the vegetables and we use only fresh tomatoes, it is a new experience. In addition I like to use Japanese eggplant instead of the Italian globe eggplant because its prep is so much easier and the results, creamy and sweet. There’s no need to peel salt or drain out the bitterness. Just wash, cut, and cook Japanese eggplant. Keeping it simple, we also add roasted zucchini and red peppers. Then when the tomato skins have just blistered and started to brown, we blend the roasted veggies all together, juice and all. Before we even get the mixture on the plate, the natural pectin seems to go to work and thicken the juice into a sauce that lightly coats a spoon. This recipe makes a great topping for pasta, gnocchi and polenta. We have also used it to top zucchini “spaghetti” made by stripping zucchini into long spaghetti like pieces and just giving them a quick dunk into very salty water before draining and plating for the base of this ratatouille sauce.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The recipe isn’t finished. Let’s talk about the garlic. It’s no secret I use a lot of garlic. I am Italian, after all. But I think in the beginning of my relationship with my wife I almost blew it by over using the garlic. You see my family used garlic by the head not the clove. When I would make a salad for Lenore and me in those days, I would use 3-5 cloves (very modest, I thought) in the dressing for the two of us. She was polite at first, but soon she volunteered to make the salads, and now she tells me she did so in self-defense. A half clove was her limit in those days, she said. Today she might be up to two cloves in a salad for two people, she explained. Anyway I digress. We both think of garlic as a good addition to our recipes. Not only is it healthful; like Lenore says it has every “anti” reason in the nutrition book to include it in our meals; (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, etc.).

Garlic at EVOO is both a vegetable and a seasoning. For example we add a whole head of sliced garlic per bunch of broccoli for a great combo, (see full recipe below) and by the time it is on the plate it is very mellow and no sting is left in the cloves. In contrast, when we want the sharp taste and heat of the garlic, we use it minced or pasted and typically add it at the end of the cooking.  You might say then, the smaller the chop the more pungent garlic is. And, of course, the longer the cook, the less strong it is.

One more tip, maybe an idiosyncrasy of mine, is to remove the sprout of the garlic clove. If when split open we can see the sprout, green or white, we remove it. It is because the sprout may be the bitterness that some people find offensive; and it may be the source of the sensitivity to garlic that people say they have. You know, when it repeats on you long after the meal?  We don’t know for a fact that is true but we practice the removal of sprouts in garlic and it seems to work for us.

This of course means that oven roasting whole heads of garlic is “out” in our kitchen. Our version of roasted garlic is done on the stove top. Just peel and split the cloves of about 3 heads garlic, remove the sprouts, place in a small pot;  cover with EVOO, then slowly tenderized and slightly caramelize over low heat about 20-30 minutes, yielding the same tenderness and sweet flavor of the traditional roasted whole heads of garlic. We add roasted garlic and its oil made this way to the summer ratatouille and we finish with a little fresh minced garlic, too.

So to sum up I really enjoy cooking with plant ingredients!  I enjoy eating plant based, too, but I don’t want to sound like I don’t like animal foods. I do. How dull would cooking be without eggs, for example? It is just that meat in general can be one dimensional; vegetables fruits and grains make a big difference when they hold a strong position on the plate alongside animal foods. Here are a few vegetable recipes that have been popular for us.

Summer Ratatouille

Preparing the vegetables:
EVOO as needed
2 large Japanese eggplant, (no need to peel or salt) 1 inch diced
1 red or green pepper, 1 inch dice
1 zucchini, 1 inch diced
5-8 cloves garlic, sliced, roasted with the tomatoes
4 cups cherry tomatoes, left whole
To finish:
½ to 1 clove garlic, minced or pasted
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 – 5 sprigs fresh Greek oregano, stems removed
1/2 cup basil, fresh, chiffonade
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Add sea salt, pepper and coriander to taste
more EVOO to taste if needed

Method:

Prepare vegetables by coating with EVOO and seasoning with salt, pepper, coriander and place onto separate shallow baking pans.  Place into 400 °F oven using convection if you have it. Roast uncovered for 10-15 minutes, depending on vegetable. Remove from oven. Place vegetables together in a bowl and lightly toss to mix.  Add minced garlic, parsley, and oregano. Adjust seasoning. Add basil chiffonade on top for garnish.  Serve hot over fried polenta, gnocchi, or top pizza or pasta.

Broccoli Garlic Sauté

1 bunch broccoli
1 head garlic
EVOO, as needed
1/4-1/2 cup roasted chicken stock (or water)
1/3 cup dry aged parmesan reggiano, fine
Season to taste with salt and coriander

Method:

Prepare broccoli by removing florets from stems. Boil a pot of water and drop in the whole unpeeled stems for about 3-4 minutes to blanch. Remove and shock in a bowl of ice water until easy to handle. Carefully peel off their tough outer layer; this should be easier than peeling the raw stem. Slice into smaller pieces on a bias. Set aside.
Continue blanching the broccoli florets 1-2 minutes and shock /cool in bowl of ice water. Remove and set aside.
Prepare whole head of garlic. Split each clove, peel and remove sprout; slice each into 2-3 pieces. At service, place wide bottom pan on high heat. Add EVOO and immediately add garlic; keep moving it to prevent browning. Add broccoli stems and roasted chicken stock; cook till garlic is tender and stems are heated through. Lastly add florets and cook to just to heat. Pour onto heated platter and coat with good aged parmesan reggiano cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Bulgur, Beet & Bleu Salad with walnuts and preserved lemon

To prepare the bulgur:
1 cup toasted cracked wheat (we use Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups water
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Bob’s Flavors of Middle East spice blend (purchase or see recipe)
Salt to taste
To finish the salad:
1 cup fresh raw beets, julienne slice
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
1-2 tablespoon preserved lemon, rinsed and minced (optional)
2-4 tablespoons EVOO, as desired
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese for garnish

Method:

Toast bulgur /cracked wheat in dry hot pan until you smell its nuttiness. Add the water, a little salt and spice and bring up to boil over high heat. When it boils, cover and shut off heat. Let pot stand for15-25 minutes. Before making this salad cool bulgur completely by spreading out onto cookie sheet and placing into refrigerator, uncovered, until it drops to 40°F or less. To finish, toss bulgur with beets, preserved lemon, mint, parsley and chive. Garnish with crumbled bleu cheese.

 


AUGUST DINNER SHOW takes unusual twists and turns

Just served three nights of the new August dinner show menu and to our surprise our guests are getting it. Couldn’t be more of a mixed blend of concepts and flavors but in the end our guests are encouraging us to continue the madness.

We start with a curry lemon marinated piece of fresh seared / oven finished,  pacific halibut caught just few miles off Cannon Beach shore; with that some Umbrian lentils (but a Northwest lentil works too, if you can get the grade A’s even better). These lentils with Tilda basmati rice from India made pilaf style with aromatics and herbs and toasted almonds. On this plate is a stack of minted mango chutney that I made a few days earlier to give time for the flavors to meld and we serve a creamy pineapple juice pan sauce over the fish. So there you see the blend of far and near to create this easy to duplicate course.

We could align it to the Northwest a bit more using rice a bit closer to home (almost every continent grows rice). Lenore would always prefer brown rice, but for me, it is Tilda basmati all the way.  As I said before we can certainly find a NW lentil, knowing that our farms export out the best grade A, and so what I usually can get are not as perfect as the Italian Umbrian. I like the lentils that hold their shape and don’t become mush. We could bring the chutney closer to home, too, by using fresh peaches  instead of the mango; NW peaches are in season right now.  The fish could be mahi mahi from Hawaii to match the mango as well as bringing the pineapple cream sauce in line.

I’ve never been opposed to blending concepts, and it seems, according to Lenore that it is a trend with many chefs turning to blending  ethnicities on a plate. Jury is still out but since I’ve been doing it awhile now, I guess it is less of a trend and more my  style. My Italian roots cannot help but show up even when I am trying to cook a full on Northwest menu, or Thia or Mexican concept. So looks like there will be more of the same before they hall me away.

But wait, I haven’t even finished describing the rest of the meal. Second course is a stacked tostado with the usual suspects (guak, salsa, and some crumbly fresh cheese) and topped with my citrus braised pork belly.

The final course is a quick charred tenderloin steak coated with flavors of Spain spices served with a tamale stuffed poblano peppers . That sounds compatible, but here’s the finish you might not be expecting. On a wedge of fresh seedless watermelon I am putting lime, EVOO, jalapeno, feta cheese, and red onion; topping with cumin whipped cream and strawberry tequila sorbet, dotted with crunchy sea salt flakes.

See what I mean? I told Lenore I am going to tie the whole dish together tonight by adding a quick grilled veg medley after I grill the steaks so I don’t waist those meat flavors left on my flattop (Mongolian style ) grill. The veg should pick up the spice and beef flavors. I think they will compliment both the steak and watermelon.

This morning, I received a text from a frequent flyer at EVOO who said dinner last night was the  bomb!  Thanks, Lisa, but you may not want to encourage too much of this type flavor explosion. Seriously I couldn’t be happier that after eight years at EVOO I am being trusted with whatever goes onto the plate.   No worries, though, I plan to continue  listening to our guests.


Lenore just got back from WASH DC FANCY FOOD SHOW

In Search of Fancy Foods

Having a small corner of our store dedicated to foods like imported olives and oils, vinegars made with local honey and berries and a few of the many specialty salts, was the impetus to send Lenore to the FANCY FOOD SHOW, summer version. Of course the fact that it was located in Washington DC, where we met almost twenty-six years ago, solidified the idea for Lenore. She said she felt guilty leaving town when our season here would just be kicking in, but in the end, seeing a good friend who just had her first child helped ease the guilt. “After all, he (baby, Seth) would be in school before you know it and I would have missed it,” she said.

Summer version of the show was to be smaller than the winter, but some show is better than no show, so off she went. It was at the Washington Convention Center, on all levels—took her and another friend, Alice, three days to do it justice. First day they went was a Sunday and the search for parking was the first challenge, even with the parking goddess, Alice, in the car. Seems many churches are in the same area and to accommodate their parking, they are allowed to park perpendicular to the curb. It really seemed to help, but still nothing was available. The convention center itself must have planned for the Metro (rail) to be the exclusive mode of transportation; it seems there is no convention center parking at all. They finally found the Radisson Hotel a short distance away that had plenty of parking.

Equipped with a list of what we want to carry or expand in our store, Lenore and Alice started on the first level. Luckily there was a large show case display of all the products that had won this year’s accolades for most innovative and creative. Among them a retail pack for fennel pollen, at the top of Lenore’s list. They tell me they spent the next two days trying to find this product on the grand floor of the show. So I soon got the picture that this smaller version of the show was bigger than they needed.

There was another motivation for this venture for me. It was for Lenore to scope out how to become a fancy food exhibitor. We do have some nice spice blends and soon to have more, and we are thinking big. It certainly would be great to be on the exhibitor side of the aisle at these shows. So I waited anxiously for her report.

When Lenore arrived home she announced that the “box” of samples and pamphlets she had collected over three days would not arrive until the next Thursday. As I am writing this now I am going off of her memory.

Seems Lenore finally found the location of the fennel pollen; a small display with other vendors who also “forage” for their products. Beautiful! I am intrigued. Lenore actually met the founder of the line of products called Wineforest Wild Foods, who is also the author of a book I was familiar with, “The Wild Table” by Connie Green. Who is known in California as the foraging goddess. The forward of the book is written by a personal favorite chef of ours, Thomas Keller.  Green is now taking some of her wild finds to market for those of us too busy to go foraging. Look for her products to sit on one of our shelves soon.

We really enjoy filling our shelves with local products so when we find some that tastes good and are produced in the USA, we are very inclined to add them to our shelves. A new product of interest is the organic estate grown olive oil from ENZO out of California. It is made in the Italian tradition of four generations of farmers, and it fits the very smooth buttery flavor description that Lenore says will round out our many other EVOO choices in the shop.

We have been looking for some specialty Mexican products to carry, both for local Hispanic families and for the cooks who enjoy making authentic Mexican recipes that have become so popular in our American mainstream cooking. The fancy food show had two large aisles of Mexican products, some of which we hope to carry as long as our in-house expert agrees. That would be Florencio Lopez, our cook and server who enjoys teaching us his native cuisine.

Of course, we simply cannot compete with the big boys, so a perpetual goal of ours has been to find tasty and good products that have not yet hit the shelves at big box stores. Luckily there was an aisle dedicated to new vendors—first timers who are at the beginning of this food manufacturing journey. Lenore found really good cookies with exotic flavors that would be perfect to add to the selections we carry for beach picnics. In addition, there were s’more options, one of which, we will buy—especially since they are made by a company in Seattle. Imagine up-classing the s’more with a handmade marshmallow stuffed with nuts and caramel! Put that between your graham crackers!

My nightly phone calls from Lenore left me with my mouth watering. She seemed to taste everything in sight. She didn’t just taste what was on the list, for example, but she spent some time explaining why she needed to taste the many lines of chocolates designed to pair with wines.  She stopped at a chocolate vendor whose display was designed to demonstrate how soil and the resulting cocoa bean were related. Alice, she said, was very good at identifying the flavors and even where in the world they had been grown. Just like wine, she said.

On the second day of the show Lenore called with the answer to two questions we are asked frequently. The first discussion occurred at a French truffle vendor’s booth. A gentleman took time to expound on the virtue of truffle oil even though it is a chemically induce product and not the real thing, a controversy we hear mentioned frequently on cooking shows as well as in cooking periodicals. Seems to the French it is simply a matter of what is available. When truffles are fresh, but of course slices of the real thing are preferred, but when out of season, infused oil helps bridge the gap. Simply, Lenore said, the issue doesn’t seem exist for the French, who developed the craving for truffles very early in culinary history. And besides if we didn’t use infusion to extend the truffle flavors past their season, then we would miss the product she described as “pretty amazzzing.” Truffle flavored cashew nuts! I can hardly wait to get those into the store.

The second insight Lenore said was from a Canadian maple syrup vendor. Why do we in the USA grade maple syrup? And why do most consumers prefer grade B to grade A? The simple answer here was that in Canada, they don’t grade the syrup, because grading implies quality. The USA grade A stayed in the tree longer and was harvested later than grade B. The Canadian display showing vials of syrups from pure clear in color to very dark brown conveyed this well, because the later the syrup was harvested the darker it became. He also said Canada and the US are in dialog about changing the grading system so as not to portray one better than the other, just longer in the tree, which determines flavor but doesn’t become necessarily better. This allows the consumer to pick by their personal taste preferences.

Another reason Lenore was so captured by the Canadian maple syrup display was that they were touting the discovery of four new antioxidants, often considered the most powerful food defense we know to fight diseases. At least for now, these new ones are found exclusively in pure maple syrup, A nutrition angle is always good for adding ingredients to our pantry, especially when the pure stuff tastes so much  better than the imitation.

Let me sum it up with some specialty “fancy” food trends. Look for more designer cookies, specifically brownie “crackers,” and others a little more sophisticated “SLIMS” that were made from traditional loaf cakes like banana bread, cut thinly and twice baked and packaged like a biscotti. Then there were cookie “chips,” a sweet version of the salted snacks with the same texture that also challenges us to “eat just one.” Famous southern recipes for sauces are now packaged for upscale convenience. For example, a popular southern treat, banana pudding sauce, first made famous by vanilla wafers, is now in ready to use format.  The manufacturer now has a spinoff product made by adding a little bourbon to the pudding for a banana-bourbon pudding shooter? Said shooters also are conveniently prepackaged for any buyer over 21.

More innovative thirst quenching drinks, such as the Q-tonic and Q-Kola, have been revamped with clean ingredients that one can pronounce and with nothing artificial added. Of course, any product with clever marketing seemed to catch Lenore’s attention, too. Like one cereal product that was first designed as a shelf stable product loaded with healthy stuff especially slow burning chia seeds and hemp hearts. This was developed first for emergency food kits to use following natural disasters such as tornadoes (and tsunamis, maybe.) After test marketing in grocery stores the founder of the product named it for the most frequent comment taste-testers made, “Holy crap, this is good!” Thus its name, HOLY CRAP. Gets my attention, too.

 

A green disposable tasting spoon used by most vendors at the show won an award for innovation.We might be carrying this organic estate grown olive oil because of its buttery flavor.

 

 

Someday our private label spices might be exhibited at the Fancy Food Show
Is it good marketing if it catches your attention by the name? Maybe
Show case of many different fancy sweet dairy products, a definite trend at the show
Fresh food is always considered "fancy"
tasty well preserved dehydrated tomatoes and peppers from Turkey
Food trucks are a trend that some exhibitors took full advantage to get our attention at there display

THE GREEN PROJECT–volumn 3

This experiment has led to some deep musings (is that an oxymoron?):

  1. You may be able to teach an old dog new tricks. But it’s really hard to teach a tired dog new tricks!
  2. We modern women may ‘have it all,’ but we’re also really tired doing it all, and may not be doing it all really well!

Like many women today, I have the superwoman complex – I must have it all and do it all – marriage, kids, career, hobbies and, of course, enlightenment and improvement in all possible areas. Thus this experiment – to introduce my family to local, seasonal, organically grown produce, good for our bodies and our planet. But in the process, I have learned that my culinary skills are very, very limited! I know how to cook what I grew up eating, and I’m really good at the semi-homemade approach to cooking using some prepared foods and some fresh. But when it comes to trying new ingredients and cooking from scratch, I am doubly challenged because there are so many techniques I’m not very familiar with. And when you have young kids you’re trying to feed and get into bed after you get off work and before their 8:00 bed time, trying to teach yourself new recipes and  new techniques can cause a Type-A, first-born, perfectionist Super Woman like myself to nearly go catatonic.

 

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Which leaves me scratching my head and asking a lot of questions: What is the new model going to be with moms not staying at home to slow cook all day and gradually passing their skills on to the next generation of little women? More dads are staying home with the kids, but are they doing the slow-food-from-scratch thing which they’ll then pass on? Probably not. And with so little time and energy on my hands, when do I teach my kids the little bit that I know? And when do I learn more myself? I am lucky enough to observe Bob and Lenore in action throughout my work day, but that’s while running the store and manning the reservation line. So my learning is taking placing very slowly.

 

The only conclusion I have to come to is that I have to “lighten up,” as my mother told me often in my youth. When I get my CSA basket, rather than pressuring myself to do something new and different every night, I may have to deem one night a week New Recipe Night and get in the kitchen early armed with a recipe from Bob and Lenore’s cookbook which I can faithfully follow rather than rushing and improvising.

 

Here’s what has most recently appeared on the Bonn table with ingredients from the CSA basket:

  • Fried ham, steamed broccoli, Bob’s handmade papparadelle noodles drizzled with basil-infused olive oil and garnished with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese
  • Turkey-spinach burgers and potato hash with onions and carrots
  • Pan fried pork chops, apple-beet slaw, fried rice with onions, carrots and bok choy
  • Bratwurst, mixed greens salad, lightly sautéed zucchini and mushrooms finished with Bob’s Tomato Jam
  • Italian turkey meatballs, boiled cabbage, potatoes and carrots with onions and garlic shoots

 

The biggest hit was, of course, the burgers and hash. The kids were intrigued by the beets, and we talked about how beet juice has been used as a natural coloring agent throughout the ages. Unfortunately, these beets were small and young and not quite as sweet as others I’ve had, so they didn’t go over well. I wonder if they’d like those pickled beets from a can I hated as a kid?! The boiled potatoes and carrots would have been well-received had I not included the cabbage. I chopped it up real fine so they couldn’t avoid which just made them mad! I do have a wee bit of knowledge and saved the stock from the boiled vegetables for another night to use when cooking rice.

 

And that brings me to the end of another week in the life of the Green Project. I welcome your comments on our Facebook page.


THE GREEN PROJECT-volume 2

When a CSA basket arrives with some recognizable ingredients like broccoli and sugar snap peas, I breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, something my kids will eat without a fuss, though it doesn’t exactly accomplish the goal of this experiment. When I arrive home at the end of a long work week, to my kids’ daily tribal chant, “Hungry – feed me – hungry feed – me” I toss them the bag of peas to munch on, then get started on dinner. I create a one-dish meal I’ve dubbed Pizza-roni: Italian sausage, elbow macaroni, tomatoes and lots of cheese. To that I add some chopped spinach from the CSA basket and we’re good to go. I set aside some of the spinach leaves, which are quite large, and set them on the dinner table to use as wraps. I introduce the concept of stuffing the leaves with the Pizza-roni as a filling hoping the kids will think this is “fun” and thus consume some more green goodness. But alas, they do not go for it. I do not press the issue. They’ve gotten a good dose of green already.

 

My next endeavor is a cannellini bean soup. Chicken broth, cannellini beans, elbow macaroni, onions, tomatoes and a bunch of leafy greens thrown in at the end – chard, kale, black kale (a.k.a. Tuscan kale) and some spinach. It’s an easy way to get some greens into the family’s tummies since they like beans (although the boys did try, unsuccessfully to get spoonfuls of soup with no greens). My only misstep was not realizing how tender cannelini beans are and how little cook time they require! They are a bit on the soft side, but luckily no one complains!

 

With each CSA basket comes a nice big bag of mixed salad greens, a welcome change from green salads made strictly with Romaine lettuce. The kids are afraid of the purple leaves and feathery sprigs whose names I don’t even know. But they soldier on. I also use this opportunity to try to get two of my Ranch-dressing addicted kiddos to appreciate a simple dressing of blood orange olive oil, sea salt and coriander. Jacob is not having it! He is a Ranch man all the way! But little Joe is working is way towards a sophisticated palate and enjoys it.

 

With the most recent basket I decide to tackle another first for me: cole slaw. I am not at all a fan of traditional slaw as one eats alongside fried chicken, with it’s sopping mayonnaise and harsh vinegar bite. But Bob schools me on how to make a slaw from the basket ingredients – garlic shoots, sweet onions, green cabbage, carrots and black kale. I try my hand at doing a “chiffonade” which I realize I don’t have a clue how do to do. So I wing it then throw in a spoonful of mayo, a splash of honey vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. I really like it. But not one other person at the dinner table does. I’m starting to think my family is a hopeless cause!

 

Well, next on the menu are turkey burgers (will lightning strike twice?) and potato hash. And maybe I’ll get brave again and try out some more bok choy, radishes and turnips. I keep giving them to Bob and Lenore after the first unsuccessful go around, but really, we’ve got to give them another chance!

Till next time, Shanda


THE GREEN PROJECT: volume 1

Arugula greens and flower salad
Pan fried baby bok choy

 

 

 

 

 

first time tasting radish and turnips-so I thought I best keep it simple

When Bob and Lenore decided to offer EVOO as a drop-off point for the weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) vegetable baskets from R-evolution Gardens, they also thought it would be fun to do a little experiment with me, their Sales Manager, who has had zero formal culinary training. Like many a working Mom, I come home to kids screaming, “What’s for dinner?” or “When will dinner be ready?” and I have to scramble together a quick meal that consists of the holy trinity of the dinner plate: a meat, a starch and a vegetable. And many times, the produce I use is far from being local, organic or seasonal. We all know it’s healthier for our bodies, our environment and our local economy if we eat seasonal foods from within our own food shed. But knowing that and doing it are two different things. So my task this summer is to make something new each week for my family from ingredients found in my CSA basket which will by and large be entirely new to my family.

First, let me introduce you to the cast of this “reality show”:

Mamma Shanda: I’m not an adventurous eater, but my Dad is from Alabama, so I did grow up eating strange, exotic foods like collard greens, black eyed peas, ho cake and grits! And growing up in southern California, I had a healthy dose of Mexican-American food.

Daddy Rick: From a small town in the Pacific Northwest, he grew up eating a typical Middle American diet and had very little contact with ethnic cuisine or vegetables other than the standard fare like broccoli, carrots, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and, like me, yucky canned veggies.

Fiona: 12 years old and willing to try almost anything and to say something kind even if she doesn’t like it.

Jacob: 7 years old and not at all eager to try new things except under pain of punishment.

Joe: 5 years old, also reticent to try new things, and highly addicted to sugar and processed foods.

Like most American kids, mine like pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, hot dogs, simple veggies either steamed or sauteed, and a green salad made with Romaine lettuce.

Day 1: I’ve come home with so much produce that I know won’t keep long so I decide to use the baby bok choy and the arugula and arugula blossoms. Before prepping them, I corral all the kids to show them what they will shortly be consuming. They are dubious. If I were a really good Mom, I would make them stay and help, but I have to work at break neck speed because to hear them tell it, they are so hungry they are about to start eating each other! So I send them away and commence the experiment. Bob said that the bok choy would be easiest done just sliced down the center, root cut out, gently washed, then placed in a heated pan with olive oil and garlic. Well, as soon as I slice the bok choy down the center and attempt to cut out the inner root, the entire thing falls apart in my hands. Then I realize I have no garlic as I have just moved and not yet restocked the pantry. Drat. I go forward placing individual pieces in the olive oil. It comes out saturated and the greens wilted. The white stalk is hard to chew. The sea salt I finish it with makes it only somewhat edible. Dad and Joe kind of like the greens, but this is not a big hit at all. The arugula and arugula blossoms become a salad with olive oil, wild honey vinegar and sea salt. The boys both spit it out, “Blech!” Fiona just says, “Hmm, interesting.” Rick eats it without comment.

Day 2: A few days later, somewhat gun shy now, I plunge ahead. Today I’m going to attempt to use up the radish, Japanese turnip and mixed salad greens. I decide to simply cut the bulb of the turnip and radish into coins and let everyone try them fresh and plain. I do, however, saute the turnip greens and radish greens together in a bit of olive oil and finish with sea salt. The mixed salad greens I reserve for Mommy and Daddy, having tasted them and knowing full well they’ll be wasted on the kids. So we go around the table tasting off the plate of turnip and radish coins and their sauteed greens. It’s quite funny to see everyone’s faces as they pucker and wince. None of us likes the coins. And the boys declare the sauteed greens horrible. Daddy grosses everyone out by eating sauteed greens sandwiched between two turnip slices. He’s actually enjoying the variety of vegetables being introduced even if he doesn’t necessarily like all of them.

Day 3: Many days have now passed. I figure the troops will revolt if I do this to them too often. And I have evening commitments that leave no time for experimentation. A new basket has now arrived and Bob figures a pound of bacon and a head of garlic will do the trick. Tonight I will chop up the bacon, cook till crispy, throw in garlic till aromatic and throw in the greens: kale, bok choy,  and chard . It smells great and I am quite optimistic (even though I was in such a hurry the bacon did not get totally crispy). But what do I get? Two yuck votes from the boys, an “it’s okay” from Fiona, and Dad and I end up eating it all. We like it. But for the kids, this experiment is not going well. Tomorrow it’s going to be steamed broccoli again. My ego can’t take this!

Day 4: At the bottom of the produce drawer is a bunch of limp spinach from the first week’s basket. Bob calls it variegated because it’s bumpy. Lenore says variegated means something else entirely (mufti-colored?). So I don’t know what this stuff is exactly but I like it better than the typical spinach you find in the grocery store. It’s much less bitter. Tonight turkey burgers are on the Bonn family menu. I decide to blanch the spinach then chop it real small and hide it in the burgers. Well, there’s no hiding the spinach, so it takes some prodding to get the kids to dig in. But I will say, I make a pretty mean turkey burger to begin with so I feel confident I may have a winner on my hands. To the ground turkey I have added a generous supply of dried herbs and spices: garlic, onion, parsley, coriander and sea salt. Plus two tablespoons of olive oil. Into that mixture goes the spinach blanched in salted water, squeezed “dry” and chopped. And voila! They WILL eat their greens, so help me. I fully expect riotous outbursts for messing with one of their favorite meals. But no such thing occurs. Instead the table is quiet as they munch away. And Jacob and Fiona ask for seconds. VICTORY!

Jacob enjoying his turkey burger (stuffed with fresh spinach)–he’s likes it! he likes it!

And now I get a break until the next basket arrives . ….


My how time flies when you’re having fun….

Just three months ago I was embarking on a new adventure here at beautiful Cannon Beach.  Wide eyed and white knuckled I ventured into the kitchen at EVOO.  Now 12 weeks later I feel there is much I still want to experience but I am no longer the fledgling learning to fly.  It would be a daunting task to surmise all I have learned here to date.  It has been an amazing and almost overwhelming amount of culinary staples as well as a surprising amount of small details overlooked by the home cooking I have been used to.  I really feel that I have been welcomed in to an almost underground society here; the scene behind the curtain of a great meal or a good night out.  Memories created on a first date, a birthday celebration, or just a fabulous dinner with close friends usually start with the when and where to eat. The people in the background who you may never see, work like madmen to ensure their guests’ good time out. Remember to be kind and tip them well as they deserve it, believe me!

When I first decided to come to the coast I was on the fence about whether attending a culinary school was the direction I wanted to take. I have always loved learning but the heavy price tag of admission, coupled with some of my chef friends advice to just work your way up the ranks had me questioning what to do. This experience seemed to be the perfect chance to test the waters. For me the dynamic here has been exceptional. The standards are high as are the expectations of mental and physical stamina.  Thinking in a proactive way so you can anticipate and delegate the best of your time is the key. It was a chance for me to test what my grandparents used to call “the stuff you were made of.”  In my family we pride ourselves on some pretty tough stuff. And here, everyday technique, cleanliness and speed are questioned.

I have been reading a great book in my down time called “Beaten, Seared & Sauced” that has closely resembled my day to day activities here in this little kitchen.  It’s about a man changing direction late in life and attending the CIA in NY.  Let’s just say I can relate. One of the similarities is that encouragements are given but even the most subtle of compliments are reserved only for when the job is done correctly.  In my mind that makes it much more meaningful and heartfelt.  The recognition gives me a good sense of pride for my accomplishments.  Actually the ultimate compliment from Bob is when he stops mid stride, leans in to check my work with a discerning eye, pretends to wipe away a tear and says “they grow up so fast ” before continuing on his way.  In return when I stop with inquisitive looks, my questions of the how and why have always been answered with a scientific background and a practical approach.  It has really helped me to connect with what I am doing.

Which brings me to the question of what I am doing next? Culinary school still looms in the background after seeing my mentor in action.  I have also been in touch with a select catering company and looking at the possibility of going back to school in the food writing realm.  Anything is possible, right?  I am happy to say that for now, I have been asked to stay here at EVOO and continue learning through the summer.  I plan to become a jack of all trades, handling the retail, service, and still doing my favorite time, prepping in the kitchen.

These past months I feel like I have found little pieces of myself and my passions again.   I am excited every day to be cooking in the kitchen, and sharing my very first blog has rekindled my affinity for writing.  I feel lucky to be surrounded by a supportive community and amazing group of people that have made me feel like family after such a short amount of time.

Thanks to everyone for reading and following me on my journey so far, and thank you, Bob and Lenore, for all you have done to help me on my way.  I’m looking forward to an amazing summer full of new experiences and the chance to follow my heart.  Signing off but not going far…. Kate

 

P/S: Watch for Shanda’s blog, “The Green Project”–coming this summer as she tells us how her family responds to eating “green,” i.e., more vegetables from her CSA basket.


GOOD FOOD TAKES TIME (Good Cooks take the time needed)

Hooray hooray for the month of May!

Its time for a new menu and new learning’s.  I have a good feeling that this month will be an appreciation of patience.  The best things in life take a bit of time.  In the past couple of months things like pasting garlic have tested my time table.  First you must peel each clove, remove the innermost sprout, mince it and then you can finally draw the flat of your blade over it again and again until an aromatic paste is formed.  At first it sounds simple enough but in the midst of  the 5th clove, with more garlic sticking to the knife and my fingers than actually turning into the beautiful smooth texture I envisioned, I realize the clock is against me. I am pretty sure I was given this laborious task for a few reasons.  Either Bob wants to be sure I’m not able to attract ANY eligible men and therefore keep my mind in the kitchen, or he is protecting me from potential vampire attacks.

I feel this month will continue to challenge me to remember to breathe in times of frustration and to persevere toward the amazing meal.  Take shucking peas for example.  In my mind I have lofty ideas that a whole box of English peas should take oh…45 minutes to get done.  I have the water on and heating so it will be ready to blanch them when I am ready.  Of course, I should have known by my mentor’s slight head shake and Cheshire cat smile that my time-line was more around the 1 1/2 hour mark.  In the end the whole huge box only yielded about 3 1/2 cups of shucked sweet little green peas. I call them ” escapeas ” because half of them take flight – in no particular direction except away from the bowl they are meant for!  And let’s not forget these little gems are just one component for the risotto on our first course of the May Dinner Show.

This Italian rice dish is one that must be nurtured itself as well.  A good risotto must be tended to constantly for about 25 minutes and when it is done it must be served right away to impart the creamy texture intended.  It waits for no one!  Arborio rice is most commonly used, sauteed in butter or olive oil first and then adding a ladle of stock one at a time, stirring to distribute the liquid evenly and prevent any burning. When the stock is absorbed you repeat the process. It can be mixed with a variety of ingredients, mushroom leek and lemon has worked well for my dinner parties in the past.  Whatever you add the goal is to have a dish that is hands down one of my favorite comfort foods.

I was so excited to see Osso Bucco on the menu this month as well!  I had seen plenty an Iron Chef make it while totally geeking out on the Food Network, wishing that I did not have to live vicariously through the judges on the flat screen.  The first time I was able to order it for myself was at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo on my birthday trip to NYC.  Truth be told he was always my favorite Iron Chef anyway so this was my little dream come true.  Lets just say I was not disappointed…the marrow from the bone gave the slow cooked braised veal a velvet mouth feel.  The meat was so tender it almost melted.

It is made with lamb on our menu, but the effect is the same.  I have seen it turn even the most skeptic of palates into lamb lovers.  I truly believe it has to do not only with the painstaking preparation, but also with the quality and freshness of the lamb itself.  Bob has it delivered within the week the lambs are harvested, and they are only harvested when ordered. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I now know the time and work involved in each little step takes my enjoyment of a meal to a whole new place.  Every component in the menu has a purpose on the tongue.  It can be light and sweet like my peas or full of richness and depth like the lamb.  A bright gremolata balances any heavy notes and a thick nutty cream sauce can smooth out delicate potatoes. It is truly the little things, the sometimes frustrating, time sucking, minute details, that really do make all the difference in a dish. So this week I am in great appreciation of the symphony of food I help to create as I embrace every task I am given!

Here is the Lamb dish with rutabaga and gremolata. Melts in your mouth.

 


WHEN THE MOON HITS YOR EYE LIKE A BIG PIZZA PIE….

Pizza, originally from Naples Italy, is practically an American pastime.  I consider it an important part of my right of passage into the working world.  It was a given that in those days all of my clothes be covered in flour. I perpetually smelled of garlic and could wield a pizza cutter like a ninja!

It was Friday night staple for our busy family, tired after a long week.  Pizza is also synonymous with sporting events, and growing up in my world watching all the big games was a given. I have probably eaten pizza as often cold as piping hot out of the oven.  It is great for a late night snack or breakfast the next day.

Pizza can be piled high as the sky like my friend Mike does it or eaten with the bare minimum of toppings.  In New York, folding it over before eating is the way. In Chicago, you need a knife and fork to enjoy the deep dish style that they claim.  With as much as we indulge in this versatile food, it’s a staggering surprise to me how little we actually make it at home. Instead we wait, sometimes for hours for a driver to deliver a cardboard box that incidentally by the time it reaches your door ends up holding half the cheese hostage anyway. And to think we prefer picking up a frozen one to making it ourselves seems funny to me.

Everyone already knows what THEY want on the pizza. Wars have been waged over what a good pie is supposed to be. Staple toppings like pepperoni or Canadian bacon, mushrooms or olives, peppers or pineapple; do you want thick or thin crust; square or round, and the debate goes on! Obviously there are infinite possibilities creating these pizza masterpieces.  Yet it seems that half the time I order out, the pizza is pretty unmemorable in general. I feel like there is a little romance in the whole process of making a perfect pizza that has somehow been lost in the western world.  What if we tried to bring it back to life? Make it from scratch just the way you envision it. What would that taste like to you and how hard could it possibly be? Have we gotten so spoiled that we choose convenience over quality?
I think that truth be told, it’s the dough that scares people away from the doing it themselves. At least that’s what it was for me.  Most of the time, I would just get a pre-made crust and go from there. Then I thought if I was already going half the distance for a “home- made” meal, why wasn’t I all in? Looks like it time to channel my inner baker.

So let’s focus on the dough; it is really only 6 little ingredients, water, yeast, flour, salt, oil, and “biga” if you have it (a natural fermented, living starter, that is easy to make)  That’s it. Not nearly as scary as I was thinking. For some reason breads and doughs have always been a mystery to me. It is more of a fun science experiment than anything.  It does take a little bit of time when you commit to it.  It makes me think about how long it must have taken my grandmother, or her mother, to put together some of our elaborate meals.  These days I have a trusty Kitchen aid that does all the mixing and the kneading in mere minutes.  Aren’t we the lucky ones?!  I realize that you just have to do a little prioritizing before you hit the kitchen. Put the more complex task at the top of your list and then fill in the gaps with the quicker side work. So you make the dough first. You have to let it rest and then come back to it.  Knead it a bit more and let it rest a second time. This makes the dough surprisingly soft and delicate, like a pillow of goodness.  Suddenly I was thinking of other amazing things this dough could do.  It could be used for so much more than just pizza. Calzones, pot pie toppings, cheesy filled breadsticks. There are options to grill it and make healthy wraps, or fry it for sinful desserts.  Are you feeling the endless creative exploits?  Even if you are just doing pizza though, the best part is that you can do whatever you want!   There are no rules.  You can make a basil pesto, do a spicy Thai chicken or a BBQ pie just to name a few.  This week feels like goat cheese, spinach and olives to me.

The best part of this whole process is when you sit to eat.  Somehow this all too familiar food tastes totally different to me.  The crunch of the crust and the simple flavors on top all seem to shine through in separate ways and yet they merry together so well.  I didn’t order this off a menu.  I made it from start to finish just the way I wanted it.  And it is the best pizza I have had in ages. So this weekend I say you can make, MAKING the pizza, the best part about dinner.  Involve all your senses, all your friends, family and yes, probably all of the kitchen for a night.  Turn off the TV, open the wine and enjoy the time and the process with all the people you love. Now that’s amore!

Ciao, Katie


EUREKA

Its official…I finally like octopus!!  I wasn’t sure this day would ever come despite my efforts to order it at every authentic Greek, Italian, and sushi restaurant that boasted the best of the best of these intelligent eight legged sea creatures.  I had come to the unfortunate conclusion that it just may be the “ocean’s bubble gum” for me.  Maybe it was just one of the things my palate and I did not agree on.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had a good deep fried calamari from time to time but I find it hard not to love something battered and submerged in grease.  And then it happened…

“I’d like to be, under the sea, in an octopus garden in the shade”plays in my head as I pull from the oven a dark Stuab cauldron filled to the brim with olive oil, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, juice and itty bitty squid and tiny octopi.  The texture of this dish is perfect.  If I didn’t know what I was eating I would equate it to, well, chicken, I guess but only in texture.  The colors have turned from translucent and white to a beautiful lavender/mauve mix.  The taste is rich, bright and has the hint of sea in the background.

Pan-seared Chinook with squid octopi salad with white beans & microgreens

With the change of our April menu comes the beautiful Springer Chinook salmon. This may be the most amazing fish on the planet.  They are caught coming in from the ocean this time of year as they head back upstream to their original spawning grounds. I can’t even find my keys half the time! Fish instinct is amazing! The bright, pink-red flesh is tender and full of good fatty oils for their long journey home.  Salmon has long been revered as a spiritual creature in the Pacific Northwest having sustained cultural civilizations for centuries. So with this amazing fillet in front of us, just a little less than 24 hours old, Bob and I pause and with intention and all seriousness, take a moment to honor and thank this fish for its life and sacrifice. There’s not much more that needs to be done with a fish of this caliber. It can be eaten raw, pan seared and lightly smoked.  I have a feeling we will be cooking it all these ways before the season ends. I am loving spring!

This week I was also set loose with the pasta machine…. (mwahhahahahhahhah!); the goal being fresh pappardelle noodles and, of course, to make my mentor nervous. That would be, Bob, who watches with eagle eyes as I take on this task. The snowfall of flour took me back to one of my favorite jobs, working in the cooking classes of a local natural health food store.  I have a newspaper clipping of myself, all of 19 years old, bleach blonde pigtails and arms filled with what seemed like miles of flat golden dough.  I had to stop to laugh at the cyclic nature of life.  Somehow, years later, I am here again in a quaint kitchen, covered in flour with a smile on my face, creating plates of happy, edible memories for the masses.  Katie B


INTROSPECTION

It has recently come to my attention that I may no longer be the “spring chicken” I once was.  Not that I am that far out of the woods mind you, but my new venture has proven a bit more of a challenge both physically and mentally than I had previously envisioned.  Along with my first month of learning’s came sore feet, sweaty palms, and a surprising amount of blushing! Thankfully my digits are all still accounted for, but I have had a couple minor burns and a fight with the edging on the foil box that sadly I lost.

Further, I have had occasion to stutter as well as be at a total loss for words when asked simple kitchen questions. And yes if truth be told there may have been a tear or two shed in the walk in cooler.  Learning something new every day isn’t as easy as it once was. As kids we can make mistakes and bounce back without missing a beat. Still, I have had such an amazing ride already; makes it hard to wipe the silly grin from my face.  New techniques, kitchen tricks and a good friendly banter between co-workers is a great day in my book.

The conversations I have in my head often start something like, “Whatever you do, don’t screw things up”.  Which, of course, inevitably means I will do just that.  It’s ironic the pressure you can put on yourself to achieve some sort of instant perfection; as if that were possible to begin with. The words “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” come to mind.  Isn’t that why I came here in the first place?  To learn, have some fun, broaden my horizons and yes, possibly screw up once in a while? Well, OK maybe once a day! That is why we call it learning after all.  And there’s a well known euphemism that says we learn best from our mistakes.  So maybe we go ahead, throw caution to the wind and try a new approach. And if I muck it up, hopefully its not beyond repair or salvage but even so c’est la vie right?

Wisdom, after all, comes with time and experience.  It is obviously time for me to step out of the way, well, of myself. Stop over thinking and just trust the process.  Its funny how things can flow so much better when you stop fighting so bloody hard.  So to you, my previous all knowing spring chicken, I say this. You would be delicious rubbed with a Tuscan salt blend, stuffed with fresh rosemary and roasted to a crispy, golden perfection.  Bon appétit!!

Katie B, Sent from my Kindle Fire


KATIE B’s POST, who doesn’t love a field trip?

Who doesn’t love a field trip???  Getting out on the open road to see and do new exciting things.  My destination this week was Red Ridge Farms-Oregon Olive Mill, a trifecta of fun!  Not only is it home of the beautiful Durant vineyard, ( FYI you must try the Pinot Gris) and a sprawling olive grove of 13,000 trees, it also has an amazing Zen like nursery. These being a few of my favorite things- insert Sound of Music tune here- I am a happy girl.

Somehow the inclement weather made it all the better to be near the old stove stirring a robust Ribollita (Italian bread soup) to perfection; pancetta with a mirepoix, 3 varieties of beans, Italian black kale, cabbage and zucchini all swimming in a bubbling tomato and chicken stock bath.  The first time I had this dish, I was in Sienna Italy, staying in a huge villa built in the1500’s.  It also had olive trees for miles and I was lucky enough to be there in November for the first pressing.  The oil was green, cloudy and spicy, like pepper at the back of the throat.  We made this traditional soup in a HUGE pot inside a massive fireplace.  It is one of those kinds of dishes you literally have to make yourself walk away from after the second helping.

RIBOLITTA: Hearty from the three varieties of beans,  light from clear stock,  fresh from the kale and ribbons of fresh basil

I learned the proper way to taste olive oil from the experts at the Oregon Olive Mill.  Take a bit of the oil, aerate 3 times across the tongue, before coating the roof of the mouth, and finally swallowing toward the back of the throat.  This allows all areas of the palate to taste and weigh in equally.

I also have a new found respect for micro greens, tiny freshly sprouted plants that are cultivated about 4 days after they are planted.  Not only are they beautiful for presentation, they have an incredible concentration of flavors that add a fresh component to the dish; and come in many different varieties or a blend of plants or micro herbs.

When we see the connection from Earth to farm, and farm to table, it transports us. It is a time before IPADS and emails, TV or twitter.  When people relied on the sun and the soil, their hard work and intuition to know the perfect time to pick the grape, harvest the olives, or plant the seed.  All of these things come together at just the right time to feed our friends, our families and our souls.
Sent from my Kindle Fire–KB


KATIE HERE, WEEK 3

Katie in the EVOO kitchen

Have you ever wondered why they call cooking,  “a labor of love?” Well now that I am privy to the inner sanctum of the EVOO kitchen, let me tell you, it is nothing short of a hurricane of tasks; all of which are equally important, but much like the weather here, the urgency can change at any moment.  And just when you feel like you are close to reaching the end of your list, a timer buzzes, or a vendor phones to tell us the catch of the day didn’t make it to shore; or the guest list just jumped from 12 to 20. (doesn’t sound like a big deal but if we didn’t have two tenderloins in house we’d be going shopping, for example.) At this point the menu reaches out for our creativity to adapt, adapt, adapt, without straying from the course originally set to please the palate.

When we DO finally get to sit and taste the fruits of our labors, we realize that all the sweat, hard work and the standing (my goodness the STANDING) is well worth it.  So you might say, we love the results and the “labor” is just a necessary element of cooking for the public.

Here’s a few of the dishes we cooked this week:

Pasta fagioli- a playful rendition of a pasta primavera is a combination of 3 beans, a splash of colorful asparagus, red bell pepper and zucchini all mingling together in an amazingly flavorful broth.  Fresh escarole gives the dish a light crunch, but the fresh pecorino and perfectly crisped prosciutto chip seals the deal. This bowl of goodness is like a hug from the inside!

Oh wait, there is so much more…how about freshly made ravioli filled with mushrooms and duck confit?? By the way, the answer to that question is YES!  These little pillows of love are rich from the duck cooked in its own fat, earthy from the mushrooms that were quickly sauteed, and the bitter arugula pesto sauce finishes with a fresh component that balances the dish.

This was also my first time making fresh tamales! Masa harina, a fine ground cornmeal, is mixed with grilled squash, jack cheese, cumin, cayenne, paprika, and the filling is tucked sweetly into its little corn husk bed for steaming.  Serve that with a fresh tomatillo and avocado salsa, and bittersweet chocolate mole and let the happiness ensue!!! Our guests seem to really enjoy the texture of these tamales, saying they are more tender than ones they have had, and a bonus, Bob makes them vegetarian.

I am running a little behind–this menu was last weekend SAVOR CANNON BEACH menu, and so next week you’ll see the menu we are really working on this week. Till then.


SO BEGINS KATIE’S BLOG

We have all heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  Well lets just say last year, my glass was never empty.  Then I got to thinking about those wonderful words.  I realized that I was always happiest in the kitchen, creating, cooking and making a general mess of things!!  There is nothing better than the smell of onions sizzling in a hot pan or the smell of bacon permeating every nook of the house.  Às fate would have it, this newfound knowledge was quickly put into culinary motion.   For my birthday, my best friend booked us for a dinner show at EVOO at Cannon Beach.  I was hooked.
Low and behold they just happen to have an internship program as well.  Needless to say,  I quit my job,  packed my things and was beachward bound.
Now to the important things….the food!!!!!

So apparently drooling around the food is not acceptable…so the challenge begins.  Braising large legs of grass fed lamb, de-glazing the pan with white wine and tucking bright green stems of rosemary and thyme around perfectly seared meat is just the start of my day.  Into the oven it goes & then its on to a 12 layer lasagna.  Fresh rolled pasts, Basil pesto and a creamy bechamel sauce.  If you have never attempted this staple sauce- get ready.  You make a roux of butter and flour, onion and milk and you stir- CONSTANTLY- until you have either a thick creamy sauce or a beautiful new arm muscle!!!

The Basil pesto is a vibrant green & the smell of garlic, herb and pine nuts is transcendent. Suddenly I am cooking with my grandma Gilda in her kitchen, laughing and speaking our half Italian, half English dialect. We also put together spring rolls in a zen like fashion.  The bright colors of the freshly julienne vegetables displayed neatly in a translucent rice paper gave me a simple pause.  There is bread to make, mussels to clean, fish to de-bone…an organized chaos ensues.  The bread pudding??To die for.  Cubed bread tossed with chocolate chips, cream anglaise and LOVE, emerges from the oven in a warm melty goodness.  Perch it atop a orange wedge and top it with Godiva chocolate gelato and freshly whipped cream….NIRVANA.

Bread pudding with chocolate pieces; brulee banana; Godiva chocolate gelato; salted peanut brittle

All in a days work.  Welcome to my bliss friends!!! Katie


INTRODUCING OUR NEW INTERN, KATIE B

This past week started a three month internship with Katie B. Katie is not coming to us out of culinary school. She is instead a highly motivated interested and passionate home cook who wants to see if the culinary business is for her. Typically it is not our first choice to take an intern without some formal training or even restaurant experience, but we were very impressed with Katie’s desire. Heck, one must start someplace and all that enthusiasm might as well be here! So we said yes to three months worth of dedicated hands-on learning, doing whatever is needed or assigned.

In exchange she gets room (that comes with a bicycle) and board in a small quaint most desirable beach town! Our little studio is as small as can be, but handy to work—she comes up stairs! Board consists of whatever we have. Her room has a coffee maker, small dorm room fridge and a microwave oven, so not much cooking can happen there, but then she really has cooked all day and gets first pick for her meals. Then of course she just brings her dirty dishes upstairs.   She is free to come up after class at night and forage in our walk in refrigerator for fresh made dinner show remnants.  We don’t anticipate a lack of choices.

An EVOO internship requires homework; usually in the form of looking at the culinary origins,  definitions and even seasonality /availability of  different ingredients or methods. Sometimes they are asked to read a book, such as the Art of War, or The making of a chef, etc. We require interns to start the day with a note pad for their “list” one-on-one with me, and then we talk again at the end of the day.  In our daily debrief, I want to know what three things they learned; and they must keep of journal of these items. At first interns have no problem with this, but as time goes by, I really see some creative thinking by the end of their tenure with us. Because they do this five times a week on a daily basis usually totaling 180 new learnings, and because I require full sentences, well articulated and documented, they get pretty good by the end without repeating a single learning. Of course when they go back to their professional school they have lots of things to say when the counselor asks, “what did you learn?”

As for Katie B, we have ask for one more duty since she is not reporting back to a culinary school. We’ve asked her to “blog” with us her experiences. And the jury is still out whether or not she will return to her former occupation, that of massage therapist.


CREATING SALT FROM THE SEA

During the winter we are getting busier and busier trying to get some traction on the many balls we have in the air. One of those is our salt project. We’ve been interested in getting a salt product made from our ocean water for several years now.

Making sea salt from ocean water is not as simple as it sounds. But we are finally moving through some of the roadblocks that came up early on in the project. Like how do we get water off the shore of a publicly owned beach? How do we ensure the salt is being produced from clean water? Our local health department told us to write the regulation and they will evaluate it because right now they don’t have such a regulation. And if we copy the lowest fossil fuel method of extracting salt from sea water, that of evaporation, where do we do it and is there enough sun in the NW to get the job done?

Encouragement came a few years ago when we discovered a small salt company in Maine. After all their weather pattern is similar-being on the same parallel as Washington state. And they are willing to share details of their method. Lucky for them, they get their water off a privately owned beach. And they do not test for safety. My guess not many seasalt makers do. Recently when posing that question to a seasalt maker in Hawaii it was clear they thought  this was an incredulous question; afterall the waters of Hawaii are pristine!

By now we are working closely with OSU college of engineering and OHSU research. We have found our location. We are close to knowing our process. And we know where our water will come from. We even know how to collect water only when the purity levels are safe. And we can do it all, we believe, without using much in the way of fossil fuel. We may even have a by product that will be put to excellent use. The technology is something we want to share with other coastal towns. So stay tuned. More to come.


BUSINESS BLISS

It is trite but true. Being in business for oneself means there is never enough hours in the day. It means we’re always doing something for the business, and it means we sometimes over commit.

Don’t get me wrong we have never been happier. Our path these past seven plus years has been a steady climb, at times steep, but mostly on the level. We see our growth as a reward that we want to enjoy fully. The progress we have made inspires us to dream some more. What happens is just when we start to coast a little bit, some new idea or project comes along that takes us on a new course; a new road with more learning curves as well as exhilarating high-points as we make traction toward our destination.

All this to say we believe this road we’re on to be the most fulfilling and enjoyable we’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling. We wonder if we’ll know what to do if it ever comes to a dead end and stops being fun.

So what the heck am I talking about? The road less taken? The road to riches? The fork in the road? For sure I am speaking metaphorically; I’m just saying our business is evolving in a way that we never expected. We thought we knew so much about business until we actually had one of our own. We don’t have all the answers and we actually have learned to appreciate not having all the answers. We’d love to find a navigational app that when we plug in our location it tells us where we will wind up if we stay on this road. But for now, we are just making our way down the road we believe we want to go. What doesn’t seem to work, we stop doing; what does work becomes our mainstay, or as my chef head thinks, the main course. The gravy or the frosting is that we can always add gravy or frosting!

What works so far is that every evening we meet new people and about 50% of them have been here before. These people are not just customers to us; we break bread together. We enjoy the nightly affirmation that we get,  so much so that it feels like one gigantic vitamin infusion for our psyche! Our dinner shows are the mainstay of this business. The fact that we are getting involved in this community in a way neither of us has done in the past feels good too. Call it the gravy. And a brand new project getting our attention has been a few years in the making and just now getting some traction–the making of Cannon Beach sea salt; it is definitely the frosting for now.

 

 

 


JANUARY STARTED THE BALL ROLLING AGIAN

Anymore we don’t need reminding that following the celebrations of the holidays & ending another year brings opportunity to reinvent, renew, refurbish an refresh in the New Year. The media lets us know that with the turning of the calendar year it is the logical time to assess our activities, business practices, and how we feel. This is especially true for weight loss tips and hints.

So like sheep, we too do our serious planning for the year in January. And this year we started with our health. Both of us know what to eat and what is good for us. What we tend to do is forget to limit the amount or up the output in the form of exercise. We are reminded of the old days when getting ready for a beach vacation meant a little more effort at the gym and a few less mash potatoes. Not anymore.  So on the personal planning sheet we are upping our output–even getting up earlier to get the personal stuff done first; I sort of think of it as paying the “piggy bank” first, saving first, before paying the rest of the bills.

 


Feast of the Seven Fishes 2011

I have just watch the Feast of Fishes on the food network for the second year. It is a Bobby Flay Throw-down repeat. I have already prepared and posted our menu for this year, but now I am wondering if I should make a couple changes. Cod cakes are on our menu. Bobby Flay did them too, and sauced them with clams and lobster. As good as that sounds, the judges actually thought the sauce over powered the cod-cakes. And the steamed sea bass with capers and olives is very similar to my version. But hey, Bobby lost the throw-down and probably because the chef-judges were looking for traditional dishes. That is not where I usually go–always looking to make them my own and sometimes they just end up outside the box. So all I am saying is I like my menu and will stack it up against any.

Be sure to join us. This is a seafood-lover’s night and a night for those who love seafood lovers! Hope we see you there. Click through to see the menu.


BACK HOME AGAIN

Olivia, left, and Taylor are looking as though they don't really believe we are home! Halloween scarves for today!

Our good friend (our “adopted” daughter) has a birthday today, on Halloween, and so after a good rest in our own bed last night, we called to sing to her and to catch up the last two weeks on both sides. She is pregnant and we are all expecting “little Holly or Jorge” to make an entrance in March. (they want to be surprised) Anyway, we hung up and promptly got a text from her; everyone under 40 seems to use this as the perferred method of communication these days! Anyway she said we sounded relaxed and very happy, more so than she’d heard for awhile. Well, that’s what it’s all about! We have much to be happy about and we are happy it shows! It was wonderful to arrive home 27 hours after leaving Florence yesterday!

Our bus ride to the Florence airport started around 4 AM from our villa and a majority of our guests left with us. Once at the airport, after saying “arivederci” (till we meet again) with hugs and Italian kisses on each side, we all scattered to our check in gates, promising to stay in touch. We knew our bag to check would be overweight after adding 5 kilos of cheeses, but gee, every bag needed attention as we stood in the check in lane. They were actually weighing our carry-on! I lighten the carryon by distributing to three bags which would be checked. And guess what, our main purchases are yet to be shipped directly. Anyway, a few souvenirs and some tasty cheeses and a few good chianti’s are here now!!

This morning we unpacked the seven, yep, 7, suitcases. We normally pack so light we each get by with a couple carry-ons, but not this trip. The souvenirs ranging from olive-wood kitchen gadgets to tee-shirts actually fills our diningroom table (it serves 12). Nice loot, I told Lenore! She, of course, arranged them into piles for who gets what! A by-product of a vacation of this nature is the opportunity to re-live it over and over as we hand out our little momentoes.


FAREWELL DINNER

OCTOBER 29, 2011 First let me tell you that we have just completed two incredible weeks in Italy. Contributing were the incrediblly unseasonal weather; our wonderful tour guide, Paola; our hosts, Stefano and Sergio, at the castle-villa Fabbroni; the artisans who welcomed us into their worlds and in some cases their homes; and lastly our guests and fellow travelers. One more mention is our guide’s mother, who hand embroidered an EVOO logo in yarn on a “memory tote bag,” that she first sewed together! Paola’s mom is in her 80’s and she was already asking Paola what she might do for our next culinary tour. The totes were presented on our first night together and used daily by our guests. Every aspect of our tour here has been greater than we imagined.

Our farewell dinners served to reinforce our opinions because each person holding the olive branch had to share something they were thinking. But perhaps I should start from the beginning. Our little group of 17, including Paola, our guide, and us, were called to breakfast daily around 8 AM. We would be greeted with American coffee, assorted fresh bakery pastries, a veggie omelet, sliced or baked tomatoes, fresh whole fruit, choice of three cereals, yogurt, salami, ham, and orange juice. The bus would arrive about 8:45 and we were to be aboard by 9 or 9:30. Anyone late to board was to supply the group with gelato! (Lenore was a few minutes late one morning herself–and she paid up with chocolates at the farewell dinner.) Typically we would drive to our destination for a tour, lesson, and before long, lunch, after which we would purchase products made by our hosts. Back at the villa we would enjoy about an hour of free time to explore, nap, or refresh for dinner. We had two dinner classes in which we prepared recipes under our chef-hosts’guidance; or it was a dinner prepared for us by them. Only once were we on our own for dinner, and that night Lenore and I prepared the sausages we made during our visit with a butcher as well as some steaks and burgers. Food was ample and “typical” the entire week.

On our last night, after a full day in Lucca, shopping and having a bakery lesson and lunch, we got back to the villa about 5PM. It was enough time to refresh for the farewell dinner that our hosts prepared for us. Without going into detail, let me just say that our guests and I really wanted to see some veggies by the end of the week, so we asked for a vegetarian menu. Eggplant parmesan fried stuffed celery, artichokes, salad, ricotta pie, and a fruit salad dessert. Just right. Since our farewell dinner was on Saturday, our villa happened to be hosting several other groups, so we shared the dining room with them. But they were amenable or at least tolerant with our olive branch game.

You see after each dinner at the villa, Lenore would place the olive branch (plucked from the orchards on the first day) over a guest’s head. She then asked a question or requested some information about themselves or what they were thinking. Each person then shared their thoughts. On the last day each week, we passed the branch around so that each guest could tell us one “take away” from the trip. This is when Lenore and I truly knew we had a successful tour. Our guests shared that the greatest part of this tour is that it is one of a kind. We went where tourists do not go. We were told that the passion exhibited by our hosting artisan vendors was priceless. That the friendships forged during our time together were unexpected. And that we as a group of people going through this life have a shared a one of a kind experience during this our first culinary tour of Italy.


Cheese Making

We had a long drive through the colorful scenic Tuscan hills this morning after breakfast on the way to the sheep farm where we were greeted by Giuseppe and his family. He raises sheep and makes prize winning cheese. He starts by taking us to a pasture to see the sheep; explaining that sheep give birth twice a year at Easter and Christmas, and so they have lots of milk from which to naturally and organically produce the cheeses. He has the trophies to prove the quality of his cheeses on display in his great room and its large corner, almost “walk-in,” fireplace with a cozy sitting area in front of it. Adjacent is a built-in wood fired oven and wood storage bin. Our table was set for a few more than the size of our group, the first hint that the family would be joining us.

But first the fourth generation cheese maker asked us to gather around a table to watch him make a small batch of cheese. He explained he was making the cheese using a vegetable enzyme from the Cardone plant from the artichoke family. It appeared that the flower of the plant was dried and then the “choke” pulled out and soaked in water to extract the needed enzymes. After soaking it was strained and the liquid added to the milk. In less than 30 minutes, the cheese began to form. It looked like milk jello as it was firm but still wiggly. Giuseppe used a knife to make vertical cuts, crosswise then lengthwise through the gelled milk. But as he did this he explained that from this one batch of milk he would make three kinds of cheese. The first was this milk jello substance that he harvested from the top, skimming carefully to get only the best of it, called roveggiolo. Next he continued cutting to separate more and more of the whey from the curds. When the curds became much drier, he pull it from the whey, placing handfuls in small plastic cups pierced with uniformly placed holes all around and on the bottom. These, he put into a pan to collect more whey as they sat weeping. Once all the curds had been cradled into the cups, he asked us to start squeezing the cheese. We were told to remove the cheese from the cups and close our hands around it and gently squeeze. Those of us with warm hands would warm the cheese and allow more liquid to escape, creating a smooth texture. If we had cold hands, the cheese would take longer to evacuate the whey and the resulting cheese would be coarser. Since it was a small batch we had this task done in short order.

The third cheese we would make from this batch would be ricotta. This is made by heating the whey that was left taking care not to stop the enzymes, but to encourage the last of the curds to form a soft, by now very tart pudding consistency he called ricotta. Quite a contrast to the way we have made ricotta back at school, using lemon juice in heated milk to separate the curds and whey. But learning that ricotta in this case was the second by-product of making a batch of cheese, reinforced the Tuscan way, that of using every part of the food source and in this way stretching it as far as possible to feed more people.

Before we actually finished our cheese making, our next task was to make the gnocchetti for our lunch. The kitchen was a white room with stainless tables and sinks and a stove. It was barely large enough for the group of us, but that didn’t seem to matter. The dough was already started by “mama” and the wives of the two “best friends,” Giuseppe and Paolo. Hand kneading had already begun, but we soon learned that was not step one. After mixing the flour, eggs, water and a touch of oil, the crumbly mixture was place on a wooden piece of equipment that appeared to me to be an antique “high chair” equipped with a revolving square peg that worked the dough as it was threaded by hand through it over and over again. You could tell that at some point there had been a hand crank to do the turning and whoever invented and made this thing, was probably not still around to see it run by an electric motor and a couple of pulleys.

When the machine did its job, the dough was cut into smaller pieces and picked up by the women who began shaping snake like ropes with it. We were all invited to jump into the operation at this point. Once the rope was just right, it was fed through a more modern gadget that spit out perfectly shapped gnocchitini (thin gnocchi, not made with potato). One person cranked while one fed the rope of dough and another would flour and place in the pan. (note-we made pasta at another small store where we used rice flour for keeping them from sticking together and it worked very nicely).

Meantime Mama was busy demonstrating the old fashioned way to form the shape this pasta. She would place a round of dough on the end of her thumb and pressing in a particular motion would yield the shape of a “lambs ear.” These didn’t exactly match those being produced by the machine, but nobody seemed to care. We wanted to see Mama in action and try a few of our own. Soon we were forming the characteristic texture on them using a small grater turned upside down, sort of a makeshift gnocchi paddle. (wish we had known because we may not have bought a few olive wood gnocchi paddles)

When finished, the gnocchi was ready to be dropped into the boiling water that had been simmering on the stove. The kitchen ladies took over as we were invited to sit at the long communal table that had been set in the common area. Each table with bottled water, jugs of wine, and with colorful chargers of red, silver and green, to match the colors of the line of small Italian flags that were stretched from the ceiling over the table from one end to the other. Each place setting had a bowl for the pasta and a plate to sample the cheeses. Several bottles of “new” olive oil, baskets of bread, jars of pepper jam, and honey were placed at intervals down the middle of the table. The wine was poured as the platters of pasta were placed. They had prepared a cream sauce using their only Gorgonzola style cheese and bits of zucchini, reflecting the late harvest from the garden. It was delicious! We were reminded that this was our main meal so enjoy a second serving.

The cheese tasting plate was next. A medium sized plate covered with wedges of cheeses, from softest to the hardest, we sampled counter-clockwise around the plate. Each cheese was given due time to savor and enjoy as Giuseppe described what how each were made. Right away I had a favorite. It was a soft cheese flavored with white truffles. I was so certain I would like it, but didn’t know how much. Lenore called it “cheesecake.” It was nutty and sweet and creamy and light. We tried hard not to like it knowing we’d not be allowed to take any home with us. Only hard cheese can be taking into the USA. But never mind, the memory is strong and I will look for it from our distributors. As it is I saw many things this trip that are already available in the USA, and it made it easier to pass up this special cheese. We settled on four varieties of the aged semi hard and hard cheeses, one of which was Giuseppe’s father’s recipe that had won lots of recognition. In fact, others in our group seemed to pick allot of the same cheeses that we did.


COOKING CLASS

Our day in the town of Greve in Chianti began yesterday after another night of power dining; it was our last class at the villa and we cooked several items including dessert, and went to bed after a long evening of food and wine. Of course we had to begin the new day with a cappuccino when we arrived in Greve, even though we had a huge breakfast with coffee Americana already.

Some of you know that what we mean by power dining is experiencing as many dishes as we can in a small period of time in an area we want to know better. Our plan for this trip was to immerse ourselves into the Italian cuisine culture as deeply as we could, and we are doing a pretty good job so far. Let me put it this way, no one has been “starved” before sitting down to the next meal. Or perhaps better said no one has been even mildly hungry. That said let’s talk about the food.

From the appetizer spreads for bruschetta to the tiramisu, we have savored every morsel. The Tuscan way is what we signed up for and it is what we are getting in every venue. We hear the words, “this is the typical way of the region.” Or we may hear, “the north makes their tiramisu this way, no alcohol!” Only in the south will you find it with alcohol. So after 150 years of a united Italy, they still do battle on the plate. The competition between the regions can be seen in the way the different areas produce the same dishes.

Osso Bucco was the star of our cooking class last night. We enjoyed the gentle braise with some veal stock and a little tomato sauce finished with a gremolata, which was also put back on the heat to warm it. Chicken liver on our bruschetta was prepared in class last night as well, and the story around why it is so popular here in Tuscany also begins with, we don’t waste anything. And of course, since Paola loves chicken liver, we did see it a few more times on the menu, too!

Despite the wonderful abundance of food our Italian hosts are lean and fit and we are trying to put great dining together with that. (maybe running a villa, giving cooking classes, attending an olive orchard and grape vines and full culinary garden with chickens and turkeys might answer this mystery) Our hope is to learn more than just how to cook while we are here in this proud deeply rooted culinary country.
Images: top:Bob, chef hosts, Sergio, Stefano, and Lenore; right: one of the castle’s many courtyards overlooking the country side; bottom: a typical cookie platter


Savoring Tuscany

We arrived into Florence airport and were greeted by sunshine and our guide met us with her sunny smile as well. It was a wonderful flight over Greenland into Amsterdam and then a short trip to Florence on a connecting plane. After driving to our villa we were invited to go to the vineyard we are visiting in a few days with our guests. We said sure, knowing we had not slept a minute yet and it was just morning in Italy the next day. We thought we could make it back by 5:30 and get plenty of rest for the next day. We didn’t arrive back to our room until 9:30 and finally got to go to bed—this was about 30 hours of being up starting in Portland.

After a very quiet night, we woke refreshed and ready to go to Paola’s prearranged appointments. She is looking already for our next tour. We visited the Butcher, a small business that has taken off—he now operates a full restaurant with his meats. He is famous for his McDario hamburger was a half-pound of well-seasoned ground beef with a quick sear and served on a pile of lightly sauted onions, some fresh tomato slices, and some Tuscan bread and fried potatoes. He dubbed the “Mc” prefix to emphasize it is not a McDonald burger. He is not fast and doesn’t want anyone to eat it fast either! He and his wife, Kim, an American, have become one of the most sought after tourist locations. We walked into the butcher shop to be greeted with wine and bread and olive oil and their salty-peppery blend. They through in some wine and it was almost as good as a lunch—but it was just their way of saying welcome and let me show you what you can enjoy in our restaurant upstairs. Of course the first time we went it was too busy and we were to leave after our tastings disappointed, but happy this passionate man and his wife have carved out a very successful lifestyle while making a living. Sound familiar? Lenore and I are seeing allot of this. People have told us they first made wine for a hobby and finally decided to go into the wine business. There was the pasta lady, Willma, Tavernelle, who told us she just made pasta and sold it until one day a visitor asked if she would teach her how to make the pasta. She did and then it was the beginning of her newfound business of cooking classes. She handed me an apron and I got to work making her Chianti style pasta.

Our guests finally arrived in Florence on Monday October 17, 2011; we met and boarded our 20 seat bus and took off for our Castle in the Tuscany Hills. It was a little like taking a ride through a wormhole and back to the middle ages as we went from the skinny paved roads to the dirt and dusty Roman road that leads to the Castle. Our guests commented on the scenery and fresh cool air as they filed off the bus. Next they were shown to their rooms in this thick stone walled building that has been home to many before but perhaps none who loved it more than its current owners. Sergio and Stefano are chefs from a former life, but now the proud hosts in this beautiful place. Our rooms are furnished typical of the country side homes in Tuscany. Furniture is not new but rather handed down from generation to generation. Each room has an old armoire and two twin beds under one double headboard, pretending to be just one bed. Every room but ours has its own bath, and our bathe is just a short distance outside in the hallway. There are two common areas—one for three bedrooms (where ours is) and the other for five bedrooms. All rooms are spacious and clean with the sheets and towels smelling of fresh air. Dryers are not used in the country side of Tuscany.

Dinner tonight was long and lovely. To watch our hosts in their element and treat us to their beloved recipes of a black cabbage soup, made with white beans, and bread—one of the many ways Tuscan’s


THE BAKERY

October 29, 2011 Another stunningly beautiful day in Italy! We are off to some free time in Lucca, the completely walled city slightly north of Florence. Paola, our guide, said she thinks it is the best place to experience shopping because it is slightly out of the way for tourists. The drive was a couple hours from our villa. The freeway was thick with traffic and they all seemed to be going to Lucca.

Today is Saturday, the start to a long weekend for Italians to celebrate “All Saints Day.” So the traffic was noticeably more than last week the same time. Our guide was saying that cannot be the reason we see so many cars pouring into the city, though, and she called a friend who explained that there is a comic book convention in town. Seems attendees dress up in their favorite comic book characters. Some are recognizable but many just seem to be characters one might see back home for Halloween; renaissance characters and TV/movie personalities seem popular. So we, of course, picked one of the best days to see local color without knowing in advance. We took many pictures of the characters as they passed. All we needed to do is to raise our camera, poised to take their picture, and they would stop to pose!

As we sat drinking coffee watching the parade of sorts, I jumped out in front of a small child dressed like a knight of the round table; when he saw me his posture straightened proudly taking on the persona for the picture. After an espresso and gelato and a couple hours of people watching and shopping, our group gathered at the meeting place to board the bus for our lesson at a family owned bakery located in the outskirts of Lucca in a small neighborhood.

We assumed the family of bakers provides the bread for this small area.
But first there was a lovely buffet table set outside under one of those large umbrellas we have seen everywhere here in Italy. The centerpiece of ornamental corn and fresh roses for a Tuscan fall arrangement with platters of many of the “usual suspects” on our visits, included the mortadella ham, Tuscan salami, four kinds of breads, and even pizza and sort of a focaccia sandwich of “lardo,” which was soon declared a favorite. Of course there always seems to be wine, too, and after antipasti, the pasta comes to the table, this time called “macaroni” that looked like uneven pieces of thick flat pasta with a fresh tomato and garlic sauce, topped with parmesan regianno.

After lunch as each of us “aproned-up” and washed hands we headed into the small kitchen behind the even smaller retail store front. Italian store fronts, especially for food, seem to be only a garage door wide. The head baker had already prepped a batch of whole grain dough and shaped them into rounds, baguettes and some round loaves with sunflower imprints. All were placed onto a canvas conveyor belt that with one complete turn landed the 10-12 loaves on the deck of the large wide deck oven. They would bake about 30 minutes; just time enough to produce a second batch of Tuscan sour dough with his “biga” starter.

Divided into two groups, we each shaped bread and made some biscuits (also known as cookies). Lenore’s favorite cookie was the one coated in corn flakes before baking, with raisins and a dusting of powdered sugar when cool. For our guide, Paola, our baker hosts made her favorite dessert, a tart made with chestnut flour, rosemary, pine nuts and lemon zest. But for me, I was intrigued by the amaretto tart made with a wonderful shortbread crust rolled and cut in a way I had not seen before, and I will definitely be doing this one when I get home. We were rewarded for our work with a large pastry assortment of their specialties: almond paste crescent, cornflake cookies, chocolate pie, and amaretto tart. We finished production by bagging up all the baked goods to take with us!

We left with more than we came in with, that’s for sure. We each received a cookie bag tied in a bow along with a hand written recipe book, which we will need to translate after we get home. Obviously, this is not the type of activity they do regularly, but judging from the “polish” and enthusiasm of our second week, we think these artisans may like the opportunity to “teach” more often. The organization of the second lesson was noticeably improved and the shy demeanor of the bakers noticeably more relaxed and talkative.

That we are actually meeting the people who create the breads, cheeses, salami of the Tuscany region, is the core of this trip. Producers who welcomed us into their homes, in some cases, wouldn’t give us a lesson without feeding us too! The hospitality of the Italians continues to delight us.


thirteen days and counting down

The "girls" ready for rainy beach days.

The excitement of our trip to Tuscany is beginning to take over the usual excitement our new menu that starts today provides. Typically we change the menu the first weekend of the new month and after a whole month, we are ready to say good-bye to the old recipes, and say hello to the new ones. But this week, our attention is diverted to the suitcases at home in our living room and the pile of clothing we are sorting to pack. I used to travel allot with my past jobs, and it was pretty routine. Now it is never quite as smooth as that. No matter how early we start packing, the two of us are competing for space and you know who usually wins. This time the suitcases have been out for weeks to help desensitize our poodles since they get a little anxious when they see the bags come out. Their worries seem to melt the instant our dog sitter arrives. They do tend to get more attention when we are gone, so much of the wagging and licking we get when we get home is really just to be polite. Spoiled is a pretty good description of what we will find when we return. It is such a comfort to Lenore and me that we have good care for them while we are gone thanks to Donna and daughter, Dom. This will be the longest time we have been away, but I am guessing they won’t even notice.

So in the next 13 days we must finish packing and get done all the errands and list of details we need to do before we leave. One thing we must do is get flu and a tetanus shots. Lenore isn’t happy about this but agrees it’s best to be prepared.

There are many final details to getting the store ready for our absence. We’ve lined up guest chefs to do classes on the Saturdays we are gone. Shanda, our third arm, is the best comfort for our anxiety while away. She will hold it all together while we’re gone, and continue to take calls and schedule our shows.  Note to self, bring back Shanda a great souvenir from Tuscany.

No matter how many details we have covered we are pretty sure there will be some we have forgotten. I guess it is good to give ourselves a break, and just take it in stride when it comes. Once we get this trip under out belt, our first one as the hosts, we hope we can schedule two next year.

Right now I have kitchen duties calling, but one more thing. Please check out our blogs from Italy while we are away.


PRELUDE TO ITALY

We are leaving in a few weeks to host our first culinary journey, and I am getting excited. It has been in the works about a year, I think, and in October we will be on Italian soil picking olives and eating everything Tuscan! I am longing to repeat the flavors that are burned into my food memories. Like gelato, the perfect example of why the Italians do it right. Italians are most approachable and proud. They remind us of Americans only with a longer history. I remember the discussions Lenore and I were having on the way home from our last trip in Italy. Lenore telling me she could absolutely live there and feel right at home. I’m reminded of the hospitality in every restaurant and bar that we went into. The kind of hospitality that probably rivals American southern hospitality, because everywhere we went we felt like family.

Lenore and a group of fifteen girlfriends took a trip to Tuscany a few years back. Husbands were allowed to join them after they spent a couple weeks on their own. On the first night we husbands got into Florence, we all went out to dinner together, to a restaurant suggested by our hotel just a short cab ride away. At the moment I am not remembering the name. We were ushered into a back room that housed the longest communal table ever, and where we could see into the kitchen as the waiters pushed in and out of the swinging door. Our group filled the table, and when we were all settled in, Alice seated across the room from me, pointed above my head. “Look who’s sitting under his own family crest!” Sure enough there it was, the Neroni crest above my head, at head of the long table. Alice isn’t shy, and she announced the coincidence to our waiters. After they checked my passport to be sure, it seemed our party was instantly raised to VIP status. Wine was free flowing and in fact there was a bottle placed at the seat of every man at the table! Foods we didn’t order arrive and we were spoiled like that the entire evening! Wow, my ancestors must have been important. All I could think of was the times my dad would talk about the Neronis as having been royalty, and I remember thinking there goes my dad, exaggerating again, a habit I had grown to love/hate over the years.

Home again in Seattle, we learned via an internet search that indeed a Neroni served as council to the Medici Family, the richest family in Florence during the renaissance. I wonder now if any Neronis cooked for the Medicis. In culinary school we learned that Caterina de’ Medici married Henry II of France in 1533 and brought her own Italian cooks to France and, history records, that incident alone elevated the gastronomy of the Renaissance.

That we will be there again soaking up the history of the place, as we sip and dine on the traditional flavors that distinguishes Tuscan cuisine, it is enough to start my mouth watering for those Tuscan specialties: wild boar and its salami, sausage and prosciutto, liquid gold olive oil, porcini mushrooms, dishes made with dried white beans, toscanelli and cannellini, and the flat-bread like schiacciata.


Time to reflect on Summer, already?

It seems things are just beginning to “heat up” this summer, and it’s already time to expect visitor traffic to recede. Our inclination is to say, “no, don’t go!” We’re just warming up. (Literally, that is true!) We want to say, “what’s the hurry, you just got here.” Seems everyone falls for Fall! With the new fall lineup of TV and the ads for Back To School, we can already see the reservations the week after Labor day shrinking. We want to shout out that the weather here still feels like summer and the though the days are shorter, it’s still daylight after dinner. Time to enjoy more sand, sea air and all that Cannon Beach has to offer. Even the Farmers Market goes till the end of September!

We have already said good-bye to some of our summer help, and Shanda is composing our Fall newsletter. Wish we didn’t have to be so calendar controlled, especially when the weather is still so favorable and we have the energy to entertain with our dinner shows. But the pattern is becoming familiar now as we go into our eighth year. Before everyone leaves I just want to say thanks to our visitors this summer. I may forget your names but most often remember faces and places. Some of you come from quite a distance. We’ve seen first time to Oregon guests from Nebraska, lots of folks from Texas this year, and many from Canada–even as far as Nova Scotia and Manitoba. We know the people from Texas and other southern US places come here to escape the heat. When we go around the room with introductions we heard how wonderful our CB weather is. While those of us who live here year round were thinking our summer has only just begun. Anyway we want to say thanks to so many guests this summer, especially those who make an annual trip to Cannon Beach (& to EVOO).

The fact that many of our new guests referenced Trip Adviser has not escaped our notice, and we are so grateful for the great reviews from those who took time to write. We do so appreciate the power of such a tool, and we also know that the pressure is on every night we serve. Our posture has always been that whether or not it’s a guest’s first time or an encore, our show must be our best! I am driven by the very old and tired but true kitchen saying, “we’re only as good as our last meal.” Every meal tells the story and for me it better be my best. I am not saying I am a control freak, though one might, but I really don’t want to serve my food without being here myself. I admire places that can do it, but if we had to be open seven days a week in a restaurant, I couldn’t do it. My staff is good, and I respect them, but when my name is on it, I need to have the final say. This is actually why Lenore and I prefer to offer a licensed agreement to open a second EVOO; the chefs would also own it!

It is not that my food is so intricate that no one else can do it. No, I want every one of our guests to do these recipes so they better be easy enough. No, for me it is about putting in the same amount of care that I put in every time. That is a tough thing to teach. A standard is a standard, but when life happens, who but the owner can rise above personal issues that road block the way to perfection? It is just a concept based upon repeated observations that has taken me years to formulate. Ownership is best cultivate when you are indeed the owner. Some can do it, but it is rare. Anyway that explains why I only schedule my dinner shows when I can execute them myself.

It is a different story when a guest chef comes to present a piece of themselves. I find those times very educational for our guests and me. I do see their ownership and I like that they are willing to share with us. Teaching is a way to show one’s ownership. When we are away this October we have scheduled guest chefs to be here on Saturdays. One guest is Italian chef, Andre Pianucci, from Portland, who shares many of my food philosophies. The class is hands-on and focused on authentic gnocchi. Kate Koo is a sushi chef who is coming for a hands on class as well. Kate is currently working at Zilla Sake House in Portland. And finally we have Josh Archibald, our hometown guest chef, who will be doing his Northwest ciapino as an encore performance. Many people have said it is the best version of ciappino they have every tasted! Good to know, since I make one myself.

So summer’s been good. A bit short, but definitely good. I will FALL into step real soon with the change of weather, the fall food bounty, wearing fleece again, the anticipation of stormy weather arts festival and finally, the holidays. Oh yeah, and our trip to Tuscany in October. How could I forget that!


HAPPY 7th YEAR, TO US!

Today is our seventh year anniversary! And very happy about that! On the one hand it seems quick, really seven years? On the other like dog-years! Opening a small business and becoming “it” is daunting and humbling at once. It is the hardest and yet the most rewarding work I have ever done. It is like what I love to do on a plate–a total contrast in flavors–or juxtaposition of flavors–it is like the yin yang of running a business. Can’t really have one without the other.

Some of our customers tell us we work too hard. How hard is too hard? We don’t do anything we don’t think needs to be done. We think we are working as hard as we need to. That said we are always refresh, re-energized and renewed every night we do a show. It is as if the energy comes from our guests. Hard to explain, but make no mistake about it, our work is rewarded by the response we get from our guests.

We learned long time ago when we were training for our corporate employers, that human beings are pretty simple creatures when it comes to motivation. We all work best when we are appreciated. One of our HR exercises was to put someone in a circle and just give them applause. Applause! Free unadulterated hand-clapping to say–you are appreciated! Better than tips, I think. Yes, when the applause or appreciation is given spontaneously and in a public place it cannot be beat.

Speaking of that, we cannot thank our fans enough for publicly telling others of our work. Social media has been very kind to us and Trip Adviser, a definite asset to us.  For that we put our hands together and acknowledge our customers who have made us who we are today. Thank you very very much!

 


FIRST NIGHT

Tonight we are entering our second week of the August menu. After five full weeks in July we are pretty ready for the change. You see we eat the leftovers all month long. All good, just happy to see the new variety of leftovers that the new menu brings. And  our cooks are happy to move on from stuffing corn husks with our tamale mixture to now making buckets of falafel and shaping them into our oval patties.

As a chef, I find it energizing to start fresh and work on new stuff. I guess it is why I always gravitated toward catering in my former career life, because menus are new, at least more variety than typical restaurant menus, except for the daily specials which I always enjoyed, too.

We refer to the beginning of our new month menu as FIRST NIGHT. We expect to make “tweaks” as a result of seeing it altogether the first time and listening to the feed back from our first night guests. This month our first nighters were very generous in letting us know what they thought. So much so, we have changed some of our recipes, though our menu remains pretty much the same.

First up, “too much smoke on the beef course,” they told us, so we reduced the time in the smoke for the beef. “Hard to eat the first course,” a meze salad atop a grilled flatbread (my pizza dough). We responded by increasing the flat bread to fill the entire plate, piled the meze ingredients on top,  and encourage guests to roll it up and pick up the entire entree in their hands. That first night Lenore even suggest we change the first course completely, or maybe add our house made sausage, but our guests responded that they wouldn’t change the flavors. It is good as is, just a little hard to eat.

Guests also liked the sturgeon course as is, but Lenore and I thought a “remoulade” addition was needed. It is sort of a homemade tartar sauce. It is just a good summer plate featuring a delicious local fish.

And lastly, dessert. We served a graham cracker cake with warm ganache on top then; we then planted a giant home made marshmallow on the chocolate, scattered some toasted almond slices around, and lastly, torched each marshmallow before serving! As you might imagine the evening ran overtime as we attempted to roast all those marshmallows! They were so big that their outside was toasted before their inside was melted. Needless to say, the giant marshmallow project gave way to toasted marshmallow meringue, instead. It does still resemble a s’more, which is what we were going for.

At this point, we are grateful for all the help our FIRST NIGHT guests gave us this month. So much so, that they will receive a special invitation to come back to EVOO with a 20% discount. In fact we intend to officially make it our practice for every FIRST NIGHT. Maybe we’ll see you some first night.

falafel meze salad on flatbread first course
falafel meze salad on flatbread first course
sturgeon with chipotle biscuit and corn salad

 

 

smoked tenderloin on cheddar polenta and watermelon salsa
Plate up for dessert is more manageable with Swiss meringue replacing giant marshmallow.
Plate up for dessert is more manageable with Swiss meringue replacing giant marshmallow
Toasty!
Giant toasted marshmallow--delicious but had to go!

A cathartic rambling…

First and foremost our goal at EVOO is to provide a good dining experience that also inspires our guests to make the recipes at home. We know that our approach with ingredients and techniques has to be attainable for them. No molecular gastronomy for us! I admit I enjoy the concept and do follow it to a degree because cooking has always been science to me. But the way to inspire home cooking is not going to happen if our guests have to first buy a kitchen chemistry set.  We even apologize when our recipes are longer than five or six ingredients. We encourage our customers to be free spirits when it comes to recipes—using what is available instead of following a recipe to the letter.

That is the easiest part of my job. What I find continually challenging, is sticking to our commitment to sustainability. In the beginning of our business here in Cannon Beach, we described our desire to use local sustainable and organic ingredients in every class. And in the beginning we had to define what those words meant. Fast forward to today, defining the words has been all but dropped in our nightly discussions of food, a good sign that more people are learning about the practice. Still the sustainability mantra that we profess continues, and seems even more challenging. We have had to insert the words, “we strive to be” sustainable when speaking about our policies, because the more we learn the more we know how much farther we need to go. It’s humbling. If we were closer to the city (Portland) and maybe a bigger name or deeper pockets, we might be better able to get the ingredients we want.

Lenore and I are taking a day off, so this morning slept in and actually had a cooked breakfast of eggs instead of our typical shredded wheat and fruit. Day off just means I don’t have to go in to the school, but do need to place orders. I just got off the phone with some of my vendors for tomorrow’s market dinner and Lenore turned to me and said, wow, you really go to allot of trouble to get the products that you want. “Are salmon available?” “Where are they coming from?” “How are they caught?” Yes, they are available, gill net out of nearby Young’s Bay. Anything, line caught, I ask next? He tells me only troll caught out of the Rogue River, pretty smallish but still fat and good eating, so I ordered one for tomorrow’s dinner. This call came after already checking with the local market vendors first. I always give Linda Brand Crab, for example, first right of refusal, so to speak.

Finding naturally raised and finished beef is also a roller coaster ride for us. For a short time we worked with a small ranch in Oregon and enjoyed totally natural beef. Then they were forced to close for financial reasons when the recession hit and we could no longer get grass fed beef. Finally found another farm, but had to forgo the natural finishing because this farm trucked the steers to be processed in California, requiring them to eat grain/not grass for several weeks at the end of their lives. For now we are still searching, though I am considering dropping beef from my menus until I can find a completely grass fed and finished local product.

Naturally grass fed/finished cattle are available for the retail consumer. Of course these come frozen and in all varieties of meat cuts. I could go that route, though consumer perception is that frozen product is inferior to fresh. And least we forget there’s a big hit to our carbon foot print by keeping it in a freezer. And our clientele may not be ready for eating all that a whole carcass has to offer. Still it appeals to us to see if they are. After all, it is our mission to provide inspiration for home cooks to make our recipes at home. That said, by demonstrating how to use whole or sides of beef we might be giving them what they want. It means using all the lesser known cuts, and even the offal. It would demonstrate more sustainability because even using a freezer would be better than the fact that this summer I am requiring tenderloins from three animals per weekend to serve tenderloin on the menu just the month of July. Five weeks in July, and that is 15 steers just for one month on my menu. Really makes me stop and think about using that mantra of sustainable ingredients!

I will keep examining my practices and keep searching for the products I respect.  I appreciate them that much more when they show up at my door. Often I am the one to prepare them, too. It is a long way from my days as an executive chef—code for never touching food. I am the one who sees to it that the fish is well iced; that the herbs are in fresh water standing up under a cheesecloth umbrella; that the garlic and onions, and all staples, are rotated so they don’t begin to sprout or worse. When the fish arrives less than 24 hours from catch I can’t help feel exhilarated and grateful. On the flip side, I feel rotten whenever I find something well past prime in my refrigerator that I cannot use and must discard.

Right now, I am going to work on another form of sustainability; that of balancing Lenore and my work life with dinner and a movie with friends. Till next time….


My day off

We had been asked for a date to serve a small group described as foster kids, who were meeting from all over the country in Seaside, Oregon’s headquarters for the foster club, and who their director believed would gain allot from one of our dining experiences. We finally settled on a lunch experience on my day off, this past Monday. It was two years in the making already so we felt it was worth it to give up one day off.

So we put together a four course luncheon for who we pictured was our audience. We served fresh veggie and Oregon pink shrimp spring rolls with a gazpacho shooter to start, followed by a tenderloin kabob with Koren spices and a vegetable fried rice; next a fresh salad with strawberries and blue cheese and last a double chocolate cup cake with graham cracker crust and a whipped marshmallow meringue on top. It sounded like foods “kids” might like and we came in will no other expectation.

We were anxious to hear more about the Foster Club organization, but waited until we had served a couple courses before we took time to go around and hear from them. Lenore asked each to tell us their name, where they were from and what they hoped to accomplish in their lives. After the first two took their turns, we were hooked and almost fixated on their every word. Our emotions were stirring up and kept us fully attending till the last story was told. It took only about 15 minutes. I was stunned by their poise and articulation in telling what seemed like deep personal insights that I imagined the average person coming to sometime in their thirties. Each told how long they had been in foster care and one expanded saying that during their time in foster care that they had attended 17 different schools before graduating from high school. One said she was 21 and a senior at Stanford but that she had been in foster care for several years and found that she had grown to appreciate that her experience with Foster Club now was certainly helping her meet her goals as an adult. Every story hit us in such a way that we were instantly changed on the spot.  Our own attitudes and understanding of the foster care system were coming into focus and would be changed forever by this day.

Lenore was too choked up by the time the last person spoke, so I rescued her and pulled our attention back to the food. All the time I was aware now that my job was not nearly as important or meaningful as what these kids were going to accomplish with their lives. A few of them were going to leave the next morning to testify on Capitol hill, in Washington DC about foster care. To say we were humbled is an understatement.

We were changed. The rest of the meal we laughed and talked about food and Harry Potter, hoping no one would say too much as Lenore and I were planning to see the movie that evening.

Upon saying goodbye everyone came to each of us and shook our hands, often giving us tight hugs as well, again with that unexpected self-confidence and poise of a much older person. They each expressed their enjoyment and appreciation for the day. One woman said she never met anyone like my wife who had only known them for 2o minutes, yet who understood and she could see how much she cared.

Lenore’s tears were from joy for the most part. A faith in the character and leadership of these individuals. It was exhilarating. It was a good day off!


Cool

Ah, summer has arrived. The summer heat beating down onto our thin black asphalt roof coupled with no insulation is enough to melt our computers in our attic office; consequently it is the only room that has AC. Our dogs are sequestered in the air conditioned room; Lenore is up there too. When she comes down stairs she marvels at how cool it is down here. Really? She says it is hard to regulate the temperature up stairs–she is either freezing from AC or sweating after tuning it down. She cannot hear our music playing during the summer, because the AC is humming intermittently. She welcomes the chance to spend time downstairs.

Downstairs every screened window is opened and some floor fans blowing the fresh ocean air around. But make no mistake we still feel the heat of the stove and ovens as we prepare for tonight’s dinner. Our lunch guests are filling up the tables outside on our deck while they partake of fresh bowls of my pasta and sauce. Some customers still prefer to gather around my stove inside, and I enjoy their company while I am cooking.

As in past seasons we serve European-style Cheese Boards–we are calling them BOB’S BOARDS because I am choosing great bulk cheeses we’ve never carried before and matching them up with some of the new dry aged cured sausages we do carry now (soon to be our very own recipes). Some of our guests say they really enjoy the leisure atmosphere here, long enough to enjoy a full bottle of wine and some good food. Some say “healthy” food; I think I know that they mean “whole foods” prepared fresh on premise. We gladly fulfill that niche for them. It is what we do best. Start from scratch and create dishes we love to eat too. Summer is heating up, but for me it is cool.


WEBSITE GETS REMODELED

June 1st, we launched our remolded website. Our goal was to simplify. I guess we won’t know for sure until more of our guests have a chance to use it, but from Lenore’s perspective, if it is as easy for our user as it is for her to update it, we accomplished our goal. By emphasizing our mainstay, THE DINNER SHOW,  first time users can find a show quickly that corresponds to the date(s) they’ll be in town. Our guest survey revealed that hands-on classes are searched out after first coming to the dinner show, so we put all of those “backstage,” as if to say, go backstage with our crew to get your hands dirty.

If you are back to check out the pictures taken during your show, our gallery lives in the ABOUT navigation button.  And if you are back to try one of the recipes you had while at the show, BOB & LENORE’S COOKBOOK is on the right hand side of home page.

The cookbook features new chapters and the most visual changes. All of the chapters are titled for their place in the Mediterranean food pyramid. Odd that it sounds, we do use at least 80 % Northwest ingredients, but we follow the healthy Mediterranean cuisines in our menu planning. Our chapters are listed in order of dominance for balance in a healthy eating style. First we list the chapter on grains, followed by vegetables and fruits, legumes, and beans, followed by fish and so forth to the items which we use more moderately.

Two new chapters in our cookbook are TECHNIQUES & METHODS  and INGREDIENTS, where you’ll find lists of “how-to-dos” we frequently speak about during our shows. We are able to explained a bit more in depth in these new chapters than in the recipe itself.  For example, you can review how to choose a wine that matches with the other ingredients on the menu. You can find out about keeping foods safe from food borne illness and proper cooking temperatures.  And down the line, we will be adding quick videos capturing techniques and methods we do before our guests arrive.

We invite you to explore and give feedback, but do give Lenore time for learning curve and to catch up with some of the changes that didn’t transfer well. Gallery pictures,  for example, are now under the ABOUT nav-button, and some of the pictures are just too small for this new format. Some of the groups didn’t transfer well either and we may need to actually start over.

Just a quick word of appreciation for our web designers, Jonathan & Amy, Grow-Creative, for this re-do as well as all they have done the past seven years.

 


TASTE OF TUSCANY

“Bedrooms in Italy are narrower than they are in America or Canada. They are very nice by Italian standards, just not so wide,” Paola Roselli, our tour guide said to the group. “Further,” she said, “They don’t name the beds in Italy,” referring to queen, king, and standard. Seems Italian beds come for one or two people; and often, beds for two, are two beds designed for one simply pushed together. “You are going to rural Italy. There may not be Wi-Fi or even cell service,” she suggested, “you’re going to do allot of resting and relaxing and enjoying the beautiful countryside of Tuscany.”  As for exercise, sounds like no problem, as we will be picking olives in the adjacent orchard the first day! And if you still want more, Paola recommends we walk the Roman road (yes, that’s right—it is the original genuine article) outside our villa; it is 4 Kilometers to the nearest town where you can get a coffee!

We invited guests who will be traveling with us to attend this preview TASTE OF TUSCANY dinner at EVOO to put us all in the mood for the trip. Our plan was to bring the group together to get to know each other as well to provide time to ask questions about our itinerary. Paola and her husband came to dinner too, and she came prepared to tell us like it is. After she spoke/gestured for an hour I decided her goal must have been to make sure no one going  on this trip would have any unrealistic expectations.

“Bathrooms in Italy are the most unusual. You see, in Italy we don’t tear down and rebuild; too expensive. We just repair and add on and make the existing structures better. Don’t expect every restroom to be the same. Most of the time, rest rooms were added into small spaces; it is something that will make you laugh when you report back to the group,” she said placing her hands together and looking up to the ceiling as if requesting divine help in getting her point across. Lenore looked around the room wondering how well our guests were accepting the news. Smiles, even laughs, and many nods of approval! Whew!

Paola told the group the itinerary came from the wish-list that we gave her in the beginning when she asked us what an ideal culinary tour in Tuscany would be. She said she was so happy to put together this personal tour and gave us almost everything, leaving out our interest in fishing. That she doesn’t care for fish had nothing to do with it she explained! She said she appreciates the opportunity to put together such a unique tour and being together on this day so everyone can know what to expect in October. She told us we need to be flexible with the itinerary as she may need to switch a few things around—like the day we visit the cattle farm, she said, they are butchering fresh just for us, so when they are ready we go!

Our arrival day needs coordination in that everyone needs to let Paola know when they are arriving so she and the bus company can arrange pick up. All this will be decided of course before we leave for Italy in October. She asked our guests to be sure to tell me and Lenore their flight information so that we can send it all at once to her. Then she will give times, stating the times are more or less accurate, as “we may run into an accident on the road and that slows everyone down.”

Lenore  took video of a portion of  Paola explaining what we can expect on our tour. It is too large to post here so we are burning to CD.  Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of the day.  [Pictures top-bottom:Bob at his amazing Taste of Tuscany buffet; Paola speaking (Italian style); a delicious combination of fresh pasta, bread crumbs, garlic & anchovies aioli; roasted peppers; fritatta with fried eggplant & tomatoes; fennel stuffed porkloin & rosemary potatoes.]






POP OVERS!

No I am not talking about the baked variety. It is the term my wife uses to describe people who “pop-over!” She claims to enjoy it, and yet I think there are mixed feelings. Yesterday we had some popovers! I was working in the store as usual when two young guys came in and stood unusually close as I was chopping lamb for my sausage. I did my usual greeting but they remained uncomfortable close. Then I hear the chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the rest of the group as they came in. It was Lenore’s side of the family from Seattle singing to me for my birthday, which isn’t till tomorrow. I haven’t seen them all together for at least seven years. The young men were just boys last I saw them. It was nice. I had forgotten how much fun I had getting together with Lenore’s family. Despite Lenore’s insistence she likes popovers, she gave them a good tongue lashing for “popping” over without calling first so she could at least set aside some time to visit. But she wasn’t really upset. They gave her 30 minutes before heading to our house, enough time to shower and do the week’s worth of coffee cups in our sink.

It was cousin Mark’s birthday and they decided to head down without calling so we wouldn’t make a fuss. They did come to our dinner show last night and it felt allot like old times. This is the group that were always pulling something. Especially on the newbie in the family, me at that time. I was the recipient of many pranks and jokes, which I reciprocated, of course! Hard to believe I would miss that, but I guess I have. This group gives an award every year for the goofiest act by a family member during the year. It’s called the brick award, and yes I receive one once. You might say, this is a symbol of our ability to laugh at ourselves. It’s a family tradition at this point and I have lost a few details of how it started, but I do know I miss these times with Lenore’s side of the family.


After

After our very successful Thursday night dinner show, I returned home about 11 PM and Lenore said she had a plan. A plan for what? First we will pack our van with the Tsunami kits, extra jackets and blow up mattress. We’ll drive up to Haystack Heights and park it. Then we’ll come home, try to get some sleep, but know that we will be evacuating by 7 AM. That is when the waves could potentially reach the Oregon shoreline. We live just four houses from the beach–almost at sea level. We have lots of pictures saved in boxes as high as they could be in the garage and we thought that would do. Anyway, as I was fighting a cold, Lenore insisted I get some sleep. She slept on and off with the tv on, not knowing if their predictions and timing were accurate. What if we couldn’t hear the alarm, and so on it went through her mind. About 4 AM, as the East coast started to wake up and get the news, our good friend in Maryland called. Lenore told her she was ready. Alice insisted on doing more–she said do you have clothing, your important papers, etc? Well we didn’t. We just planned for our personal safety. Plus we  went into school to wake up our intern, who is here from the Oregon Culinary Institute for his externship, and who is staying in our studio at the school. He was sleepy but quickly packed his stuff and came along. By now the authorities were telling us to get to high ground before 6 AM and that was an hour away.

What strikes me looking back is that nothing mattered as much as our personal safety. It felt hopeless to begin to gather important possessions. Not enough time, not sure where everything is anyway, and not organized enough to do it well. Note to self, get organize for the next time. And next time is probable as long as we live on the coast. The planning and efforts by the authorities to educate us and prepare us is appreciated and our consciousness is awakened. We have had our tsunami kits prepared since the last time, but now we are questioning if  high ground is high enough. After watching the destruction in Japan we think there is going to be so much debris (our house included) pushing up the hill that maybe we need to reassess the distance required.

All this said, we must do our due diligence and make sure our emergency plans are more solid than this time, but we also must relegate the potential for such an event to the same place we put getting hit by lightening, which I guess, odds are better that will happen than a tsunami. We must go back to work and play in this delightful community, knowing that ours is probably safer than most. After all Californians go back to their homes after fires and earthquakes. Gratefully the filters in our minds keep us from going obsessive. We can move on and get back to day to day. Day to day, that for me keeps me mindful of the present and getting the most from it.

While we were in our safe place with friends up in Haystack Heights, we were surprised to see our Thusday night guests on the news as they were being evacuated from their hotel in Cannon Beach. By noon, when our town was declared safe to return, we once again saw the same customers walking through town. They came back! And so did our guests for Friday night, and Saturday too. In fact, it was a busy Savor Cannon Beach weekend! Our salt tasting was very well attended and I had a great time doing it. We will be doing that again! And the winter wine tour seemed to be quite successful too. So good was the weekend in fact by Sunday we slept till noon, forgetting we were to “spring forward,” and being completely rested we took the entire day to ourselves.


Trippin’ out to Tuscany

Who knew our culinary tour to Tuscany this coming October would be so popular. We decided  quite spontaneously to add a second week since our first filled so quickly. And then the second filled too! So off we go to Tuscany with two groups back to back, the second repeating the itinerary of the first. It has been slightly daunting to be the hosts of a party, so to speak, that we are putting together over such a long distance. We already have a high degree of confidence in our contacts in Italy and so we must have faith in them to deliver the goods. They have after all, the experience of organizing such tours that we do not. Our guide grew up in the area and knows the proprietors personally. Between now and our departure the plan is to nail down even more details of each experience. For example, Lenore and I will help to pick out our dinner menus at the Villa; both the hands-on classes as well as the others. Our guide has already checked with the two chef-hosts at the Villa who encouraged us  to plan the menus with them. Mind you we are asking for authentic seasonal Tuscan meals. Without knowing anyone, we should have a certain level of faith in the results, since after-all, it is Italy!  At this rate we will have plenty to report when our travel companions get together with us in May at EVOO for our Taste of Tuscany dinner. At that time we should know more about the weather picture in October and what to pack, and if the men need jackets/ties, because Lenore tells me the women will know how they should dress just knowing that. We do know good walking shoes and even boots might be in order for one of our day trips into the olive orchards. Hopefully we can do it all with one bag. So stay tuned as we continue our ramp up to Tuscany!


Recipe Testing

Recipe testing can be time consuming but I couldn’t do this job without it. Luckily between Lenore and I we can usually make the time. Lenore made up a batch of dumplings the other day to add to our basic minestrone soup! A little off the mainstream of chicken and dumplings, but  why not. She decided to add some crispy fried prosciutto and some ground dry aged parmesan cheese to the virgin dumpling batter. It really added allot of interest to a minestrone soup without the traditional elbow pasta the way my family makes it. It all started because the local newspaper, Gazette, ask for our take on eating healthy for their annual “Healthy Outlook” edition. So we did the article and included our minestrone soup with these dumplings. Recipes are in our online cookbook. Enjoy!

Minestrone with Prosciutto chive Dumplings
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Mid January and counting

Sometimes it seems the most exciting part about January is the planning we do for the rest of year. We are mid-Jan and counting the days for faster times in town!  So much water!  Even our little get away plan was dampened by so much wind and rain. But I get ahead of myself. Lenore and I decided to take a short road trip. Motivated by the fact that last January we had build a bed that fits perfectly into our van for sleeping and storage of clothing, dog paraphernalia, and  food. It was allot fun last year building it with friends in Seattle in their garage–while it rained outside. The best laid plans to use it during the year for short road trips never happened. Now with the impending expiration of the lease on the van it was now or never to try out our “turtle” as Lenore has dubbed the van-bed. So it was the morning of a trip down the coast to visit our friends in Yachats; the turtle was ready, all packed, dogs eager.  But the van was not going anywhere. Battery had died as I discovered later due to the cabin lights on all night. So I jumped using Lenore’s cables and car–but when they started smoking, I unhitched before any damage to either battery and called AAA. How embarrassing to have our local tow truck pull into our drive. Anyway, once on the road, we drove to our local Les Schwab and stopped the van. If it didn’t start there we could at least buy a new battery. First thing the attendant said was, wow you could use a couple new tires! He assumed that was why we were there. So knowing I am turning in the van in a couple months, I reluctantly put on two new tires thinking of the safety of my family in the turtle! By now it is several hours later, but we can still make our dinner date before dark. The real upshot of the entire trip is that we did stay in the turtle that night. Parked in the driveway of our friends with a perfectly available guest room at the ready. They kindly left the door open in case we changed our minds during the night. Once we were all inside for the night all seemed pretty good. The poodles were assigned to their beds that were on the front seats of the van. Only one went willingly so the other scrunched in on my side–we all settled down. I immediately felt the blood rush to my head and realized we were parked with the nose of the van on a downward slant. Hoping Lenore wouldn’t notice, I didn’t speak of it. By morning, after each of us separately woke up to make a trip to the bathroom inside, the van-bed was in total disarray and Lenore was wedged between the front seats with one poodle, while our other one had the entire foot of the bed to herself. We walked out most of our kinks with the dogs–ignoring the wind and rain as best we could.  Afterward our friends prepared a great breakfast–having had a restaurant in Tuscan–you know it was wonderful, and we went to Newport aquarium to meet another friend who happened to be in town. Love going there, but by the time we were done it was already 4:00, and we could sure use a shower. We stayed the night at the Newport Hallmark where our friend was and thawed out in a spa room for dogs!

Here is the recipe of sorts for the breakfast tostada our friends made. Start with corn tortilla and cover with grated sharp cheddar. Bake to melt. Add layer of spicy sausage and rice and beans. Top with sliced avocado and two fried eggs. Serve with variety of prepared hot salsa–all of which were delicious.


Happy New Year!

It is amazing how good it feels to say so long to the old and ring in the new! Besides being thankful for a good year past, we find ourselves hopeful for this one. It is clear we are doing what we love and our plan is to keep doing it in 2011.  We had 25 guests at our dinner show last evening who made it a party! We say thanks because without planning it this way, our new way of life here in Cannon Beach seems to fulfill our need for social life too. Now I ask, how many jobs out there do that? Maybe more than I think but for sure this is the one that does it for me. Lenore too, enjoys the hospitality of our experiences here at EVOO.  She actually put together foodie games that to my surprise our guests  really seemed to enjoy. When they arrived they were given a portion of a silly food riddle and a glass of sparkling Proseco wine. They were then tasked with finding the other half of the riddle. When they found each other they were to learn as much as possible about each other that they could, then introduce each other to the rest of the guests. Nice icebreaker, as we called it in my corporate days. Then there were the guests who showed their competitive side. Dana, why we didn’t know you enjoyed winning so much! And as the games continued I was cooking. I loved the menu–we started with ahi tuna & hazelnut tartar on a toasted sesame wonton served with a hot chestnut soup shooter. My favorite course was the truffle papparadelle pasta with truffle butter and black truffle slices. We topped that with a poached duck egg and frizzled speck. Next course, we did seared scallops and marinated shrimp with potato-cauliflower hash with a hint of curry. And finally we had prime rib with a roasted vegetable pot pie. It was not a typically pot pie—no, no. It seemed to morph as we did it. Started with roasting six different vegetables separately. When we saw how beautiful these were we didn’t want to cover them up with the rich beautifully flavored veloute sauce and then pasty–how could we see these colorful roasted veggies? That is what I mean about morphing. We put the veloute on the bottom of a shallow ramekin; then veggies on the veloute; baked 15 minutes to bring up to temperature for serving and then we added a prebaked pastry top! Fun! Lots of work but resulted in a “do again” dish for me. Of course we had a great dessert finale too. Chocolate sour cream cake with toasted Swiss meringue icing sitting in a pool of warm chocolate ganache. But wait, there’s more. A scoop of chocolate cherry gelato and salted candied hazelnut. Okay! Lots of love in this menu and so appropriate for the night, because we were expressing our appreciation of where we have been and anticipating the possibilities of the new year all in one experience. May the love continue for us all and may the new year bring it for us all!


Gift Certificate Holiday Promotion

It is that time of year when we are hoping to express our appreciation to those of our customers who keep coming back! Since our gift certificate promotion of last season was so successful we decided to repeat it. The number we can offer is limited, of course, and we have more members this year so we had to limit purchases to two per email address. That way more people can participate.  Anyone not on the Encore list must wait for next year for this particular promotion. To sign up for encore, you must have attended at least one class already. Then click the ENCORE link to sign up and fill in your information. Simple!  And when you recieve the email to make sure it is your desire to sign up, just click yes and you “opt-in.”

This offer in no way is equal to the amount of our appreciation to our returning customers and to those who send new guests our way. Whenever we can we will reach out to you and send you first for any and all of our invitations, incentives and promotions.

My days right now are full of baking, and holiday catering, so this must be short. You can also read short notes from me on Facebook and Twitter (when I can get on), so please look there as well.

Many thanks from Lenore and me for your continued support, and heartfelt wishes for a wonderful winter and holiday season.

Ciao, Bob


DC power dining

A couple weeks ago now Lenore and I were in Wash DC for the first time in a long time (15 plus years) and we took full advantage of our time there. Truly the trip was  arranged to attend a very important wedding for a very special friend of ours. We managed to pack every other minute with shear indulgence. Lenore had a mani, pedi, and facial, while I shopped spice shops and markets. Everyday we went into town or at least as far as Bethesda to eat lunch and often made a point to see two or three new places each trip. We did enjoy the time spent with friends of course, and certainly enjoyed seeing the changes in the area. Bethesda was hard to recognize for example. And of course the choice of spending an anniversary dinner with close friends, John and Alice, at the Inn at Little Washington was a definite favorite.

We had always wanted to go to this Micheline star property. It wasn’t the expense so much as the distance. Now that we live and work on the coast of Oregon, 1 1/2 hours from Portland and 4 hours from Seattle, we didn’t think an hour to Washington, VA was long at all. Besides with old friends the drive affords face time together! Anyway we arrived early, better than the opposite. We strolled the town and realized that the “INN” is the town! Not a whole lot going on there. But then there is Warrenton VA just a little distance away.

Sometimes it is just better to imagine how wonderful a place is to avoid the let down. We knew over the years we may have even inflated our expectation of the INN. We had attended a series of lectures by chefs at the Smithsonian, years before, and when Chef Patrick O’Connel spoke of his restaurant and the quality standards they demand, we were hooked. Could it possible be as good as we thought all these years?

Well, except for a few minor service blips, our time spent was absolutely worth the wait. Of course our dinner company helped. It is great to share the experience with friends with whom we have a long history and who share our love of fine dining. So to begin with, nothing had to be better than that! 

We opted out of the prix fix menu because it meant we all had the same foods. We are so used to sharing at the table with this couple that we ordered every choice. We even call our sharing , the wave—to the right or left—we pass our whole plate until it makes its way back to us. Luckily we were seated in a private-ish area and didn’t look too bourgeois.

Everything was so good.  It was as if flavor and ability to relate to the food was the goal as much as creativity and something new.  I like real relatable foods. This meal was both relateable and ample. We had some favorites and I am already planning to recreate some in our place.  More on that later.

The rest of the week we found some other favorites. 1804 in Bethesda is a little office building space–mostly for lunch that was serving  homemade charterie platters along with everything from scratch incorporating the whole animal.  Another lunch, downtown on H street, was at Potenza for Italian. Loved the cocktails and must say the service was a highlight. My favorite lunch spot in DC was Zaytinya, one of Jose Andres’s places. I had seen an interview with him on 60 Minutes, and really related to his effort to almost apply the food science of flavor to each item he fixes. All of his places in DC represent the antithesis of the more typical over sized portions in that he serves only small plates in all his restaurants. Zaytinya is Greek, Leanese, and Serian. Everything was extraordinary.

I am glad I have taken time to recap our experience. I can almost taste it all again. Lenore and I feel totally re-energized and renewed. This is an exciting time for culinary in our country and we enjoy being apart of it.


Best of summer

It’s too cool weather-wise this summer especially for those of us who live here year round, and who’s business relies on visitors coming to the beach! It seems to our surprise, visitors actually like the cool since many are coming from an unusually HOT summer in their home towns. It is all a matter of perspective. Anyway it started me thinking about the fun we have in the summer whatever the weather story. We enjoy the blend of places from which our dinner guests come: Florida, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Edmonton, Nova Scotia, and even Mexico City. A group from Mexico joined us at lunch one day, after having viewed “Oregon Uncovered” on their local Travel channel. That’s the one in which we were fortunate enough to be featured.

We are doing more cheese boards on the deck this summer, despite the clouds. We get some great comments about how having our cheese boards on the deck with wine and good bread reminds them of being in Europe.

We like summer because the high school and college kids are back to help. It reminds Lenore of her days teaching culinary arts to high school students in Maryland. And their enthusiasm is very energizing for me. I do enjoy watching the activity of our team moving with the purpose to make the guests happy–the hum of the hospitality business you might say.


SUMMER

For most people summer is a time to take long walks on the beach, sip wine on the deck and enjoy being outdoors. For Lenore and me those activities are more for the shoulder season, as they say. Summer kicks off the busiest time of year in our little town when you are a business owner. Visitors are now coming not just from Portland and Seattle but also all over Europe and points down under. So as we get started on this roller coaster we call high season, I hope you’ll stop in and say hi from time to time, remind me what day of the week it is, and join us for lunch. In fact, that is why we opened our family meal, as we call it, to the public. We are pretty busy seven days a week now, so it is the best way we know to do some socializing. Come for coffee, a great bowl of soup, bottle of OR wine paired with some artisan cheeses and our crusty bread, but come on in. One thing for sure, we’ll be here all season


FAMILY MEAL GETS COMPETITIVE!

The concept of a family meal is not new. Staff members eating together prior to dinner service is part of the kitchen culture. It bonds us and gives the opportunity to discuss service, new ideas and just get caught up on each others lives. The menus have been a great chance to try new recipes out, re-working leftovers into something completely different and of course getting competitive! The latter of this gets really going in the summer at EVOO. Since we offer twelve seats up to the general public it is no surprise that we put our best foot forward to make sure the experience is as good as any other we provide. In the past, Lenore and I have come to head and towards the end of last year I cheated more a than a little. (You would have to come in to hear that tale.) This time out, every staff member is having a go at it. This week is Paco’s turn and his eagerness is contagious. Between his fathers hand made tortilla press to the groceries he procured from Portland, he is determined to make the first week the bar for others to aspire. I plan on keeping this posting up to date with a play by play of our success but for now I leave with our first menu.

Chicken Soffritos – Dark meat chicken braised in chipolte, jalapeno, garlic, onion and tomato. Fresh tortillas lightly fried and served with shredded lettuce, feta cheese, creme, tomatillo salsa and salsa Rojas. The dish was vibrant with hits of appropriate spice and tangy turns. Each bite offered a new experience but the simplicity made it all cohesive. A great beginning to what should be a phenomenal summer of family meals!


FRONT PAGE OF THE TRAVEL SECTION OF SUNDAY’S OREGONIAN

Not sure why EVOO got front page of the Travel section, but grateful all the same. It has been an interesting afterglow to say the least. Every now an then I am told by new guests that they just happen to see that picture of me in the Oregonian and it made them want to check us out! Some people have just said something like they have been reading about us and that picture finally made them pick up the phone and make a reservation. Lately too, we get calls from people who are sure they cannot get in for the following weekend because we are so popular. Let me reassure, we have sometimes only filled up the day of the class just hours before it starts! And this year particularly, we see lots more last minute reservations than past years; spontaneous beach trips where people are waiting till the last minute even to make hotel accommodations. So don’t hesitate to ask if we have space–most likely we do. If we don’t, we will try our best to talk you into something else real soon. Read article: http://evoo.biz/press


HAPPY EASTER!

Spring Break brings families to our town. We know it is all about the children, so don’t really expect the families to attend our classes. So today when I saw four teenage girls walk in at 9:00 for the ARTISAN BREAD class, I was wondering if they really understood that this was a 5 hour class. Then their mom came in and made me a bit more comfortable, and finally the last attendee, a customer who had been in before, was the only guy. Nice size class but still wondering if I will keep their attention, I got started. It had not yet occurred to me that this was the day before Easter Sunday. It wasn’t until one of the girls said “happy Easter” to someone that I decided to add a little holiday relevance to the class. We were shaping dinner rolls and cinnamon buns from the sweet roll dough, the very same I use for the Italian (and Greek) style breads for Easter. So I asked one of my cooks to make some eggs and dye them–so we could demonstrate yet another example of what can be done with this versatile dough. RECIPE


A Productive Day

I finally feel like I am getting traction with our goal to get some products to market. I found a local chef / manufacturer today who has similar ideals and philosophy. He will take a look at our spice blends, and with his current client list and product placement this could propel our project ahead of our expectations. Lenore and I have been focusing on other products to manufacture, too, and it is by accident that we have these spice blends. We developed them to promote the Savor Cannon Beach weekend in a joint promotion with the Hallmark Hotel in March. Now that the formulas are blended we can take the next steps.

We sampled the blends this past month on our menus and we had great positive response that only encourages us more. What makes these spice blends different is that SALT is not our primary ingredient. I like the idea that home cooks can control the salt. It is okay to use these blends without salt, though sometimes it is best to add salt. Putting the choice in the hands of the consumer is important to us. We currently have a Madras style curry blend, an Andalusian Basque style spice mix, and a Coriander sea salt, where salt is the secondary ingredient. Since I use coriander and salt in combination almost always anyway, it just seemed a natural combo for my blends, especially since when I use coriander I tend to use less salt.


TAKING A BREAK

I know it sounds weird that we take a break exactly when Portland schools are on break–presuming lots of people will migrate to the beach, and that’s good for business. Actually we had planned to go a week earlier but our business community group got together to drum up business on this historically slow week before Spring breaks begin. In addition they talked the children’s center into doing their fund raiser wine walk that weekend, and of course, we all felt the need to support this important effort. So the timing was unavoidable this year. Savor Cannon Beach weekend and the Children’s Center Winter Wine Walk was a big hit. Our Zerba wine dinner was one of our best– both well attended and received. We now believe if you build a wine dinner around ZERBA they will come!

And taking a break? Make no mistake as difficult as it is for us to break away from the never ending “to-do” list, Lenore and I really needed the opportunity for sunshine, good friends, great food and drink, and a chance for business out of sight and out of mind. Makes me better now. Always good to be home, play with the poodles, and cook in our kitchen again.


words

I am writing tonight even as late as it is to capture a discussion at dinner tonight before I forget.  It was the first night of our March Dinner Show menu. We had a full house with three birthday guests and one anniversary couple in to celebrate. Being a new menu I guess I am a little edgy about the execution. We have been testing the recipes for a couple weeks but until the first night it really doesn’t seem to matter. It’s opening night and it has to go off without a hick up. This evening was going very well until I described the  fish I was about to cook up as Rockfish, or aka, snapper. I was so focused I barely notice when one of the birthday guests shyly raised her hand and said, “I don’t mean to be disputatious, but I believe Rock fish is striped bass and not snapper.”  She said she is quite sure they are different and she should know being from Maryland where Chesapeake Bay Rockfish is the state fish. I explained that the West coast species is more like snapper and of course that was the conversation I had had with my fish perveyor who described the Pacific Rockfish species to a tee and said we also call it snapper out here. When I got home, did a google search and found we are both right because we were dealing with a varied species all around. The Maryland species is definitely different, and depending on origin, Rockfish come with different flavor profiles. As much Rockfish as I cooked in Maryland when I was there, you think I would be more confident. The guest making the point was really anything but disputatious. She was persistent and yet ate my fish offering with gusto. She said it was her favorite course of the night. Further she said it wasn’t a big deal, and told us it was kind of like the time she told her husband that dinner was spaghetti with red sauce. When he came to the table the spaghetti was spaghetti squash and he really had a taste for the pasta kind. In other words, her point of reference was Maryland rockfish and that is what she expected when the name rockfish was use. It all shook out just fine with laughter all around and we had a great time with the word “disputatious” the rest of the evening.   “dis put ta’ tion,” noun- the act of disputing or debating; verbal controversy; discussion or debate.


new beginnings

Lenore used to teach high school. She told me how each year meant a new beginning because the student were new, of course, and her curriculum could be rewritten for a fresh start. She’d keep what worked and dreaming up new stuff. She would tell me that she enjoyed thinking up ways to motivate students when Sept rolled around. Her classes were called “culinary arts” and they were for students aspiring to be chefs.  Her inspiration for lesson plans often came from current events and movies. This was all before the food network, though, and I have a feeling it might be pretty different for her today. In any event, it occurs to me that she was doing then what she does now for our business. She didn’t call it marketing then, but it was similar–trying to inspire the students and to attract more of them at the same time. As we are in a slow season right now, we too are planning marketing strategies to bring our customers back again and to inspire new ones to come for the first time. I can now relate to what she was talking about back in those years, because doing business here in CB is really like starting over each year, and dreaming up a new beginning of sorts as we get closer to another busy summer is very motivating for me.

As of yet, our plans are to focus on getting done what we’ve already dreamed up–like getting some of our products to market and maybe having them ready by farmers market.  We are bringing back FAMILY MEAL for the summer. This is the one that we invite customers to come on a first come first serve basis and they eat what we make for the staff meal. Only once we start inviting guests, we don’t depend so much on the leftovers, but rather actually plan the menus. The criteria for a family meal is that it be like the old diner blue plate special or what my mom calls comfort food.  It  is fun for us to do it, but more importantly our guests seemed to enjoy it too.

We are happily looking forward to the new summer season  approaching.


It’s busy but slow here

Just realized it has been long since I wrote in this blog. I promised Lenore I would write at least once a week. Then she got me signed up for Facebook and while she was there we did a page for EVOO. So that makes three places to post and I am not yet routinely doing any of them.

But for today there is a sense that time is speeding by and keeping in touch socially is supposedly ensures people’s mental healthiness! So to testify that I am mentally sound, I am making contact to those who care to read this and admittedly it gives me pleasure knowing that someone might care to read this.

Lenore and I are busy because it is slow here!  That is, it is a “shoulder season” in Cannon Beach. Visitors come weekends only and only about a tenth the number we see during season. We are used to such a feast and famine existence because that is the way it is in the restaurant world. We are busy or slow–it’s just the way it is! It doesn’t mean we like it–because as the owner of a business being slow directly impacts the bank account. We know how to deal with the manic times of the dinner rush in a restaurant and then the decompression in the down time, but when you are the owner there isn’t down time. That is when we dream up ways to drum up business! This is when we must do the jobs that in the summer we have employees doing. Things like filing, recycle, dusting, laundry, yard work, sweeping and washing windows. And on the home front, we do our own housework instead of farming it out. And while all this is going on we still exist under the delusion that we have extra time now to get together with friends and take a few days away now and then. So that is why we are busy during the slow time.


Found some inspiration on our vacation

Just returning from a little sunshine respite. Lenore has family in sunny Brea CA where we spent a few nights at their very comfortable CA home. It was nice for Lenore to catch up with her aunt and uncle while I played in the kitchen with her cousin, Mary, quite an accomplished cook. Never done it commercially but even if I had never enjoyed her cooking, her ability to cook certainly shows in her kitchen.

She has everything any cook could want and a place for everything. She has one of the newest drip coffee makers, one cup at a time, and uses her tiniest Tupperware to set up her own coffee “pods.” There are so many drawers that I finally asked how they found this home with the biggest kitchen on the block, and she explained that David, her husband, is very handy and just kept expanding the kitchen. So right away the experience of cooking with her was going to be great.

I think Mary was a little surprised that I wanted to make her famous shortbread that she mails to us every Christmas, ours just one of 125 that she sends out. Her shortbread molds are collector’s items as well, and we picked out a couple since one batch makes two. I was amazed that she actually broke every so-called rule for baking by making this tender delight in a giant Cuisinart–didn’t even know they make them so large! She started with a pound of frozen salted butter (I get that) and proceeded to blend until I could feel the heat off the blade. Asking if she was going to chill the dough, she said no, and in fact she heated the molds before filling with dough. She let me play with the second half of the batch. To it, I added a few spices that I found in her cupboard (anything you could imagine was there). I made a little curry mix and yes, added some coriander to it. Both went into the oven and out in about 30 minutes. I guess that even with her giant Cuisinart and several molds, she can only bake 4 at a time in her double ovens, so it must take close to 36 hours to make all 125. The addition of curry was interesting and Lenore liked it, but I was not satisfied, so plan to improve it a bit next time. Mary, of course, is sharing her recipe and I intend to post it once I do it again in my kitchen. No doubt about it, Mary makes the best shortbread I ever tasted.

Mid week our cousins drove us to Palm Springs, a short 90 minute drive, to meet up with friends from Seattle who were there for a whole month! Mutual friends from Maryland were already there. In fact, almost the entire group from our French Laundry experience were together again. Being foodies, we did as much eating as talking. First day we went to the local Farmers Market–it was all organic foods, no crafts, and they had cut flowers!

Anyway, it was tough to shop the market when we only had two days for cooking! The couple we were visiting had a full fridge and tangerine, orange & lime trees outside their door. We had to use restraint. Lenore found a new fruit, to me anyway, called ‘Yellow Sapote’ from Mexico, also known as Canistell or “egg-fruit.” The farm stand attendant didn’t speak allot of English, so we didn’t really know what we were buying. She cut one up for tastes. It was sweet like very ripe persimmons but had the texture of a ripe avocado, to us anyway. Researching it on the internet, I found the texture described as a hard boiled egg since it doesn’t produce much juice. In any case, I included it in the breakfast watermelon salad I made the next morning. It was pretty good and I will be looking for that fruit again if I ever get to Florida where they are grown commercially. For now I am happy that it happened to be grown by a little farm in southeastern California and brought to market that day.

If I were to make the salad again, here is a recipe subbing avocado for the Sapote.

WATERMELON SALAD
1 small seedless Watermelon (or Crenshaw melon, would be good too)
2 avocado, 1/2 dice or 2 “sapote” if you can get it
6 fresh figs, quartered
2 fresh sweet persimmons, core and cut 1/2″ dice
juice of 1 large lime
1 bunch Basil, rough chop
1 serrano pepper, seed, devein, mince
1/4 cup EVOO, just to coat fruit
To Taste Sea salt Pepper Coriander (SPC)

Method: Prepare fruit; gently toss with lime juice and EVOO. Add pepper, basil and toss and taste. Season to taste with SPC.We served this with Marty’s eggs with an Armenian sliced cured meat.This recipe is worth knowing but first I need to find a local source for the cured meat. Marty gets it shipped from the East coast from an Armenian butcher. Stay tuned, because Marty and I may just be making it on the west coast.


Appetizers bring spice to my life…

It is official. I admit I do usually enjoy the classes Lenore dreams up! This one featuring appetizers was scheduled for noon on a Saturday. I really pushed back at first. After all I am preparing for dinner every Saturday night and when you add 10 plus recipes for a lunch class, my little kitchen and crew are really cranking. But when I actually do the class I really enjoy myself.

I love what I do. The variety is endless and it truly gives the spice to a sometimes too familiar routine. The impetus for the class was “WOW weekend.” That is, Women Only Weekend. Dreamed up by one of the hotels in town, The Ocean Lodge, for the purpose of encouraging women to come to town, start their holiday shopping early, while they “pamper” themselves with spa treatments, and a variety of classes such as flower arranging, quilt making, and of course, a slow-food lunch around my stove. Women around my stove, what is not to like about that! And I did.

Then off to the Ocean lodge after dessert at our Dinner Show because there was one more WOW assignment for me. All I had to do is show up with my “Devilish Hot Chocolate” and whipped cream and serve at hotel’s pajama party. Forty servings I was told and please wear pajamas! So just another one of those things my wife insists that I do. 40 women at a pajama party –okay if I must.

HOT CHOCOLATE LACED WITH DARK RUM
8 oz heavy cream
10 oz whole milk
2 oz butter
2 oz sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz good bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 oz sweetened whipped cream
2 tsp dark rum
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Method: place all ingredients except chocolate into heavy bottom sauce pan; bring to simmer. Add chocolate until completely melted and absorbed. Ladle into cups; garnish as desired. Suggested size serving: 4 oz as this is very rich
To Garnish: (pick one or a couple)
1.Float whipped cream on top with a hint of cayenne
2.Add splash of dark rum or Kaluha
Sprinkle of nutmeg, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.


YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU ARE SERVING

For me, every day is the first day of a menu! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the stress relief of knowing a menu so well I can sail through the prep without much thought. And of course, I can make two or three days worth of prep together, but unless I start fresh everyday, it is harder for me to maintain my edge. You see you never know who you may be serving!

What we do know is that our business depends on repeat customers. So every day has to be fresh or we potentially loose first time customers who dine with us. Lenore and I help each other to get in the game on days that we aren’t. We leave at least 30 minutes before a class just to clear our heads and get excited about the recipes we are doing. And even when it is hard to do, when the first guests arrive, new or not, we almost instantly get into the game as if we were some how plugged into110 current!

The potential for bad press can spread pretty far with one underwhelmed person. Cultivating good buzz one customer at a time is what we strive to do, and when the customer is an unidentified food writer dining with us, it can pay off in a big way. Arriving to work after two days away this past week, our voice mail was extra full! It seems an article about us was in the Sunday Nov 1,2009 Oregonian Travel section. We had no idea! Many people called wanting to learn more and even to sign up.

So when I tell my interns that “you are only as good as your last banquet or meal,” I mean, do not become too complacent or comfortable. Keeping an edge is the best way to demand the most from yourself. Don’t rest on your laurels. Demand more from yourself.

After all the years I have been cooking, I am still working on my self esteem. When customers come back over and over again, it is the best affirmation I can get. Knowing they trust us, often coming even when they don’t know what we’re serving, makes me more determined than ever to work on that “edge.”


Marathon behind my stove

It was a long day yesterday! We started actually a few weeks ago to prepare for yesterday. Didn’t matter, we were still pushing to get everything done before the guests arrived. We did 20 bites for 45 guests at our “A Nightmare Before Christmas” Halloween Party. Our intent besides saying thanks to our loyal customers (ENCORE CLUB) was to showcase some interesting appetizers for holiday party giving. When we got to appetizer #12, couples were “sharing” bites. By #13 they flatly refused to take any more. So we omitted two apps (the scallops and the white bean crepes) and went on to desserts. Even eliminated one of those too, the big caramel apple slices. But all in all it was rewarding because I actually did this marathon behind my stove without missing a beat, in full costume! The crew was phenomenal and worked their “mmm’s” off. We could have had an after party with all the leftovers from the leftovers after the crew refreshed on them, but we were just too tired. Guests were great and seemed to enjoy themselves–staying to the feeding frenzy end! Guest voted and the winning appetizers of the evening were the “Wild Mushroom Strudel with Crab salad” and “Baked Muffalatta.” And of course, the hot chocolate with chipotle cream was a big hit. All the recipes are to be posted ASAP! (Or, as soon as Lenore gets to it) 🙂 Ciao, Bob


Time is flying by

Once again I can barely keep up with my work and once again I cannot remember what happened to September. We are experiencing a warm and wonderful Indian summer and that means that our usual down turn day after Labor Day didn’t happen. That is good in itself, but we had anticipated the slow down, so made plans for a brief respite–a short trip to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington. We went with friends, also in the hospitality biz, so they too were needing restoration. And that is what we found–easy beautiful Friday Harbor. We ate well as you might expect and even had some mini-power dine experiences where we got everything on the menu before we left. Whale watching was good too, and for the first time we saw them really close. Yes, there is something about catching the ferry to an island that really helps one feel “away.” Ah, it might mean a return trip is needed again soon.


NEW MENU

Here is our new August menu with a quick DNA analysis, or as Lenore says, what made you think of putting these together.
(more…)


QUICK SUMMER UPDATE

Our longing for the summer is long past and a dim memory by now. Summer is here going by so fast we feel we are missing it! For sure we have missed staying in touch. Just to let you know it wasn’t by choice. Our website “face-lift” included a new “admin tool” and we are just getting that up and running. So now everything is running including us! Before it all gets away, here’s a quick update.

We are happy to report the Cannon Beach Farmers Market is going very well withover 2500 participants last week. For those of you who may have forgotten, the CBFM is 2-6 every TUESDAY June through September. And we are offering a MARKET DINNER after every market at 7, where we bring in what’s fresh at the market and make up an “ad hoc” dinner. Aside from being a little nerve racking, the results have been very well received! And we are doing our bit to ensure the CBFM continues because we give back 5% of the tuition. Restaurant of the week at the market has been implemented this year, where one restaurant from town comes to sell some ready to eat foods and beverages. Look for EVOO on Sept 1 for our next turn at ROW at the market.There are more vendors, more volunteers, and more music this year making this a great community event. Click CBFM for market pictures and details.

The main thing occupying our minds right now is that this is actually our fifth summer in operation. We are very proud to be celebrating our 5thanniversary on August 14. It was that very date in 2004 that we first opened our doors. It seems both fast and long, but for sure it surprises us how despite some refining and additions, we are still doing what we did the very first day we opened our doors. The “Small Plates with Wines” concept is still what our guests want, and though we now call it “THE DINNER SHOW,” the format is still as it was five summers ago. We do three full entree plates paired with selected wines and still finish with a great dessert and sometimes two desserts on the same plate. We have added a self-serve coffee station with CAFFE UMBRIA decaf coffee, which our guests have really appreciated.  And we appreciate working with the Caffe Umbria brand and the personal attention we receive from owner, Pasquale. We are small potatoes in the world of coffee but are treated like we are their only! Gotta love that!

For our special celebration in August we invited Michael Sebastiani to join us with his very special wines. He is coming with the Sonoma valley wines that he makes using Oregon styles. He will explain more about that during the class. It couldn’t be a better time for a wine dinner since so many great food products are in season. Between the two, Chef Bob and Michael, the wine and food talk promises to be quite celebratory, educational and entertaining. Please note if you are a returning guest to EVOO you may sign up for ENCORE CLUB and receive a 5% discount for this event. Please indicate you are a club member at the time you register for either class, August 14 and August 15.

That is a quick update for now. Watch for more real soon. Ciao!


Sand Castle Day

Building sand castles on cake---the great Haystack Rock and sea creatures at low tide.

Today was a busy one here in CANNON BEACH. The annual sand castle building contest took place starting at low tide at 8 am this morning and continuing until the last one was judged at 2:00 pm. The crowds were bigger this year and the quality of the entries very high. From the beach to the town, everyone in CB seemed to have the sand castle spirit. Our sand-cake for the children was a hit. We had a step stool up to it as children “shoveled” a large portion onto their plate. No end to the fun here at EVOO.

DIRT & SAND CASTLE CAKE Makes one 5 quart size or four 1 qt size
16 oz pkg Oreo cookies for dirt cake
16 oz pkg pecan Sandies for sand cake
4 pkg instant chocolate or butterscotch pudding
12 oz cream cheese
6 TBS butter
4 ¾ cup milk
4 cups whipped cream

Gummy worms, marshmallows, gumdrop flowers Method: 1. If using a flowerpot with a drainage hole, reserve 1 cookie to place over hole to prevent leaking. Place remaining cookies in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture resembles dirt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter, and stir until creamy. Set aside.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together instant-pudding mixes and milk; stir until well blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold pudding mixture into cream-cheese mixture. Fold in whipped cream.
4. In a flowerpot or bucket with a 5-quart capacity, alternate layers of cookie “dirt” and pudding mixture, starting and ending with cookie “dirt.” Chill at least 4 hours or overnight before serving. Garnish with candy. To make beach scene: crush peacan sandies and/or Lorna Doone’s shortbread cookies. Press into children’s sand toys and unmold on sand of your beach cake.


New Website

Hello and welcome to our new look! It has been in the making for several weeks and we certainly want to thank our web designers, Amy and Jonathan of www.grow-creative.com They have been patient and helpful dealing with Lenore especially since she does more of the updating than I do. At any rate, please don’t hesitate to weigh in on the new looks and features. But at the same time give us a few more days or so to get everying fully functional, like the recipes and pictures.


Taking a break from writing for the GAZETTE

Today like many we are really thinking about how we spend our money. After paying for the basics there is less and less leftover for what “they” call discretionary funds. Lenore reminds me often that what really seems to count when life goes sideways on people seems to be all that we have postponed or denied ourselves far too many times. Making memories with friends and family means so much more than the things we can buy. So what might be considered worth spending on and or “priceless” is my topic.

Just last night one of our guests asked us how we got started and why Cannon Beach. Lenore, a Northwest native, answered as usual that the first time she brought me to the Oregon coast I told her this is where I want to live some day. It took us about 15 years to get here but we did it. Someone usually asks if we have any regrets. Lenore’s pat answer is only one: that we didn’t do it sooner!

Heck we had no idea what this was going to entail and yet we came with the confidence in our desire to be our own boss in the hospitality field. It was clear to us early on that we had a steep learning curve and soon became humbled by business ownership. Such respect and admiration we might never have known had we stayed in our city corporate jobs. The great thing is that every time we greet new guests at the door or welcome back those who have participated before, we still get the satisfaction and appreciation we felt when we opened.

Just being given the opportunity to put into practice the many principles we choose to live by in our very own business has been a priceless experience. It isn’t as easy as we once thought. For example we believe strongly in the principle of sustainability. Not just the way foods are grown and produced but how the producers treat their land, animals and workers. We have learned that being sustainable requires both providing for our employees AND for ourselves. Did we actually think we could do it all without taking time to revitalize and energize our engines from time to time? Though we have moments in every day to enjoy this beautiful place we live and do appreciate the beauty, clean air and amazing people, we haven’t always made sure our personal schedules are sustainable. So with a bit of regret we have asked our editor if we may take a break from writing this column for a few months. We want to give our attention to some new projects, namely the children’s pea patch and the community projects we are already involved in. We have some things to give attention to as with any business nearing it’s fifth anniversary. We are hoping to get our coriander oatmeal cookie to market and providing some home meal replacement products for our visitors. Additionally we have another intern this summer who deserves lots of my attention. Our goal is to return to the Gazette with so many topics we cannot wait to write about them!

We also have been given free rein when it comes to writing these articles and we do appreciate our editors’ confidence and faith. In fact they have told us to promote EVOO in the process. So before we take a break it does occur to me, gratefully, that our customers have been purchasing memorable experiences and learning new skills every time they come to a class. Our Dinner Show, formerly Small Plates with Wines, $89, offers four courses, three of which are full entrees paired with wines, followed by a great dessert. All are presented in smallish portions with the overall satisfaction of a full meal. The objective is for guests to go home feeling happy with three new menus and the skills to create them. We never tire of customers kind words and praises, and are all the more flattered when they come for celebrations.

Some of our customers explore through our classes to see if their avocation and love of cooking might be a good new career move for them. We offer a full day one-on-one class, called Sous Chef of the Day, with Chef Bob and crew for $125. And our Culinary Fundamentals classes can be several days long and are even more personalized to the individuals. Another popular class is the Artisan Bread making class for $75 where students learn a skill that pays back with grocery savings as well as the sheer satisfaction of creating bread!

When it comes to investing in oneself through making memorable experiences, one of our partners, Lexie Hallahan, director of Northwest Women’s Surf Camps, is at the top of the list! Offering fun, skill building, surfing, personal growth and bonding, Lexie’s events do this and so much more while occurring in two places people love to be, the Oregon coast and the island of Kauai. This year she has added a couples and partners weekends. We hope you will visit her website, www.nwwomenssurfcamps.com, to learn more about the experiences she offers. Oh and by the way, we do the organic foods for many of her projects.
Another trend we are noticing is a full on interest in sustainable products, both food and non and the desire to become green. We have corporations asking us for team building because we support sustainable seasonal concepts and we teach it to others. I have done some consulting to the company I worked last to help bring their corporate dining closer to being seasonal, sustainable/local, and organic.

Maybe it is the turndown economy that is actually helping people to focus on what can be done in our own back yards–organic gardening for one thing. Cannon Beach is in the process of forming community gardens, and I am working with our elementary school to get a small pea patch started for children to experience the growing, cultivating and cooking of their harvest.

Speaking of kids, we have started a class for the local kids after school once a week for twelve weeks. They have made up a menu for their cafe named by them, “Want S’more Café.” By now they have made from scratch every dish on the menu. Each week they take a new role–server, cook or customer–in running a café. Eventually everyone experiences all the roles, and everyone eats every class. Before long these 8-11 year old little chefs will have cooked, set tables, waited tables, ordered and paid for their snacks and tipped out their fellow players and will almost be ready for the public. Well at least their parents and friends. Thanks to Helene Hal and _____ for volunteering their help with our kids café.

On the retail front, more and more culinary tools and gifts are coming in stamped, “Designed in Germany (or France, or US) but made in China.” We find this trend to be escalating over the past year and a half. The challenge to find made in USA has been building even longer, and so much is outsourced. You would think pricing would have remained stable but not so. We are seeing more customers who are conscientiously choosing not buying items made in China. With this new reality, we are more determined to find local and artisan made products. Our shop is small but we are proud our made in the Northwest gifts and food section is growing. For example we carry hand lathed saltcellars, rolling pins and cutting boards by Will Leroux, Executive Chef for Martin Hospitality in Cannon Beach. He creates this useable art in his spare time.

In closing we invite readers to think of EVOO whenever they need a memorable experience, be it for a girls’ weekend out, an anniversary, landmark occasion, graduation, birthday, engagement, marriage, reunion and most importantly a weekend just to relax and re-energize, we would be honored to help make it so.

See you again soon in the pages of the Gazette. Bob Neroni


MARCH 17

March for me has meant many things. The hope of spring starting early, beginning to decide on what to plant in our garden, unwrapping the patio furniture and of course, St. Patrick’s Day. As a youth, the celebration in Cleveland, meant taking off of work to attend one of the largest parades in the Midwest. The city would put on its green and begin serving corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and Irish beer at daybreak. Although a real holiday with its roots tied the Roman Catholic Church, as a teen it just seemed to be about food and drink, the unfortunate demise of many a holiday. Today as a chef, I not only respect its origins but work to create dishes that truly reflect its humble beginnings. The use of corned beef dates back to Ireland as a diet staple and Irish Americans used it as a breakfast meat to replace Irish bacon as a much cheaper form of protein, still resembling their native product. My research revealed that corned beef was introduced by their Jewish neighbors on the lower east side of New York. Today along with cabbage and potatoes it makes for a hearty meal any time. So what makes good corned beef? First is the salt. The term “corned” refers to the “corna” or grains of coarse salt. Kosher salt is the primary ingredient in my brine, along with garlic, mustard and brown sugar. The secret to an authentic product is the slow brining process followed by curing time; brining being a wet saline preparation and curing being a dry rub without water. Getting right into it my recipe follows:

Corned Beef Brisket from Scratch
Brine:
1 gallon water
8 ounce sea salt
4 ouncelight brown sugar
1 ounce pickling spice
6 pounds brisket

Cure Dry Rub:
3 each bay leaves
1 ½ ounce garlic, minced
1 ounce mustard seeds, crushed
2 ounce black pepper, cracked
2 ounce red pepper flakes
1/4 ounce coriander seeds, crushed

Combine the brine ingredients into stainless steel pot and bring to a boil, dissolve completely; cook for an additional 5 minutes; remove and cool completely; place the beef in the mixture and cover, ensuring meat is submerged; refrigerate, keeping the meat in the brine for 7-14 days. Turn the beef everyday to ensure even brining; ensure the meat is submerged each time; remove from wet brine and drain.

Combine dry ingredients and rub into all areas of the beef; place beef in sealed bag with air removed for 5 days in refrigerator. Remove beef from dry rub bag; place into a large pot; cover the meat with fresh cold water. Bring to simmer and cook for 2 1/2 – 4 hours until tender to the fork.
Slice and serve.

As the recipe states, this is a long and dedicated process with a minimum commitment of 12 days. The original beef was only dry cured with large grains of salt to preserve the meat since refrigeration had not yet been introduced. As techniques and cold storage became available the recipe morphed to include other methods of preparation while preserving the original flavors. In supermarkets today you can find small briskets or other tough cuts of beef sealed in a bag with pickling spices and other aromatics. The manufacturer has taken most of the work out of it since the meat has been curing for some time before the package was shipped. The downside to this is that you have no control over flavor since the meat has taken on the characteristics of the ingredients it has been sitting in. Whether it is mine or the manufacturer’s recipe being used, keep in mind that we are dealing with a tough cut of beef. Specifically located below the chuck and just above the shank, this muscle meat needs to be tenderized before consuming. Salt not only preserves the meat but aides in breaking down the fibrous muscle. Salt water slowly opens the cell walls of the muscle allowing for the tenderizing to begin and while this process takes place, flavors slowly take hold. The process finalizes in cooking. A slow covered bath finishes the breakdown of muscles tissue and forces the aromatics into the meat. The resulting product is tender and juicy. Understanding the basics allows us to play with the ingredients. For instance, replacing some of the water with beer, cider or flavored stock is one option. Mixing up the traditional spices of mustard, coriander and garlic to include a curry or Middle Eastern spice or even espresso begins to create new exciting recipes. However, the basics are just that. Keeping it simple keeps it true to form and allows the sides to do their job. Most agree that cabbage and potatoes are a must. A simple head of cabbage and baby redishes or fingerling potatoes work well. As the brisket is finishing its last hour in the liquid, add your potatoes and cabbage cook for 30-40 minutes.  Both vegetables will take on the characteristics of the meal while preserving their individuality. My Jewish traditions kick in at this point with a splattering of fresh horseradish overall. If that is not your thing than a good coarse mustard will suffice. For the finish I have to fast forward to a recipe we discovered this past year that is not authentically Irish but good nonetheless. A Guinness Float! In a tall glass put 3 scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream and slowly add a bottle of Guinness. You can also make this into a milkshake or as I like it with the addition of a shot of espresso. So whatever your reason for celebrating March 17, remember to include good friends, good music and your own freshly made labor of love corned beef!


Mardi Gras in Cannon Beach?

My wife and I have a bucket list. All the things we want to do yet! And this time of year we think about our fantasy of being in New Orleans in the middle of the celebrations. Of course we want to enjoy the parades, the jazz and seemingly free flow of festivities. But as foodies, we really want to taste the foods of New Orleans first hand—Creole, Cajun, and Acadian. Then it occurred to me that I could increase my knowledge and experience with this cuisine right here in Cannon Beach. I just had to pick up the phone and call chef John Sowa.

Locals may already know that besides his current success as owner/chef of Café Sweet Basils here in Cannon Beach, John previously opened and managed Lil’ Bayou in Seaside for seven years before settling into Cannon Beach. I spoke to John to find out how he became connected to the cuisine of the bayou and he had a lot to tell me.

John’s first exposure to New Orleans was during his stint in the army. In the late 60’s he was stationed in Georgia. On leave one of his platoon members invited a group of his buddies to Louisiana. As John puts it, “I fell in love with the cuisine immediately.” He was there when the king of Cajun, Paul Prudhomme, was at the helm. Not to pan TV’s Emeril Lagasse, John says, because Emeril was one of the youngest chefs to take over for Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace.

But being a native New Yorker Sowa ended up back home after the army and settled in Long Island. It was there while working during the day in sales and marketing that he took evening and weekend opportunities to learn the ways of the kitchen. Tony’s Crab House, Busters (in Manhattan), and Main Street (in Long Island) were a few of the restaurants that fueled his passion and gave him the experience to open his first restaurant in 1992. At first he was going to open with a southwestern theme until he hooked up with an old friend, Pete Lutzen, who had worked under Paul Prudhomme and even married into the family, marrying Paul’s niece. It was at Pete’s urging that The Pepper’d Owl was created as a Cajun/Creole dinner house with live Blues, Jazz and Zydeco (a Cajun style with a zippy washboard sound). A good call as the restaurant secured four stars from the New York Times and News Day.

With this success in his pocket, Sowa moved on to one more venture before heading west or rather northwest to Seaside with his wife Deborah, a native of the community. Lil’ Bayou’s tenure is pretty well known to this area and to anyone who has had the pleasure of dining on John’s food.

So what makes good Cajun food? Well to start I had to learn a little about its roots. It begin in Nova Scotia with the French Acadians, who to escape religious persecution from their new landowners, the British, moved to Louisiana. They populated the bayous, marshes and prairies. The food of the area became known as Cajun, which as it turns out is a somewhat bastardized word for the French word, Acadian. Creole cuisine was thought to be the city version of Cajun, derived from the aristocracy of the main cities of the day.

Today however most agree that Cajun and Creole are intertwined. And that the migration of other European cultures to the area brought significant influences. For example the French dish, Bouillabaisse, is said to be the forerunner of Gumbo, the Spanish dish Paella, the predecessor of Jambalaya, and the use of charcuterie and sausages is attributed to the Germans. From my research and speaking with Sowa, one thing that is clear and consistent is the use of butter and pork products. Of course these are two of my favorite flavors, and are perhaps the reason John’s latest venture (Café Sweet Basil) is more mindful of the balanced use of such ingredients. But for the occasion of Mardi gras, let’s bring it on with the real thing.

Here are two of Chef John Sowa’s favorite recipes to make and enjoy with friends. You can watch for these on my family meals coming again this June. Thanks, John, for sharing this romantic and interesting side of your life.

CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA The word Jambalaya comes from the African word “Jamba” which means Ham and the “Ya” is Rice. The French Cajuns somehow put the “la” in there for luck? This serves about 4 main meal portions or eight appetizers.
1 pound of boneless chicken cut into bite size pieces
½ pound chopped Tasso Ham or other smoked Ham. (Tasso is a highly seasoned Cajun product.)
1-Pound Andouille Sausage (In a pinch Kielbasa could be used but is not recommended)
3 TBS Butter
1 Cup Chopped Yellow Onions
1 Cup chopped Green Bell Pepper 1 Cup chopped Celery
(These 3 ingredients are the Trinity of Cajun Cooking add add garlic and you have the Holy Ghost!)
3 TBS minced Garlic
¾ Cup Tomato Sauce
1 Cup chopped tomato
2 ½ cups Chicken Stock
1 ½ Cups Uncooked Rice (converted)

Jambalaya Seasoning
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp White Pepper
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp Cumin
1 tsp Paprika
½ tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp Dried Thyme Leaves
Combine all spices well and set aside

Melt butter in a cast iron pot or heavy aluminum one over high heat. Add chicken and Tasso Ham Stir frequently and scrape bottom of pot. When chicken is almost cooked lower heat to medium heat, add Andouille sausage and garlic. Cook 2 minutes while continuing to scrap bottom of pot. Add ½ the seasoning mixture, ½ cup each of onion, pepper and celery, and cook till vegetables are tender.
Add tomato sauce cook scraping bottom of pot for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining seasoning, remaining vegetables, and chicken stock, stirring well. Bring this mixture to a boil; add the rice and stir together. Reduce heat to med and cover. Cook about 30 minutes or till rice is tender. Remove cover and continue cooking till liquid is just about gone.
CRAWFISH ETOUFFEE This is one of my favorite Cajun dishes and the fresh crawdads become available just around festival time. The word “Etouffee” translates to smother and the it’s the tail meat that is smothered in this wonderful sauce. This recipe makes about 6 servings.
½ Cup chopped yellow onions
½ Cup chopped celery
½ Cup Chopped Green Bell Peppers
1 TBS Minced Garlic
3/4 Cups vegetable Oil
¾ -1 Cups all-purpose flour
3 cups of basic seafood stock (Chicken Stock can substitute in a pinch)
½ pound unsalted butter (2 Sticks)
2 pounds cooked crawfish tail meat (no substitute!)
1 cup finely chopped green onion
4 cups of hot cooked rice

Etouffee Seasoning
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried sweet basil leaves
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
Combine the seasoning mixture

In a large heavy skillet, cast iron if possible, heat the vegetable oil on high heat until smoking, with a whisk gradually add the flour and stir till smooth. Continue stirring until roux is a dark red brown. Care should be taken with this part, as the roux is extremely hot! Remove from the heat and add all the vegetables and garlic (be careful as this may splatter) and ½ the seasoning mixture. Stir until cooked for a few minutes. Return to low heat; slowly add 2 cups of stock whisking till smooth.

In a 4-quart pot melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat, add the crawfish tail meat and chopped green onions cook for 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the roux and vegetable mix and whisk until well combined and smooth. Add the remaining seasoning and remaining stock till you a have smooth silken sauce consistency. Cut remaining sick of butter in to 1 inch pieces, individually melt into the mixture stirring constantly. Serve immediately, with a mound a ½ cup of rice on each plate surrounded by Etouffee.


Recipe for romance

RECIPE FOR ROMANCE
With a couple hours to kill at the airport between planes, I am writing this article as I wait for my flight. Although I enjoy traveling I am much more a homebody, especially when Lenore is there and I am here. I truly appreciate our life together and the relationship we have. Relationships, now there’s a neat segue. With Valentines Day right around the corner and my nostalgia for Lenore, I am in the perfect mood to write this. Valentine’s day, incidentally a day created by the greeting card industry, has early memories of cutting out hearts from a variety of craft papers nervously wondering if my cards and sentiments would be reciprocated. Who cares if we were only in third grade, it mattered! As we matured it became more about flowers, candy and dining out.

Dining in might make more of an impression. Everyone who otherwise never dines out is out to dinner on this night. Prices might be elevated and food is made “cute” to accommodate the theme of the holiday. I know this because I have done that on my own menus past. Now days, I am motivated to create an experience that makes my “date” feel special. And I do mean “date” as on that night Lenore is my date. So guys this is for you. Listen and learn. It’s time to step up and take the V- day challenge to create your own romantic night in your home-restaurant for two. I’ll get to the food in a minute, after we set the mood, table, and timeline.

Remember that in order to make the evening special, your focus is on pleasing your date. The fact that you never cook, might be enough in itself, but this night is all about sparing no inconvenience to you, and rather putting your partner’s needs first! Only you know best what you need to do. You need to detail it out and then follow through. If ironing the tablecloth and napkins are on the list, just do it. You may not care or notice such things yourself, but you know it will add up for her. Candles are a must, but remember not to get the scented ones that interfere with food aromas. Plan to get some flowers—her favorite if you can, so you should be ordering them right now to be certain they are here in time. (For me that is a gardenia.) The table needs to be set correctly and with polished flatware and glassware. If you don’t have decent stemware for the wine, you might consider a purchase of two very nice crystal glasses as part of your gift. And last but for certain extra points, print the menu on a nice place card to set on the table.

Now let’s consider the ambiance. A clean room free of clutter is the only way to go. Run the vacuum before you set the table. And plan for a clean kitchen, which means you will need to clean as you go. Set up a soapy sink of water and drop the pots and tools into it as you go. Put away the ingredients as you finish with them and try to remember where they go. Now consider the background music. A little theme music like you might hear in a Parisian bistro if your menu is French inspired will add to the mood.

Being organized will make you a hero. Believe in the timeline you’ve plotted out to do the shopping, cleaning, table setting, and cooking. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t get rushed. Don’t forget to ask her to be your date, and suggest she do something for herself during the day while you cook.

As for the menu itself, remember that even macaroni and cheese can be special when presented in a romantic atmosphere. But hey gentlemen, if you can actually make mac and cheese, then you can make a French inspired menu like mine. And for the wine, you can find some brilliant examples of local sparkling wines under $25 or even champagne like Veuve Cliquot for under $40.

Stick with your plan and your success is imminent. Call me if this isn’t the most rewarding V-day gift you have ever given. Bon Chance & Bon Appetite!

February 14, 2009
My Valentine Dinner Menu
Fannie Bay Oyster Paired with Horseradish Champagne mignonette
David Hill Sparkling 06
Gratin of French Onion Soup Paired with Rillette of rabbit on grilled pane rustica
Stangland Rose of Tempranillo 07
Coquille St Jacques revisited, Pan seared scallops, bacon, caramelized leek, Verjus butter
Pepper Crusted Strip loin of Beef, Confit garlic and marrow enriched glace &
Beets, fennel, fingerling potatoes with hazelnut & maple vinegar emulsion
Cathedral Ridge Cabernet Merlot 06
Bittersweet chocolate fallen soufflé cake
Vanilla bean cherry custard and French tuile
Caffe Umbria dark roast Arco Entrusca

If you still think all this is over your head—still get her those flowers and bring your date to EVOO for the Dinner Show and enjoy some of my French inspired cooking!

French Onion Soup
2 TBS butter
3-4 cups sliced onions
1 TBS water
2 c chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 TBS apple brandy
½ tsp sea salt
To taste fresh ground pepperand coriander
½ cup heavy cream, heated
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
As needed for garnish, apples, small julienne
Method: In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the onions and sauté slowly until tender and golden brown about 30 minutes. Stir towards the end to ensure onions do not scorch. Add more water if necessary to prevent scorching. Prepare cheese cracker by placing 1 TBS at a time onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart; bake 350 for 10 min At service, stir stock, brandy, and seasoning into the onions. Over medium heat simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cream to taste. Float a cheese cracker on top. Top cheese cracker with small amount of julienne apple. Serve immediately.
PEPPER CRUSTED NEW YORK STRIP
Steak:
4 TBS rosemary, minced
4 TBS parsley, minced1 egg white, frothed with 1 TBS water
2 each New York strip steaks,
6 oz each
As needed sea salt, ground pepper, ground coriander3 TBS vegetable oil
Demi:1 TBS EVOO
1shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, paste
¼ cup red wine
1 cup demi glace
Steak method: combine herbs; brush strip loin with egg white and coat with herbs; season and allow to marinade in herbs for a minimum of 1 hour before cooking. At service, place oil in large sauté pan to heat well; place steaks herb side down and sear well; cook 21 minute; turn and repeat coking until you reach desired doneness. Sprinkle with finishing salt before serving.Demi method: place oil in heated sauté pan; add shallot and garlic cooking until aromatic; add wine and reduce by half; add demi and reduce by 1/3; remove from heat and strain; adjust seasoning with salt an coriander.
FALLEN CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE CAKE WITH SAUCE ANGLAISE
6 oz bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
6 TBS salted butter
1 tsp espresso powder
3 eggs¾ cup sugar
5 TBS plus 1 ½ tsp cornstarch, sifted
1 qt. half and half cream
10 each egg yolks
10 oz sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Method: combine chocolate, butter and espresso in double boiler; melt. Meanwhile whisk eggs and sugar until sugar dissolves; whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture; gently whisk starch until blended – do not over whisk.Line a sheet pan with parchment; place six, 4” diameter by 1” high rings on the paper; divide batter between rings coming up ¾ of the way; bake at 325ºF for approximately 10 – 15 minutes or until tops have formed crusts and cake is soft to touch.Anglaise: Heat cream to a boil; reduce to simmer. Meanwhile, whisk yolks with sugar until frothy; temper yolks with cream until completely incorporated; place mixture back onto stove using a double boiler; heat until cream is thick enough to coat a spoon; cool in an ice bath for approx. 1 hour before using.


SUPERFOOD SUPERBOWL STYLE … foods like this are the touchdowns on my field of culinary guy foods

As I begin to write this article I am guessing that readers may expect me to elaborate on my best gourmet recipes to match up to the teams for this season’s super bowl get together. Like something Philly cheese to hit at least a couple teams for the great state of PA. In fact when I was chef at the Seattle Sheraton, I had the privilege of going to Minneapolis for the Super bowl back in 1992 along with Steve Rebel, former quarterback, to represent Seattle Seahawks. Not that they were playing, but rather it was part of the festivities that year. Chefs were paired with a player to make a dish that represented their cities for a big celebrity party the night before the game. It was a great time for Lenore and I and the first time we had been to the twin cities with their sky bridges and icehouses, but we didn’t get to go to the game. Tickets were sold out! Good thing I am not a die-hard fan of the game!

And that is precisely the problem. I have never really been a football fan and I really couldn’t name the teams in contention this year. Oh yeah, I will be tuning in and I will enjoy halftime with Bruce Springsteen and seeing the hyped up commercials, too. Suffice to say my best memories of super bowl Sundays past are all about the food and beverages. Admitting to be somewhat intimidated by the game itself and exposing my lack of interest, I know I am risking my reputation as a guy. But I usually watch the game anyway, and enjoy some of my favorite foods and drinks. And since my manhood is on the line, I am prepared to dish up some super guy worthy foods for this year’s event.

You see, I am a lover of pub food and all things loosely labeled “junk.” To me super bowl food should be guy-food. Now not to offend the women, but we are talking about real guy stuff! Foods that contain dark ale, plenty of cheese and hot stuff. Lots of meat especially beef as the star, always served with condiments in squeeze bottles. Yeah. Take my dawg meatballs with grilled onions and spicy ketchup. I do also invite chicken to the party. Bring on the fire hot chicken wings, (go KFC). Cheese you say—mmm, layers of it baked with nachos and jalapenos! Oh and dips are a must. My version of a favorite French onion dip with tons of chopped up caramelized onions, leeks and shallots, beef stock, all whipped into smooth sour cream topped with raw chopped onions and served with hearty ridged giant potato chips or oven roasted potato skins. Give me a bowl of chili that has so much shredded beef, beans would be embarrassed to show up. Oh yeah, I’m there! Or what about a thick rare roast beef hoagie covered in sautéed sliced mushrooms and how about that the “dipping liquid?” Let’s just say it’s thick, rich, dark and deep. My version starts with hearty beef broth from slow roasted bones that is reduced along with rich dark ale, some earthy fresh herbs and finished with a streak of fresh horseradish. I could yell all day for either team munching on this version of a French Dip. And how about bringing some razor clam fritters to this party? Catch em, clean em and cook em tender ahead of time, then shape em and fry em up! Serve with a dip of raw garlic aioli with red pepper flakes. Yes sir, foods like this are the touchdowns on my field of culinary guy foods.

I could create a meal by going to the supermarket, too, especially the chips and beer isles, and a brief stop at KFC on the way home. But I do get a kick out of making my favorites from scratch and of course an upgrade on the beer by stopping at Bill’s. My manly menu might look like this:

Bill’s Duck Dive Pale ale – lot’s of it
Lightly salted russet baked potato skins with my Not-Lipton-soup onion dip
Homemade corn chips with three-pepper salsa with Avocado-achiote relish
My version of fire fried chicken wings & celery hearts served with Rogue River Bleu Cheese and Buttermilk sauce
All beef chuck chili, sharp grated cheddar, red onions and sour cream, along with cheesy jalapeno quesadilla
Shaved rare rib roast & sautéed mushrooms on a French bread bun with horseradish laced beefy ale dipping sauce

“Dawgfood” Balls on Hoagie with grilled onions and spicy ketchup

For the gals if they dare to show, I’d throw in some roasted veggies with a sesame wonton chips and curried aioli dip (not in a squeeze bottle)
Dessert – Banana splits with Haagen-Dazs karamel sutra ice cream, chewy brownies, peanuts, hot fudge and for the ladies, brandied cherries & whipped cream

Most of these recipes can be made or par-made a day or so ahead of time. But remember, for me it’s all about the food, so I am usually cooking with the super bowl on the tube much the way anyone else might be cooking while listening to the stereo playing in the background. As I finish and serve a course, I can’t wait to get started on another!

Want to join me? See you in my kitchen!

POTATO CHIPS
1 qt. Vegetable oil 1
# Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thinas needed sea salt and coriander
Method: heat vegetable oil to 365°F; meanwhile slice potatoes on a mandolin and pat dry on paper towels to remove any moisture; fry until golden brown, being careful to stir constantly during cooking to ensure even browning; remove to paper towels for draining; season and serve. Note: if chips become wilted you may bring back by placing on a sheet pan in 350°F oven to re-crisp for a few minutes.
POTATO SKINS
4 baking potatoes, baked, cooled and cut in halve, potato meat scooped out and saved for another use EVOO as needed to coat potato skins.Salt pepper, red pepper flakes½ cup parmesan cheese, grated Method: Cut potato skin into strips about 6-8 per potato. Coat with light EVOO, seasonings, and parmesan cheese. Bake 400° F until they are crisp and brown about 10-12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve with favorite dips or sour cream.
NOT LIPTON SOUP ONION DIP
1 cup leeks, sliced
2 cup onion, sliced
½ cup shallot sliced
4 cloves garlic, paste
1 TBS beef glace (or reduced beef stock)
dashes Tabasco to taste
as needed sea salt, pepper and coriander
4 cups sour cream
1 bunch green onions, minced
Method: combine onions and shallots and place into dry pan on medium heat and cook until they brown. Cool thoroughly before blending with remaining ingredients except raw onion. After adding sour cream refrigerated at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Add green onions on top for garnish. Serve.
AVOCADO AND TOMATILLO RELISH
2 Serrano chilies
10 each tomatillos, cleaned
2 cloves garlic
1 TBS white vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocado, diced
½ cup white onion, mincedas needed sea salt, pepper, coriander and achiote pepper to taste
Method: place chilies in water and bring to boil and cook for 5 minutes; add tomatillos and cook an additional 3 minutes; drain and place in blender with garlic and vinegar – puree; remove to a medium bowl; add salt, cilantro avocado and onion; adjust seasonings and serve.
FIRE FRIED CHICKEN WINGS
¼ cup Tabasco sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp white pepper
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1# chicken wings, washed, dried
Method: Combine Tabasco, Worcestershire and remaining spices in large bowl. Remove ¼ cup of it and set aside for after chicken is cooked. Toss the raw wings with the remaining sauce in bowl until well coated. Refrigerate 30 minutes to marinate. Remove wings and drain of marinate. Discard marinade. Toss marinated wings in flour to coat lightly. Fry in vegetable oil heated to at 375° F. Fry for approximately 5 minutes or until chicken reaches 170°F. Remove to clean bowl; pour remaining Tabasco sauce over wings. Adjust salt and serve immediately with the Bleu cheese dressing and Celery hearts.
ROGUE RIVER BLEU CHEESE & BUTTERMILK DRESSING
8 oz buttermilk
8 oz sour cream
8 oz mayonnaise
1 TBS garlic paste
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp Tabasco
TT sea salt
2 tsp. black pepper, cracked
TT coriander
Juice of ½ lemon
Method: Blend well to combine. Allow blooming at least 1 hours in refrigerator before serving. Sprits with lemon juice. Adjust sea salt as needed and serve with spicy chicken wings as a dip. (NOTE: this condiment may be placed in squeeze bottle if it blended in a food processor or blender to break up the cheese.)
CHILI WITH MEAT
5# chuck eye roll, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 onion, diced
1 bulb garlic, sliced
3 jalapenos, cleaned, seeded, left halved
1 TBS cayenne
1 TBS chili powdered
1 ½ TBS garlic powder
1 ½ TBS onion powder
2 tsp dry mustard
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 TBS oregano
3 TBS cornmeal
Method: Sear chuck in a small amount of vegetable oil; sear in batches and remove; place vegetables in pan and sauté until aromatic and fond is removed; add seasoning and cook 3 minutes; add tomatoes and bring to a boil; add seared meat and bring back to a simmer; cover and cook approximately 90 minutes or until tender; with fork, pull apart meat. Add cornmeal; cook an additional 30 minutes to blend flavors; adjust seasonings.


MOVIES THAT COOK

Do you ever watch a movie and become fascinated by the food in the story?
I may suffer from the Chef’s obsession, but sometimes I become so intrigued by the food they are making in the film that I forget the plot and just want to get in the kitchen to cook. Lenore and I recently surveyed a group of guests at an EVOO dinner for their favorite food scenes. Here are some from that discussion. Just thinking about them makes me want to watch them again.

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN – Lenore and I first saw this on a flight to London. Full of culture it is about a renowned Taiwanese chef and his daughters. Clearly a successful chef by societies standards, he spends much of the movie trying to impress his grown daughters with his cooking. He even loses his sense of taste, critical to his craft. Alls well in the end, but I don’t recommend seeing this movie without your best take out in front of you. Airline peanuts do not suffice.

THE BIG NIGHT – It’s all about the food, or is it all about the success of a business? The opening scene introduces the quirky brother-owner duo, one the front man and the other master chef, Primo Pilaggi. As the movie opens Primo is alone creating an intricate dish while Tucci waits, pacing for his brother to finish. In this restaurant the food takes way too long to get to the customers and business is falling apart. After much consultation, Tucci’s mentor convinces him that the restaurant needs Louis Prima and his band to come to dinner. Preparations begin and what unfolds is a testament to one chef’s obsessive attention to detail and passion for his craft, and another’s failure to recognize when it’s time to move on.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES – With a cast including Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson you know you are in for an enjoyable ride. What you don’t expect is great barbecue and southern recipes throughout. Very much a period piece, set in the 1930’s at the Whistle Stop Café, the movie explores women in the south and what true friendship can endure. A movie I still think about when frying green tomatoes and especially remember the best line of the movie, “its all in the sauce.”

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE – a romantic story of a fictional family set in the early 1900’s, in Mexico. It covers two decades of life, love and food. Young Tita spends most of her childhood in the kitchen with the family cook, learning the craft. Tita falls in love. Her mother denies her marriage, and besides, her older sister is betrothed to the man Tita loves. Because she is oldest, tradition requires her to remain in the house as her mothers’ caretaker. Tita vents her frustration through cooking and her emotions are felt in the meals created, especially when making her sister’s wedding cake.

CHOCOLAT – In the 1950’s the main character (Juliette Binnoche) is a single mother who brings her daughter to a tranquil French village. The quite town suits her just fine as she opens a chocolatierre, just as lent begins. Being a time of fasting and restraint, the towns mayor attempt to overcompensate for his miserable life, makes it his mission to oust the chocolate maker as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the newcomer demonstrates her tenacity and skills, and even gets into the villagers lives, learning their preferences for chocolates and gaining their patronage. As with all great food movies, there is life, love (in this case with Johnny Depp) and good eats. The plot is one of fantasy that leaves you beliving and turning to your favorite box of chocolates.

BELLA MARTHA (MOSTLY MARTHA); recently remade as NO RESERVATIONS. It takes place in Germany where chef Martha Klein rules supreme. God forbid any diner queston the quality of their entrée. Martha’s passion and need for control is tested when her sister dies in a car crash leaving her 8 year old daughter for Martha to raise. Motherhood proves more challenging than expcted until Martha’s new Italian cook comes into the picture. Martha’s overbearing and intimidating ways soon melt away allowing her vulnerability and playful side to show. I particularly enjoyed the realism in this working kitchen but definitely liked the original better than the remake.

RATATOUILLE – Okay, I probaly don’t even have to go here since it is so recent, but as a chef I enjoyed the familiar portrayal of a professional kitchen. Set in France the star is Remy the rat, who has a passion for fine food and finds himself uprooted from the countryside to the sewer just below a famous restauarant, owned by his idol chef. The story unfolds as Remy gets his shot at culinary freedom while teaching an unlikely cook named Linguini. Between relationships, turf wars and smart culinary jargon, this movie is a whole bunch of fun and honestly my favorite movie that year.

Then there are the movies that are not really about food but hard to imagine with out it. Take MOONSTRUCK, for example, where almost every scene takes place in a restaurant, bakery or home kitchen, and I being both Italian and romantic find the final scene where the family gathers around the kitchen table over oatmeal quite essential to its plot.

There are isolated food scenes from movies too, that do nothing but make a huge impact. For instance, whenever I cook hard boiled eggs I think of COOL HAND LUKE. And most people remember WHEN HARRY MET SALLY’s delicatession scene that wasn’t really about the food, and for me, memorable because it’s my worst high maintenance customer nightmare. And lastly the scene where one shared strand of pasta leads to an innocent first kiss between the LADY AND THE TRAMP is a sweet classic that I’m sure the child in us all remembers whenever we eat spaghetti and meatballs.

So mix up some popcorn and tell us your favorite food scenes from the movies. Send your thoughts and even better, your recipes inspired by a movie to info@evoo.biz Here are a couple of my recipes named for the movies – Enjoy!

BIG NIGHT – Ravioli
3 cups AP flour
1 tsp sea salt
5 eggs
3 -4 TBS water, more or less as needed
1# duck confit*
Chicken stock as needed to cook ravioli
2 cups parmesan cream – see recipe
Method: Combine flour and salt in large bowl; make a well in center and add the eggs and most of water; work the dry and wet together and add enough water to make a moist dough; remove to board and knead for 10 minutes; cover with a towel and allow to rest for 1 hour. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll through pasta machine gradually to lowest setting. (Pasta should be thin, #8 on our machine) On one side of a long sheet, place-filling 1 in apart using a small spoon; moisten edges with water and fold noodle over filling to cover and seal using pasta wheel or fork.
For service: boil raviolis in salted chicken stock until they float. Drain well; Place on top of cream sauce and garnish with more duck and apple chutney, if desired.
Note: duck confit and apple chutney can be purchase at many specialty stores such as Whole Foods or Zupan’s.

Parmesan cream for ravioli: Reduce 4 cups of cream to 2 cups; stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt, white pepper, and coriander.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES with Garlic-Dill Aioli
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp cayenne
2 cups buttermilk
4 ea green tomatoes, sliced ½”
As needed vegetable oil to fry
Method: set up a breading station by combining panko and seasonings in a container appropriate to hold panko and tomatoes; place buttermilk in breading pan next to panko mixture; place a slice of tomato in panko with left hand and cover completely and evenly with crumbs – remove with left hand and dust off completely; place in buttermilk and coat well using right hand –remove and allow to drip over pan, using right hand; place back in panko to double coat tomato; remove to parchment lined pan and refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes before cooking.
Place oil in large sauté pan and heat until oil begins to haze; add tomatoes and cook through, browning on both sides; remove to paper towels to drain; serve immediately – adjusting salt as necessary.
GARLIC-DILL AIOLI
4 cloves roasted garlic
3 egg yolks, room temp.
½ cup EVOO
½ cup grape seed oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp fresh dill
Method: mash garlic into a paste; add yolks and whisk well until light and fluffy; add oils in a steady stream, whisking constantly; add juice and chives; adjust seasoning with sea salt and coriander; reserve chilled.

CHOCOLAT – HOT CHOCOLATE LACED WITH DARK RUM
6 oz heavy cream
12 oz whole milk
¼ cup salted butter
2 TBS sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 oz good bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
8 oz sweetened whipped cream
2 tsp dark rum
Sprinkle of nutmeg Method: place all ingredients except chocolate into heavy bottom sauce pan; bring to simmer. Add chocolate until completely melted and absorbed. Ladle into cups; garnish as desired. Suggested size serving: 4 oz as this is very rich
To Garnish: (pick one or a couple)
1. Float whipped cream on top
2. Add splash of dark rum
Sprinkle of nutmeg, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.


MEDITERRANEAN DINING

I am struck by the number of times over the years that I have been asked to explain my style of cooking. It is not that I don’t know but rather that I struggle with putting it into words. Lenore and I promote the benefits of eating in the Mediterranean style. But that doesn’t quite describe our style of cooking because the word Mediterranean in the mainstream is frequently associated with Greek, and though we love Greek cuisine, our “style” isn’t. Of course we called ourselves EVOO after extra virgin olive oil, because it’s the oil I choose to use most of the time.
This year we have embarked on a rather daunting task that has both of us awed by the amount of preparation required. Hats off to those who have written their own cookbooks! Our publisher wants to know just what our style of cooking is, and so started another awkward attempt to put into words how we prefer to cook! In order to do it justice I found myself going back in time.
In 2001 in Seattle we found a little Italian restaurant overlooking the city that was a little tired and in need of some new TLC. Being sold by owner, we were the only buyers looking. We hired an architect to show us that the remodeling we wanted would work. It was looking good and we were finally going to open the restaurant we had only dreamed about. At the same point in time we had a scheduled trip to Italy; the café owners were fine with waiting until we returned to complete the sale, and so off we went happily on our three-week vacation! In Italy we met up with several of our friends in Florence and they wanted to know about the restaurant. “What’s your style of cuisine?” (There’s that question again), and “What will you name it?”
Lenore summed up that we love cooking cuisines that use olive oil as the preferred fat, and of course Italian food is a favorite. One night during a lovely Tuscan dinner with our friends, the name, Oliva, (olive in Italian) earn the most votes. Check that off our list. The rest of the trip continued our focus on what was waiting at home. We bought some hand-painted Italian pottery that would fit nicely in our café. We learned as much as possible about olives and olive oil, too. It was a wonderful time.
Upon returning to Seattle, we discovered the bank had foreclosed on “our” cafe, sold to another buyer, and we were out. What a lesson to learn—once we got over the shock, we decided it wasn’t meant to be. At that point we took a drastic detour from our plans to find a restaurant of our own.
To mourn our loss of the café, we went to our favorite get-away. We had been weekending in Cannon Beach ever since we moved to Seattle! It was on this particular weekend we decided put the money we saved for our restaurant toward building our beach house. Our spirits lifted and by April 2002 we had found the property, the builder had broken ground and we were in motion to the ocean! A year later our get-away was complete. It was about this time that we also picked up a standard poodle puppy to enjoy the beach with us. We named her Olivia—not quiet the same as the restaurant name but by then, we had really moved on!
Little did we know we would turn our second home into our primary residence. We gingerly entertained the idea of opening a restaurant—but when the concept of a cooking school came up—once again we were in motion.
Again the question surfaced: “What is your style of cuisine?” So once and for all, here is my recipe for what cooking in the Mediterranean style means to me. Think of it as a chunky guacamole—pieces of ideas that make for a tasty experience.

1. Extra virgin olive oil is indeed at the core.
2. Plates are small but complete! Portions are small but flavors are often complicated and quite diverse.
3. Many grains, legumes, and plant-based ingredients are present.
4. Animal proteins are never more than 2-3 oz and tend to represent less than 1/3 of what is happening on the plate.
5. Preference is given in order to fish, shellfish, chicken then red meat.
6. Added touches of bright and bold flavors make for a surprise or contradiction; as with condiments, micro green salads, relishes, chutneys, sorbets and fresh sauces.
7. Plates are textural from soft to crunchy, chewy, crispy to smooth; raw to cooked.
8. Temperatures range from the oven along side something right out of the refrigerator, and all points in between.
9. Wine always accompanies and completes the plate.

Lenore tells me this list is very close to the highly touted Mediterranean healthy lifestyle diet. Studies show people who live in the Mediterranean countries have the lowest rates of chronic disease and the highest life expectancy. Health organization studied these eating patterns to design a Mediterranean food pyramid, which shows the majority of the daily food intake from plant sources: fruits, vegetables, bread, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Processed foods are to be avoided. Locally grown seasonal ingredients are preferred. The fat of choice is olive oil. Other fats in the form of cheeses and yogurt are minimal. Fish weekly and red meat no more than once a month, focusing on leaner cuts. Fresh fruit is the preferred and traditional dessert, avoiding significant amounts of refined sugar. One to two glasses of wine per day with meals rounds out the regime with a large dose of regular exercise (walking) throughout the week, of course.
The lands of the Mediterranean basin include Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, The Middle East, and North Africa. The sea itself touches the shores of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. Historically the cuisines of these places grew out of the fact that the sea is at its heart so no wonder fish and shellfish dominate cuisines. The rough rocky terrains tended to inhibit pasturing cattle, not so much sheep (lamb), which are more prominent, but still used more for special times than daily fare.
Given these same regions with twenty first century changes and influences, and we probably see less of the healthier peasant characteristics of their cuisines. And yet, perhaps after centuries of eating low on the food chain the tradition continues enough, even with modern availability of meats and dairy foods. In addition the trade of spices and the use of spices in its cuisine have significant influence, too. Spices were considered much more than just seasonings and were touted to propel foods to the luxurious, fine and pungent, accolades we still use today. The contrast between then and now is perhaps best seen with dessert that has evolved from simply fruit to the amazing sugary sweets for special occasions and traditional celebrations. For sure, we owe much to the Mediterranean for its purity of ingredients, boldness of tastes, and simplicity of preparations.
I guess I am comfortable now saying that my style of cuisine is to cherry pick from the myriad of Mediterranean dishes, use my locally available ingredients, and put a whole small meal on a plate! Here’s an example of a plate that somewhat replicates the Mediterranean pyramid along with this week’s recipes.
Picture at the base of the pyramid, savory green salad coated lightly with lemon infused extra virgin olive oil. Choose a 2-3 ounce filet of Washington or Oregon wild sturgeon or pacific cod; marinate it in a spicy buttermilk blend for up to four hours and then pan sauté Building on top of the fried fish is a large dollop of rustic hummus topped off with warm minted sesame seed vinaigrette over quickly sautéed julienne carrots. Wine: Abacela Syrah. Dessert: Baked figs with Grilled blood oranges, Ice wine Sabayon and Candied walnuts

PANFRIED STURGEON
Seasoning:
2 1/2 TBS paprika
2 TBS salt
2 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS black pepper
1 TBS coriander
1 tsp ground mustard
1 TBS onion powder
1 TBS cayenne pepper
1 TBS dried leaf oregano
1 TBS dried thyme
1-2# sturgeon steaks, block cut 3-4 oz each
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
As needed vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour Method: In a medium bowl, combine spices and herbs; mix well and reserve. Or, purchase a blend with similar ingredients.
In a large bowl, gently toss the sturgeon with 1½ tablespoons of the spice mixture; add the buttermilk and let marinade under refrigeration for 1 hour.
Preheat enough oil in a large sauté pan to fill the bottom ¼”; heat to almost smoking. Combine the flour with1 tablespoon of spice mix in a bag; remove the sturgeon pieces from the buttermilk and add to the bag in batches, tossing to coat with the seasoned flour; shake to remove any excess breading and place on a parchment lined sheet pan until ready to pan fry. Add to the hot oil in batches and cook, turning, until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with spice mix.
1 lb serves 3-4
2 lbs. serves 4-6

RUSTIC HUMMUS
8 oz garbanzo beans, cooked
2 ea garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS parsley, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
TT Sea salt
½ cup EVOO Method: Rough chop garbanzo beans. (You may use blender or food processor, but we like the texture better this way.)
Blend all ingredients. Taste as you go. Flavors will intensify as they sit. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

MINT VINAIGRETTE OVER BLANCHED JULIENNE CARROTS
1 shallot, minced
2 clove garlic minced
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup mint, finely chopped ¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup EVOO
2 cups match stick cut carrots
As need e sea salt, pepper and coriander
Method: combine shallots, garlic, parsley, mint and vinegar in a medium bowl; whisk to combine; place bowl on a towel for control and begin drizzling in oil while whisking to combine; adjust seasonings with sea salt, pepper and coriander. Blanch carrots 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain well, toss with vinaigrette and serve.

BAKED FIGS (PEARS MAY BE SUBSITUTED) serves 4
8 ripe figs or 4 small Anjou Pears, whole unpeel, pricked with fork
2 TBS honey
Juice of 1-2 oranges
Zest of 1/2 orange
2 TBS brandy
2 bay leaves
Method: Place upright in baking dish. (prick to allow juice to penetrate better). Pour remaining ingredients–should cover 1/4″ in bottom of pan. Cover with foil and bake 25-30 min until fruit is tender. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with sugared walnuts.

SUGARED WALNUTS
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup walnuts
Place in heavy bottom sauté pan over medium high heat. Move walnuts around in the pan to coat well while sugar is melting. When lightly brown about 4-6 minutes, remove to silicone sheet lined pan to cool at room temperature. When cool break apart and serve. Note: nuts will still have sugar granules.


SIGNS OF FALL! By Robert Neroni

Orange, yellow, dark and pale green, red-orange, white and gray are the colors of fall, and they also make up the spectrum of colors representative of the varieties of a popular squash named Cucurbita, better known as pumpkin. We see the bright orange spheres of the most common American variety everywhere by now on porches and in windows, and I for one, welcome the fall for its colors and its flavors that signal for me the time for comfortable traditional recipes.
Native Americans first roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them very simply. But it was the early American colonists who took the first steps toward the Pumpkin pie we know today. They sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey; then baked them in hot ashes. Pumpkins are now grown everywhere in the world, and no surprise, Illinois leads the US production with over 4000 acres planted just for their local manufacturer of canned pumpkin, Libby’s.

The traditional pumpkin is used for its robust fruit and seeds toasted into pepitos, and both seeds and flesh is rich in potassium, fiber, and vitamin A. The flesh can be roasted, grilled, steamed, sautéed, baked, squeezed for juice, and pureed and such variety of uses is very appealing to us chefs. Savory or sweet, I have used the seeds for garnishes, brittles, and sauces, like Romesco, a Spanish style ground nut/seed condiment used with meat and chicken. I use pumpkin seed oil too made from the pressed and toasted seeds in gnocchi and a garnish for apple pie, and even vanilla ice cream. Young sugar pumpkins, peeled seeded, accompany any fall menu just as a steamed or sautéed vegetable side dish.

I would guess that most Americans still use canned pumpkin to make their Thanksgiving pies, because cooking the fresh meat by either roasting or steaming might seem like too much trouble for the results. Home steaming yields a much more delicate flavored puree than the canned counterpart. I still prefer the flavor of the canned pumpkin for pies and find that roasting rather than steaming produces a pretty close flavor profile. Going to the trouble of using fresh pumpkin, I usually make more than needed for pie, so I freeze some for later use. Pumpkin is over 90% water and once thawed it will need to be strained before using as a baking ingredient. I am more likely to use the pumpkin I freeze for pasta, breads, muffins, scones, soup, and ice cream than for pie.

Just remember anything you already do with other varieties of squash you can do with the pumpkin. I am such a fan of Libby’s pie recipe that I rarely stray far, but the recipe for Pumpkin cheese tarts here is worth it. I like chunky pumpkin risotto for a one dish vegetarian dinner, too. And the French toast recipe is Lenore’s that she serves only in the months of October and November! Enjoy!

ROMESCO SAUCE (Spanish topping for chicken or roasted meats)
4 TB EVOO
2 slices white bread, crust removed
3 dried Ancho peppers, soaked, seeded and minced
1 small fresh jalapeno pepper, split in half
3 whole cloves garlic
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitos
1/2 cup almonds, roasted
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt
1 TB finely chopped fresh parsley leaves Method: In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add the oil; when the oil is hot, add the bread and fry until golden on each side, about 2 minutes; remove and set aside; in the same pan, add the peppers; sauté for 1 minute and remove from the pan; reserve the oil; in a food processor, combine the peppers and garlic; process until a paste forms; add the reserved fried bread, tomatoes, pepitos, and nuts; process until smooth; add the vinegar, 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved oil and season with salt; process for 15 seconds add the parsley and process for 5 seconds; remove and store in an airtight container under refrigeration until ready to use.

PUMPKIN CHEESE TARTSCrust: 2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
8 oz butter, cubed
½ cup sour cream
Filling: 6 oz cream cheese
¼ cup thick pumpkin puree
1 large egg
½ cup brown sugar or maple sugar
½ tsp orange zest, minced
½ cup powdered sugar, unsifted
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
Method: Place the flour, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl; stir to blend; Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles split peas; stir in the sour cream with a fork; work the dough into a ball. Divide dough into 6 balls for tart size or 12-18 for miniature muffin pan tarts. Refrigerate for 4 hours before using.
Filling: process all of the filling ingredients in a food processor bowl until mixture is smooth and blended. Pat the pastry into bottom and sides of tart pans or muffin pans. Spoon filling into shells; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Adjust rack to lower third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Bake 12-18 minutes or until firm. Cool 10 minutes before removing to wire rack. Sift powdered sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on tops. Serve room temperature.

PUMPKIN RISOTTO, a vegetarian dinner option
3 TBS EVOO, plus additional as needed
½ cup onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup Riesling
½ cup pumpkin puree
5 cups (approximately) pumpkin water, vegetable stock, hot or other favorite stock
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 ea lemon zested
1 cup Romano cheese, shredded
4 TBS salted butter
Sautéed sweet fresh pumpkin, see recipe Method: place oil in large sauce pan on moderate heat; add onions, garlic and rice – cook till vegetables are aromatic and rice becomes slightly translucent; add wine and cook until it is almost absorbed; add the puree and ½ cup of stock; stir to combine; continue adding ½ cup of stock at a time, stirring to incorporate; wait until each stock addition is absorbed before adding more; when most of the stock has been added, add the salt, pepper, coriander and zest to the risotto with the remaining stock, stirring throughout; fold in the Romano, butter and cooked sugar pumpkin; adjust seasonings.
Pumpkin: 4 TBS salted butter, 2 small sugar pumpkins, peeled and diced (1/2 to 1 inch), dash nutmeg and cardamom –Method: heat butter until frothy; sauté pumpkin till tender. Fold into risotto at last minute and season with more sea salt, pepper, coriander, if needed.

PUMPKIN FRENCH TOAST, a fall favorite of our Omelet 101 class.
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
¾ cup sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
8 thick slices day-old bread
As needed powdered sugar
5 TBS butter

Method: place eggs, yolk and sugar, pumpkin and pie spice in large bowl, whisk to combine; add vanilla, milk and cream; mix to combine; soak bread slices thoroughly and remove to platter; dust with powdered sugar; place butter in sauté pan and place bread, sugar side down in pan to brown and cook; dust each with additional sugar before turning; add additional butter as needed; serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or sour cream.
Optional toppings; vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or sour cream


Napa Valley Calling, part 3, The Food!

It was our first night, before the others arrived, and we had arranged to stay with friends who moved from Seattle Tacoma area to Calistoga two years ago. The four of us walked from their house to Brannan’s restaurant in downtown Calistoga. The dining room was air-conditioned against the day, and we were guided to a window seat. By the time our appetizers arrived, the floor to ceiling accordion hinged windows pushed open creating an almost sidewalk café and before we knew it we were dining al fresco in the evening valley breeze. We grazed the appetizer menu with calamari fritto-misto, Ahi tuna tempura roll, Chipolte corn chowder, and potato-herb gnocchi with ratatouille. Our entrees included a beautifully grilled pork chop with seared pork belly and greens, a chili pepper crusted chicken with red quinoa with figs, Diver scallops with yellow corn risotto and a sautéed halibut with capers and an herb vinaigrette. Our wine choice: Summers Cellars Charbono—a relatively unknown grape variety being produced in limited qualities in California. It seems to love the hot regions where the swing between day/night temperatures are greatest, thus allowing for enough acid retention during ripening.

All dinners there after were eaten in our rented cottage with each couple taking a turn. It was done more for the fun and companionship than for a serious culinary effort, but despite our intention, all meals were better than most! Marty who I have written about before prepared his chicken piccata, a lemony favorite, and had enough that Alice made up lemon chicken and vegetable pasta with it next night. Alice has very creative culinary knack for putting flavors together. She and I are often compared for being a little out there when we pair flavors, but the difference is she does it from whatever she finds in the refrigerator, a skill I do not possess. And despite my admiration for it, I don’t see myself cultivating the leftover skill.

Of the lunches we ate out, one memorable stop was at the new Napa Style location in Yountville where we tried the Panzanella salad that looked like it was made from canned tomatoes but tasted like fresh. Anyway, this establishment is owned by Food network star, Michael Chiarello, Lenore’s often quoted favorite show. We have a picture of Lenore as Michael in person passed us in the shop. You can read it all on in her face.

The big night we were waiting for was not a night after all. We had bid on the date and time, but the French Laundry could only deliver a Sunday afternoon on that weekend. Lunch at this world-famous North American eatery was as it turns out the same experience as dinner, just done in daylight. With our positive expectations in full force we woke up Sunday morning and dressed a little better than the previous days. We were glad it was cooler that morning, better for the women wearing panty hose and jackets for the men.

Arriving about twenty minutes early gave us time to collect ourselves and take a few pictures in the courtyard. Some of us used the restroom adjacent to the garden where our first impressions were forming: very understated, clean and friendly.

Our hostess offered to take a group picture before escorting us to a table upstairs in one of many small dining rooms. Ours consisted of five tables with crisply starched white linens that seated 18 guests in total. Our table for six was the only round one in the room. Some parties were already seated. A starched white napkin carefully creased in the laundry’s signature fold marked each place setting. An ordinary clothespin sporting the restaurants name and phone number served as a napkin ring. Our headwaiter said his name and welcomed us, as he gathered the pins after we placed napkins on our laps. I thought he was taking them up before we slipped them for souvenirs into our pockets, but he carefully placed them around the small fresh herb bouquet in the center of the table, telling us to feel free to take them with us, as they are our business cards, he said. (And we did). It wasn’t until after we left the restaurant that someone mention that no background music was playing. None of us missed it, and the dining room was quite, though completely full, our party might as well have been alone.

The menu consisted of two full nine-course prix fix options with some courses within each requiring us to choose. All of us wanted to get the first menu sporting several courses with meat and fish, so Lenore volunteered to order the vegetarian menu. Our team of waiters (4 altogether) remembered our choices with seemingly little effort. Before the first course we were given a very small ‘bite” to begin the experience. This full flavored morsel called a gougere is a like a cheese puff, crunch with buttery center that melted away in the mouth. In addition we received a tiny portion of a Gravlox of Scottish salmon with caviar in a petite savory-sesame cone. Lenore’s version was a sweet potato caviar (diced very small) in the same cone vessel. These offerings were designed to tease our palates, and tease they did.

First courses arrived with anticipated flare. The service plates themselves seemed to be designed for the particular item served. Square with a round depression in the center or maybe off center slightly to make more impact. In all our table experienced 18 courses plus a few more since we ordered at least one of every choice available. The entire menu is worth description, for now I will describe only those that were my favorites.

Cauliflower “Panna Cotta” – a concentrate puree of fresh cauliflower bound slightly with cream and gelatin to help hold its shape on the plate. An oyster glaze or reduced liquor to be more accurate was drizzled around and white sturgeon caviar, with its briny nature brought out the earthiness of the entire dish.

Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon” – breaking my PC rule to avoid foie gras, I sampled what was the best I have ever had. Creamy, buttery and yet distinct, the duck liver must have been passed through sieve after sieve to create a completely perfect mouth feel. The brioche, yeasty and toasted far enough to provide carmelization, kept my interest by complimenting each bite. Paired with a green apple relish and crisp radish, the flavor contrasts worked to fill in any gap my palette required to make each bite whole.

Bulgur Wheat Salad – simple and elegant! Pickled pearl onion petals, soy beans, baby tomatoes slightly dried to raisin stage, red radish, garden blossoms and slivers of avocado rounded out this beautiful vegan salad.

“Fricassee” of Hand Rolled Russet Potato “Gnocchi” – anyone who has attempted gnocchi knows that the secret lies in not overworking the dough and knowing when enough flour is enough. These dumplings were slightly firm on the outside but quickly broke under the tooth revealing the creamy potato beneath. Foam of sweet corn, lovage and golden chanterelles created the finishing texture, which satisfied completely.

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster “Mitts” – a little disappointing that not all products were local, however as with all the dishes the execution allowed for forgiveness. Poaching in butter requires the butter to remain emulsified with perfect temperature control throughout the cooking. The food, in this case, lobster, gently cooks while maintaining juiciness and no fat is absorbed. Not as easy as it sounds and there’s a special piece of equipment used in kitchens that do this often. The lobster was served with a Tourne of turnips in light cream, white pomegranate seeds, Sicilian pistachios and cilantro micro greens. The seeds provided a slightly sour component, the turnips, slightly bitter and cilantro – tang; a perfect compliment of flavors for me.

“Boudin Blanc De Poularde” – a sausage of chicken fortified with cream and apple wood smoked bacon. Fingerling potatoes crispy fried in duck fat garnished the top along with local farm fresh figs and a summer truffle coulis. This was not your mother’s breakfast sausage and potatoes!

Grilled Pave of Kuroge Beef From Shiga – Of the various qualities of beef in the world, ‘wagyu’ is one of the most famous and widely known. Ohmi Wagyu is created from Kuroge Wagyu, a breed of Japanese black hair cattle born and raised in the Shiga near Kyoto. Our waiter brought the raw beef to the table so we could witness the extreme marbling of this beef. It requires quick high heat cooking to provide an almost short rib like texture with steak firmness. This option was a supplement to the price-fixed menu, and each couple ordered it so everyone had some. The beef was paired with Akita Komachi rice, grilled hen of the wood mushrooms, sugar snap peas (served in their pods), and a sauce of light soy and ginger.

Dessert for Lenore was my favorite – banana tempura with peanut butter mousse dusted with brut cocoa, two forms of ganache, one creamy and one dried using new age science that crumbled like cocoa puffs.

And just when we thought we were finished, a tired silver vessel was bought with house made candies, followed by a platter of chocolates, each as different as the last and with the instruction – take as many as you like.

After coffee we awaited with trepidation for the check…I won’t disclose the price but suffice to say the little to-go gift packages of homemade shortbread cookies and specially designed chocolates helped ease the pain. Without a doubt, our group agreed that this was the best food experience we had ever had.

As we began to collect ourselves for the journey back to Calistoga, I asked our waiter if it would it be possible to see the kitchen? As with everything this day, our waiter’s attentive response was “yes.” In the kitchen there were at least twenty-five cooks. Since the shifts were passing, there may have been some overlap of day and night crew. The lab atmosphere of the kitchen was humming with orders from different chefs quietly commanding their departments. We saw the lobster poacher in action along with equipment for cooking sous vide style.

There was a wide screen monitor in the center of the kitchen with a live video feed from Per Se, Thomas Keller’s restaurant in NYC. On top of the monitor, a small camera moved slowly from side to side providing a return feed of the Laundry’s kitchen, allowing Keller to view both kitchens at any time from his laptop.

And as one would expect the kitchen was immaculately clean, with every size shiny copper and stainless steel pot/pan lining the walls like culinary soldiers awaiting duty. The cooks paid no attention to our group so clearly our request to see the kitchen was not unique, but for me, the experience was truly special from start to finish and will provide culinary inspiration for many menus to come.

Today’s recipe:

NAPA STYLE PANZANELLA SALAD (EVOO version)
2 lb. ripe local tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
EVOO, as needed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 TBS each chopped fresh basil, tarragon, parsley
Sea salt TT
Several grinds of coriander seed & black pepper
3-4 cups croutons, see recipe
4 cups mixed greens, including at least 1 cup arugula
Fresh parmesan cheese
Method:
Blend tomatoes with onion, garlic, and moisten with EVOO and lemon juice (about 2:1). Add fresh herbs and seasonings. Adjust. Toss over croutons and serve atop a blend of mixed greens or arugula and garnish with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately (4-6)

Croutons: Heat about 3-4 TBS of EVOO in saute pan; toss with day-old ½”bread cubes and coat well. Place onto baking sheet. Sprinkle on 2-3 TBS grated parmesan cheese and bake 350°F for 15 minutes until light brown and crisp outside and still soft inside. Cool then store in air tight container until needed.


Napa Valley Calls, Part 2, The Winery Tours

In part one, I described our food and wine focused itinerary for a brief stay in the Napa Valley. We were driven to see the sunshine, too, and we certainly had eight days of fun in the sun. The outside temperature climbed well past 103F daily and dropped to 55F by morning! Good for the grapes and especially nice for us, the pale faced residents of Oregon’s north coast!

Upon arrival in the valley, our friends, Joan and Frank, who moved from Washington to Calistoga just two years ago, had lunch waiting for us: spicy provolone picante and local pears along with a crispy flatbread pizza, hot, right out of the oven. It was just right paired with an August Briggs Charbono, a rare grape that is cousin to the French Charbonneau. Joan and Frank have become friends with the owners of the August Briggs boutique winery, and said we could tour it if we wanted. Of course we did, and this wine further influenced our choice for dinner that night—It would have to be somewhere whose wine list included more of this intriguing grape.

The next day when everyone was finally gathered at the cottage it was off to help August Briggs with its crush. It is a small winery averaging about 1000-2000 barrels per varietal. The retired owner, parents to the current wine makers, met us in the tasting room. They were recruited to cover tasting room duties since today was a day of “crush,” and all hands were needed to pick, sort, and press. It is a verb, “to crush,” but in the wine world, it is a noun referring to the entire process of harvesting the grapes for wine making.

Our role was to be on the sorting line. Not all crops are sorted by hand. Zinfandel grapes, ready this day for crush, earlier this year due to the long hot summer, were, we learned, an especially good crop and the extra care was warranted. The wine maker and person who inspired the Vineyard’s brand, is Joseph August Briggs, and Joe is pretty well known for cleanliness and attention to such quality details.

Looking into the holding boxes of newly picked grapes we could hardly see a reason to sort. They were extraordinarily perfect! When the first grapes hit the conveyer belt, we were coached as to what we were looking for, and before we knew it our eyes adjusted, as they do from bright light to a dark room, so that within minutes we could pick out the green or under ripe clusters, hard and slightly pink. No mold should be present on the clusters some already looking like raisins. Our little group took turns on the conveyor, stopping occasionally while we caught up. The carefully picked over grapes fell into the automated picker, where the berries (grapes) were separated from the stems.

Occasionally the wine makers poured a clear liquid containing sulfur into the sorted grapes before they were striped from their stems. Sulfur kills potentially offending bacteria and the scrawny strains of yeast naturally found clinging to the fruit. When full, these one-ton collectors were dumped into very large barrels for the first fermentation. It didn’t take that long with so many sorters working the line.

After some time in the fermentation barrels, the grape skins and seeds float up to the top forming a thick cake. A long arm-press at the top of the barrels is employed to push the cake back down into the juice, at least a couple times, to allow the skins and seeds to impart their color and tannins into the juice. From here the juice is strained off and sent to stainless tanks for blending and inoculating with additional yeast, a strain hand-picked by the wine maker, and one that will survive the process until the desired alcohol content is achieved. The natural yeast strains often die when the alcohol content is only 5%, and the goal is to reach about 15%.

I am often struck by the similarities between making wine and cooking. From the time the wine is strained off the leis, (stems, seeds and skins), it is like a stock before it is seasoned, blended, enriched, and made into its unique destiny. The wine maker like the cook must make all sorts of decisions. They must decide to oak or not, what origin of oak, French or American, to toast or not, or how much toast, and decide if and what to blend with the juice. All as in cooking to created the flavor nuances of the final product.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay with the August Briggs team all day. We said our goodbyes and headed over to Schramsberg, the second oldest winery in the valley. It was still only 10:30 am.

Schramsberg sits on a hillside with a two-mile underground-cave system built to control climate and store vast quantities of sparkling wine. Although it started with riesling and gewürztraminer still wines, the new owners who purchased just before prohibition eventually made it into a sparkling wine facility, which is what it is today. Our tour was conducted about a quarter mile into the caves, beneath the ground, where maze-like rows of bottle-lined paths with their dusty lichen ceilings create a mystical sense of being where we shouldn’t be.

At one point we stopped at a widened portion of the path where a large arched area was carved out and filled solidly with stored wines in bottles. This wall we learned was actually 70 rows deep and we could only see the bottoms of the last row, forming the back drop for three hand carved German antique barrels formerly used for the riesling and gewürztraminer. A hand-operated antique riddling rack was there too, poised to demonstrate to us what role riddling plays in making the sparkling wines of today.

Riddling is the term used for moving the bottle in a series of strategic turns and well placed angles for the purpose of moving the spent yeast cells, now forming a row in the bottom of the bottle as it lies on its side. As the wine goes through bottle fermentation, the dead yeast cells collect on the bottom or in this case side and are sticky and well attached. The goal is to move this sticky mass into the neck of the bottle to later be disgorged and until recently, this process was done entirely by hand. It was imperative to move gently in small increments with increasing angles toward the neck of the bottle. Slowly but surely the neck filled with the yeast cells that were frozen and disgorged again by hand. Today, gyroscopic machines move the bottles racked top down in the cages. Some believe that the hand method is still best for the most precious bottlings and it is still employed at Schramsberg. Ramón who is their long time employee still riddles thousands of bottles a day by hand and was there to gave us a demonstration of the rhythmic process, making it look far too easy, and reminding us of the Las Vegas act, Blue Man Group!

At another turnout in the cave a long trestle table held two large lighted candelabras and several flute style glasses awaiting our arrival for tasting. Here we sampled their blanc de blanc and blanc de noir, where we experienced first hand the tiny bubbles forming the creamy texture in the mouth as promised during the tour.

Tasting (and swallowing) made our group ready for lunch before heading to a different valley, the Sonoma, where we followed our GPS instructions to a most unlikely place for a winery. We had arrived at modern-day version of Quonset hut style buildings in an industrial park. We knew we were about to become educated in a new winemaking culture. Highway 12 Winery is a partnership between Michael Sebastiani, Paul Giusto and Doug Offenbacher, and they don’t own property or a single grape vine. As Paul put it, “when you own the milk, who needs the cow.” Their model is to lease a temperature-controlled warehouse and to lease land/grapes from good farms. They buy the wine barrels and equipment for crush and fermentation to make great wine without having to start with a sizable fortune.

And make great wines they did. We sampled ten wines and enjoyed the style differences in each. One became our favorite. It is a Late Harvest Aleatico – the red aleatico grape, cousin to the white Muscat with a rosy, floral, honey-like aroma and flavor that I thought would make a great aperitif to start a meal.

The wine distributors we partner with here in Cannon Beach helped us set up most of the winery tours before we got to the valley. We had no idea that these tours would be so educational. Unlike the general public tours, trade tours give a total picture of the wine making at each property and we picked up plenty of new information to apply back home. We gained friendships too, exchanging phone numbers, and presenting some good Oregon pinots to show our appreciation.

Our last trade tour was at Robert Mondovi, a winery well known and one that many in our group had already done in previous visits to the valley. We wondered if we could possibly learn anything new. To our delight we experienced the best tour of the week! We were in the vineyards, the barrel rooms, the fermentation rooms and the laboratory, too. The techs offered us samples of grape juice that they tasted to gage sugar levels and determine when to crush. In this sterile room the mood was very upbeat as crush is already happening in parts of the vineyard. We saw topography maps supplied by NASA of the vineyards both owned and leased by Mondovi. They show clearly a variance in color of the foliage from plot to plot and we learned the better fruit would be in the lower green to bright yellow range. With this tool and the tasting of the grape juice, winemakers decide when to pick, where to pick, and predict the quality each plot of the vineyard promises. Indeed we saw it all as told by a 19-year veteran, with the title education specialist, whose quite confidence and visible respect for this winery made us laugh and reminded us that it is just grape farming and fermentation after all. We learned many facts and heard enchanting stories that we will use in the selection, service, and teaching about wines back home.

No doubt the highlight of our wine touring was getting to know the real people behind the scenes: the pickers, sorters, pourers, and a riddler named Ramon. I see many parallels between what I do and the guys who went for it without starting with a fortune. The “romance” as seen from the public side is neutralized when we know that wine making is a business that takes down to earth grunt work, kind of like the sweat blood and tears of owning a restaurant. Not so sexy after all and yet thank goodness for those passionate enough to do it! .

Next time, I will describe the meals we cooked at the cottage as well as the centerpiece of our trip, simply lunch at the FRENCH LAUNDRY in Yountville.


Napa Valley calls, Part 1- The anticipation

As I write this week it is rainy, windy and I can’t tell whether it is going to be hot or cold in the next few minutes. A customer was in wearing a soaked sweatshirt and ball-cap from this little summertime squall. And I say, enough! For us there truly is light or in this case sunshine at the end of the tunnel. Lenore and Iare taking some time off just after Labor Day and heading for Napa Valley. For Lenore’s birthday this past May I gave her a night at the French Laundry in Yountville, CA!

We have rented a small cottage in that area and will be joined by friends and family from Seattle, Maryland, Brea, and Calistoga, California. When they heard we were going, they too expressed interest in the critically acclaimed, French Laundry. And no wonder. It is said that its chef-owner, Thomas Keller is serving up the best cuisine in North America. For me, to experience the best is like getting a super charged vitamin of culinary wisdom. It revitalizes my senses and reminds me where the bar is set. The commonly named restaurant resides in a building that was once a saloon and then brothel before emerging as a French steam laundry in the1920’s. At some point it was purchased and turned into a restaurant before Keller bought it in 1994 and created the destination it is today.

The impetus for my interest stems from my quest for well matched flavors, textures and comprehensive sensory dining experiences that leave guests satisfied and happy. For me, Thomas Keller does this like nobody else. Keller is more than a chef’s chef. He is to culinary what Picasso is to art. In an interview once, Keller was asked who his competition was. Alain Ducasse, Keller had stated without reservation. That was the first time I remember thinking this chef is a stand-out. Up to that point, Alain Ducasse had always been for me the Dali Lama of cooking. Ducasse became the first chef to own restaurants carrying three Michelin stars in three cities. Ducasse in his writings introduced me to the concept of exploiting a food product in every way to extract flavors. In any event when Keller named Ducasse, I knew I would follow Keller’s work as well. I thought of him as a peer then. Now I know he is the American version of France’s Alain Ducasse himself.

Of course to design a holiday around one meal is a little extravagant if not extreme. Hopefully by part two of this story, when I share the highlights of the trip, you’ll see why it is more than a meal to us.

Meantime, our wine country itinerary looks like this:
Day 1: We arrive in Calistoga in time to meet friends for lunch in Sonoma. Our first wine tasting tour is that afternoon at Chateau Montelena’s, where the movie, Bottle Shock was filmed. Dinner is in Calistoga with our friends who will pick the location.
Day 2, we head to Napa with stops at Jarvis, Franciscan, Heitz and more if we can. Dinner prepared by friends from Seattle is back at the cottage – al fresco with two more couples.
Our night to cook is Day 3 following a full day —sparkling wine flight at Schramsberg in the morning, followed by a picnic from the St. Helena Market somewhere close to the next wine tour at Hwy 12 Winery in Sonoma.
Day 4 we’ll have only one afternoon tour, Mondovi, with lots of free time to explore boutiques before lunch. And finally, day 5, the long awaited meal at the French Laundry.

And yes, it was truly an accomplishment to finally get these reservations. The French Laundry requires customers to call 60 days prior to the desired date. Each day they field some 700 requests. By the time I got through, I did not get my first choice, but didn’t hesitate to take the one offered. I aspire to enjoy such popularity! – can you blame me?

The night we are cooking at the house we are making whatever vegetables we discover in the St. Helena farmers market. Not knowing exactly what kitchen equipment and cooking might be, or what we might find in the market, we are planning a few recipes in advance that fits the occasion. That night is when all our friends and cousins will be there! Dinner for 10 it is up to now!


G–is for garlic!

Garlic, with its unique flavor and medicinal attributes is more than the runt of the allium family, it’s a contender! Its close relatives include the onion, the shallot, the leek and the chive. It’s characteristic pungent, spicy flavor mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking. A bulb (head) of garlic, the most commonly used part of the plant, is divided into many fleshy sections called cloves. The cloves are used as seed, for consumption (raw or cooked), and for medicinal purposes. The remaining stem and stalk is generally used when the plant is young and tender. When we pick and use the young stems early in its growing period, it helps the heads grow even larger.

The origins of garlic are debated but the consumption is not. China produces around 23 billion pounds annually which acounts for 75% of the worlds output. Gilroy, California purports to be the garlic capital of the world, despite growing only a meager 2% of the world’s crop.

To cook garlic the outer paper-like skin is usually removed and the individual cloves can be sliced, chopped, pasted or roasted whole. In my experience, removing the center sprout, although somewhat time consuming, can prove to be very rewarding. Any bitterness or sensativity in digestion can usually be midigated once the sprout, especially when even slightly green, is removed. My own capacity for digesting garlic is well tested and many times I use raw garlic I can still taste when the sprout was not removed. Most recipes ensure better digestibilty by partial or complete cooking. A happy medium I employ is cooking garlic with the main cooking of the dish, then adding a small amount of raw garlic at the end to increase its impact.

Medicinal garlic dates back to the Egyptians, where they believed it increased strength and work capacity. In the middle ages, adding garlic to wine and drinking it believed to protect you from the plaque. In World War I and II it was used tp prevent gangrene. Today because of their antioxidants, garlic is known to contribute to heart health by decreasing plaque build up in the arteries. And it is said to improve the immune system and protect against cancer.

As much as garlic may enhance health, storing garlic at room temperature in oil (even buttered garlic bread) can be fatal. Botulism spores are prevelent in the soil in which garlic grows and once place in an anaerobic atmosphere such as surrounded by oil and left at room temperatures, the spores reproduce leaving behind the botulium toxin. Of course, commercially made flavored oils have a retardant component to prevent growth of dangerous spores.

Also important when home-canning garlic, even if in an acid soluition, one must be certain of the food safety precautions necessary. For most of our cooking with garlic the danger is midigated by one or or another condition that the prevents spores from growning.

Of the many of types of garlic there is sure to be a favorite. The artichoke garlic is a soft neck variety that is in most supermarkets and is easy to use with its 12 – 20 cloves. Most people are comforatble with this type since the cloves are generally the same size and therefore easily adapted to recipes. Another variety, Lorz Italian garlic, as found at the CBFM, is a surprisingly subtle variety with a twist. As it is eaten the intensitiy builds and subtle turns to pungent. Sicilaino is a variety known for its mellowness. It is most often used raw, and where crunch is a desired texture. It stars well in pestos and salsas.

Elephant garlic is very popular too. Many people think its larger size makes it stronger but the opposite is true. Actually it is less intense and sweeter than most other varities and although a single clove is larger than most bulbs, it takes much more to get the same effect. Likewise when wanting the milder impact it takes less to get there.

While arranging my thoughts on garlic I decided to check out some facts on the internet, particually the words of Harold McGee, my and many others personal source of cooking truth that we count on to answer obsurd and scientific questions on food. Like how to make garlic turn blue! None the less I did surf the internet and am struck by the many debateable topics on this simple but prolific veggie.

To press or not to press! To buy it pre-peeled or peel your own. To smash or chop? What strikes me is the strength of conviction of the people on either side of these questions. And I guess I have my own opinions too, but in the end it probably really doesn’t matter a whole lot in the enjoyment of a dish.

Quickly here are my thoughts on each question: To smash vs slice and chop—both important—I don’t believe the garlic becomes so much stronger when pasted but I do believe it disperses best when it is pasted, and I especially enjoy this for raw pestos. When chopped with a whirling blade of a food processor, I do notice increase in intensity and a strong undesirable flavor results. Slicing doesn’t seem to intensify the strength of flavor.

Purchasing garlic already peeled in brine is not happening for me, period, but I do believe there is a variety of peeled garlic that is out there that does save time and gives good results when it is purchased very fresh and not held refrigerated too long.

And on the point of using a garlic press, I don’t, but not because it isn’t a good way to handle garlic, it is just more time consuming for me first to find the tool, and then difficult to clean it, not to mention the waste—or perceived waste—I seem to throw away more than I use.

In the end, garlic is almost as common in cooking as its relative, the onion, but for me, the enjoyment the dish is enhanced in a way that makes garlic for me a more important and aboslute staple.

Below are some of our favorite recipes – Enjoy!

ROASTING GARLIC
3-4 bulbs/heads garlic
Method 1: Cut heads crosswise and place in shallow oven container of good olive oil. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Cover and back for 1 hour. Cool then squeeze out the garlic cloves.
Method 2: Peel and separate cloves. Place in pot and cover with a good olive oil; heat on medium low heat maintaining for 30 minutes or until cloves are completely tender. Strain, but reserve oil. Use as spread or in recipes requiring roasted garlic.
Always reserve oil roasted garlic in the refrigerated and promptly refrigerated any leftovers.

GARLIC BARBECUE SAUCE
4 TBS EVOO
1 bulb garlic, mashed
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup soy sauce
2 cups ketchup
2 cups honey
1tsp dry mustard
½ cup instant espresso
as needed sea salt and black pepper
Method: place a medium sauce pan over moderate high heat; add oil; add the garlic and sauté gently until golden brown; add cider vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, honey and mustard; stir well; add a pinch of sea salt and coffee. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.

GARLIC PULLED PORK
½ cup vegetable oil
2# pork butt
as needed sea salt, coriander and pepper
2 ea yellow onions, diced
4 bulbs garlic, peeled
1 TBS ground cumin
2 tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Method: heat oil in large sauté pan; season pork with salt, pepper and coriander and place in pan as oil is beginning to smoke. Sear on all sides and remove pork; reserve. Remove excess oil from pan and discard. Place onions and garlic in semi dry pan and cook to coat with pork particles (“fond”) – cook until they are translucent and aromatic; add pork and mix to combine; add remaining spices – stirring to combine; cook for 2 minutes; cover 2/3 with water and bring liquid up to a boil. Cover with tight fitting lid or foil, and place in 400ºF oven. After one hour, remove and turn the pork pieces; cover again and cook for an additional hour or until pork is tender and begins to pull apart. Remove pork from oven. Utilizing 2 forks, tear “pull” pork apart. Simmer shredded pork, uncovered on moderate heat while stirring often for another 30-60 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve.

GARLICKY CHICKEN MUSHROOM SOUP WITH CRAB
2 TBS grape seed oil
2 tsp ginger, minced
4TBS garlic, sliced
24 oz chicken stock
1 TBS grape seed oil
1 cup assorted mushrooms
4 oz grilled chicken, diced
2 ears corn, roasted, hulled
½ tsp light sesame oil
4 oz crabmeat
2 TBS cilantro chopped
2 TBS green onion, minced
Method: heat first grape seed oil in large sauté pan over moderate heat; add ginger and garlic and heat till aromatic; add stock and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile heat second grape seed oil in a large sauté pan; add mushrooms and sauté till they become glossy and slightly cooked; set aside. In the first pan add chicken and corn and heat through; add mushroom mixture and stir to combine; place soup in serving bowls and garnish with crab, cilantro and green onion.

Makes 4 servings

PS. I used this recipe in Maryland where the blue crab was king. I think I like it even better with Dungeness. Be certain to remove all the cartilage.


BERRY EXPLOSION!

It’s the week of the 4th of July so no wonder I am exploding with berries! The Cannon Beach Farmers Market has been going for three Tuesdays now and I have walked away with a flat of strawberries each time. I know that seems a bit greedy because there is no way Lenore and I alone can eat them fast enough especially when they have been just perfect for eating NOW! So that is why I am sharing my berry season strategies with you today.

First and foremost, we like to eat them as they are, fresh picked and at their peak! We like them room temperature or even sunshine warm, as nature intended them to be. So my simplest strategy is to use them as is for a topping on a creamy freshly made shortcake biscuit with some lightly whipped cream. No need to improve upon the shortcake formula—it works as is.

Now I could eat shortcake every week until strawberries are gone, but for spice in life, I am always looking for other complimentary foods to top with these beauties. There’s always cheesecake—our dessert at our first market dinner was cheesecake made with Lisa Jacob’s fresh made ricotta and cream cheese. In addition whole berries have been appearing in our fresh market green salads. Who needs tomatoes when we have fresh strawberries? Add balsamic vinaigrette and it’s a salad I truly enjoy after a big meal.

Our next market dinner will see strawberries again—from Columbia farms and Luna sea Gardens, no doubt. Perhaps some blueberries will show up or a raspberry or two. I am open to all that arrives. Anyway, at our next market dinner we will top yet another classic but perhaps not as well known. We are making Pavlova, a light meringue dessert that just cries out for berries, although I have used other fruits as well. For this time, we might use a Romanoff approach and top the Pavlova with the strawberries which have been soaked in a little orange liqueur. They might be a bit sweet for the top of a sweet meringue so I will balance the flavors with a bit of crème fraiche whipped into some heavy cream. Of course, I recommend the strawberries Romanoff as a great dessert by itself; as well as to top an artisan made creamy goat cheese, for another simple dessert or starter course.

Do we all remember the wonderful strawberry pie, you know, the one in a blind baked pastry shell glazed with a shiny red berry sauce? I remember it first at the Howard Johnsons along the turnpike on the way to the Atlantic shore for summer vacations, and Lenore tells me she first ate it at Denny’s in Seattle. We both remember it as a seasonal specialty in these two restaurants and how much we looked forward to it. Now we think it is on the menu all year long, although, I cannot say for sure since we’ve not been to either restaurant in a very long time. But back to this impressive pie, best in season, when topped with sweetened cream, it has about the same satisfaction for me as strawberry shortcake, but for the extra work in making it. I am not including the recipe we use because a package glaze is prolifically available in the supermarkets today, right next to the fresh berries. It works, I am told.

About the fourth or fifth week of the season I am running low on ideas for using the fruit as a topping, so I start using them in recipes for ice creams and sorbets as well as pie. It is also about this time that the stone fruits begin to appear and just as I think that sour rhubarb and fresh strawberries make a great pair, so do berries of all kinds match up well with peaches and apricots. What comes to mind is a slab pastry dessert. This is a double crusted cookie sheeted dessert that sports a thin but tasty fruit filling. A bit easier to make than traditional pie, yet definitely less formal for eating since it eats right out of the hand like a bar cookie.

It is also about now that I start freezing the berries I cannot use up while they are at their peak. I anticipate this so that I actually buy the berries to freeze at their prime. I take a couple pints for room temperature storage—just for eating; a couple in the refrigerator for toppings, and the rest are washed, hulled and placed stem side down on a cookie sheet for individual freezing. They freeze quickly and I scoop them into plastic bags and date them for use through out the year. I use these frozen berries like fresh in that I don’t thaw them when I bake or cook with them. And Lenore makes berry sauce all winter for topping French toast in Omelet class.

One more recipe to share, another classic is the glazed hard shell candied fresh strawberry; it is one of my wife’s favorite things in life, she tells me and can only be made while with fresh berries. I like using these candy shelled beauties to accent a dessert plate, much as I would use a bright strawberry sorbet, for both offer an extraordinary punch of strawberry flavor to the plate. The glazed strawberry is still warm from the candy coating so there is a rush of sweet warm juicy strawberry when it is bitten. These are tricky in that the coating needs to be cooked to the hard crack stage or 300°F, and must be eaten within the hour or two that they are made for best results; a nice afternoon snack after the market on Tuesdays!

I hope you enjoy the recipes posted here, but remember to enjoy lots of these delicious fruits while they are at their seasonal peak for their shear overall best impact!

SLAB STYLE PASTRY WITH SEASONAL STONE FRUIT & BERRIES
2- cups stone fruits, pitted peeled and sliced
1 cup raspberries or strawberries or blueberries or combination
1- 1 ½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of salt
Enough Pastry to cover top and bottom of a sided cookie sheet (see recipe.)
1-2 TBS butter, cold pieces
1 lightly beaten egg with 1 TBS cream for coating top crust, optional
Sugar for sprinkling
Method: toss stone fruits, berries, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and salt in a large bowl; set aside. (they may be frozen)
Roll out half the pie crust on a floured surface, 1/8” thick and slightly longer than sided cookie sheet. Place the crust on the pan and pour the fruit mixture overall evenly. Dot with butter pieces if desired. Roll out the second half of crust and top the pie; seal the edges with a crimp. Dock top with fork or small circle cutter. Whisk egg and cream together and brush lightly on top of pie. Bake in preheated 375ºF oven for approximately 1 hour or until berries begin to bubble in the middle. Let rest until cooled. Cut into squares or rectangular pieces about 3”x 3”.

MELTED CANDIED STRAWBERRIES
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
½ cup light corn syrup
1 # fresh strawberries, firm, stems on
Candy Thermometer or review cold water method
Method: Get a cookie sheet ready with buttered parchment or silicon liner. Wash berries, and dry very well. Prepare a bowl of ice water to help cool your saucepan of candy when needed. Set each aside.
Cooking: In medium sauce pan or straight sided deep fry pan, stir together sugar, corn syrup and water; place over medium high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar about two minutes. Cover with concave lid (not flat) so steam washes down the sides of the pan, catching any sugar crystals that may be left (about 3 min). Uncover and continue cooking without stirring until you reach 300°F on a candy thermometer. (Old fashion check cold water test: spoon a drop simmering sugar into glass of cold water; if it forms the hard crack stage you will see hard brittle threads.) It can take 10-15 minutes to reach 300 degrees. Be sure to change glass of water for each test. Once at 300°F or hard crack, remove pan from heat and immerse into the prepared bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and make the bubbles subside. Take care not to let even a single drop of water touch the sugar liquid.
Dipping: Carefully hold the berry by the stem with fingertips and dip until strawberry is almost submerged in candy. DO NOT TOUCH CANDY! (use food grade glove for extra protection for your hand.) Remove the berry and allow excess to drip off. Place dipped berry on your prepared parchment or silicon mat. Repeat until all the berries are dipped, about 12 is a good number. Allow room temperature cooling; when cool serve immediately or within the first 2 hours.

PAVLOVA (with BERRIES)
4 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 TBS superfine sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

1-2 pints berries, cleaned and cut if desired
1 cup heavy cream, whipped and sweetened with 1 TBS sugar
1 cup crème fraiche, if desired Method: preheat oven to 300ºF; Trace 6 equal circles evenly spaced on two pieces parchment paper. Use a 3 “ cup or bowl to outline your circles. Flip the paper over so you can still see the outline; set aside.
Place egg white and salt a mixer with whisk attachment and beat on medium-high to create medium peaks; with mixer running slowly add sugar to whites beating until stiff and glossy. Fold in cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla. Place mixture in a large pastry bag with a large tip; pipe 12 mounds of whites inside each drawn circle on the parchment. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F and bake until meringues set, crisp on outside but like marshmallow on the inside, approximately 1- 1 ¼ hour. Turn off oven and allow the meringues to cool slowly in the oven, about 2 hours.
To serve, top each meringue with prepared whipped cream and crème fraiche and sugar. Top with fruits and serve immediately.

QUICK STRAWBERRY ROMANOFF*
2 pints strawberries, washed, dried
¼ cup Grande Marnier liqueur ¼ cup orange juice
1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1 tsp vanilla and 2 TBS sugar
½ cup crème fraiche
Method: Reserve several whole strawberries for garnish. Quarter the remaining berries. Place ½ the quartered berries in bowl and add Grande Marnier or other orange liqueur (or use all orange juice); gently mash with fork. Fold in the second half of the quartered berries and refrigerate 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar to soft peaks. Fold in the cream fraiche. To serve: Place cut berries into serving glasses; cover with cream. Garnish with whole berry. If topping Pavlova place cream down onto meringues first, and then top with berries.

*Romanoff refers to Russian Tsar, Nicholas I, an early member of the Romanoff dynasty who was served this dessert by the great French pastry chef, Marie Antoine Careme. There are several versions of origin and recipes.


Fabulous foods that survive the “pack-and-go” of a summer picnic

This is a busy time for us so my days off are few and short in the summer. Whenever possible, we like to be outdoors since we are inside so much. And when I am not fishing, I enjoy cooking outdoors and eating al fresco. Over the years when I wanted to impress my wife with a surprise for her birthday or even a no-occasion date, Lenore loves a picnic!

Picnics are great because the taste of food just seems better when eaten outdoors, and I am especially craving these outings after this long winter and chilly spring. Even if it is on our backyard patio, dining and cooking al fresco is very satisfying.

So how to pack foods that withstand some smashing and squishing in a backpack and that can also be out of refrigeration for a time? Today I am sharing a few of my favorite picnic foods along with some ideas for maintaining quality and freshness.

I borrow some of the old tricks that Moms use to keep lunches cold when kids go to day camp or need to leave them in lockers until lunchtime at school. For example placing a frozen juice container in the lunch bag keeps the things around it cold while melting in time for lunch. So that is a great backpack trick. I will a ginger tea recipe that can be frozen in water bottles and packed with a simple version of the muffaletta style (pre-smashed) sandwiches that backpacks well too.

Then there is the controversial issue of taking mayonnaise to a picnic. I am going on a limb and taking a position. It usually isn’t the mayo at all—in fact is more likely something else, because commercially made mayonnaise has a low pH and therefore acts as a deterrent to microbial growth. As long as all the ingredients including the mayo, starts at least at 40 degrees before mixing together, the finished product is safe to take to a picnic in a cooler. But for the non-believers I have included a French potato salad using vinaigrette, no mayo that we enjoy at a picnic.

Entree salads are also good to take on a picnic. We pack ingredients separately and then mix when we get there. That way the ingredients stay fresh and dressing can be put on the side or blended just before serving whatever seems best at the time. If you have a vegetarian sharing your picnic, when adding meat to a salad, add it after some salad is removed for your guest. I like a cold version of Pasta Primavera. It can be made with or without animal protein, either way between the pasta, the veggies and the cheese we love this hearty salad on a picnic.

Melons are popular picnic foods. Start with them plenty chilled and don’t cut them until you get to the picnic. Watermelon makes for a satisfying sweet dessert and a great thirst quencher after a rigorous valley ball game on the beach. If you want to be more sophisticated with your melons try my watermelon salsa that contains a touch of vinegar, also a retardant to microbial growth. Just remember to wash the rind of melons very well, especially cantaloupe, and chill them before packing them whole in your cooler. Then carve them only when ready to serve, and on really hot days, put leftover cut up melon—if any, back into a cold holding cooler. For other parts of the country where the temperature reaches 90 º and plus, the less time out the better.

Now some people like to take along hot foods, like baked beans. Baked beans are good but for me, if I am cooking out, I prefer starting with the raw product. If it is meat, we take beef, pork or chicken, over fish and seafood. Unless of course you are fishing and get lucky—then there is nothing better than cooking up a fresh catch. Otherwise fish is hard to keep at 32°F, which is the way it should be held. When you plan to cook at the picnic site, use a cooler to pack raw meats separately from the cooler holding RTE foods, that is, “ready to eat” foods. This ensures that meat juices won’t drip into the potato salad. Now hot dogs are already cooked so keep them away from the meat juices also, but definitely keep them cold just like raw meats.

Lastly, remember the food safety basics—good applied when indoors or out. Handwashing, for instance, is the greatest preventative measure we take for food safety. Hiking into the picnic spot or beaching can put you far away from running water let alone hot water. So enters the antibacterial hand gels and even the food handler gloves. Better to use a couple barriers (gel & gloves) when handwashing isn’t available. Watch out for cross-contamination, too. Change the tongs to remove the cooked meats, use fresh cutting board after cutting meats, and checking temperatures of hamburgers with a thermometer are all good. If no thermometer is available, cook till there is no pink and meat juices are clear, not pink.

Applying some simple rules of food safety ensures a great outdoor picnic experience that will last a long time.

SWEET GINGER “T” (HOT OR COLD)
Large knuckle of ginger, cut into thick slices lengthwise
2 TBS to 1/4 cup light brown sugar
Boiling water, about 6-8 cups
Method: Place first amount of sugar and all ginger into 2½ quart pot. Pour over 6-8 cups hot water, depending on the strength you like. Taste and adjust for sugar. Steep at least 5 minutes. Strain out ginger. Enjoy hot or cold. If freezing for backpacking, when cooled completely, using funnel pour into bottles with 1 full inch to spare at the top. Cap and freeze completely. Shake before drinking

FRENCH-STYLE POTATO SALAD WITH TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE
2# Yukon, red bliss, or white potatoes, cooked, and still warm
4 TBS white wine vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground pepper
1 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 TBS Dijon mustard
2 TBS shallots, minced
6 TBS EVOO
2 TBS parsley, minced
1 TBS tarragon leaves, minced
balsamic onions (see recipe)
Method: slice potatoes and layer them in a large bowl, sprinkling them with ½ the vinegar and salt, pepper and coriander as you layer; let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk remaining vinegar, mustard, and shallots together in a small bowl; whisk in oil until you reach a slight emulsification; pour over potatoes and toss lightly to coat; refrigerate for service.
At service, stir in parsley and tarragon; adjust seasonings; top with balsamic onions and serve.

SALAD PASTA PRIMAVERA (In the style of Spring)
1 bunch asparagus tips, blanch, chill
2 small quarter size zucchini, sliced into coins
1 small summer squash, sliced or cubed
1 cup cut green beans, cooked, al dente, but cooked-color set bright green
1 cup fresh peas, pea pods or pea shoots (blanched Frozen peas work if you really like peas in this)
1# vermicelli, cooked, drained, rinsed, chilled (also shells, bow ties, even fettuccini works too) 2 TBS EVOO
2 TBS heavy cream
1 TBS wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped It parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced to paste
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch Scallions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup toasted pinenuts
Parmesan cheese, shaved over all for garnish
Protein add-ins: Julienne sliced ham, genoa salami, even turkey breast.
Method: Prepare vegetables and set aside separately to chill thoroughly.
Cook pasta slightly more al dente and chill.

Watermelon Salsa
1 watermelon, seeded, or other melon, diced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 red onion, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 lime juiced
Method: combine ingredients and adjust seasonings with sea salt, coriander and pepper; chill for service.
Serve as a condiment with grilled steak.


At the farm, a chefs perspective—

Undoubtedly by now people who know me, have heard me say that purchasing from the local farms whenever possible is the best start to a good meal. From my roots in Cleveland’s Friday market and throughout my career I gravitated to the citys farmers markets, docks, dairies and culinary artisans for my ingredients. So it stands to reason that when CB decided to create its own farmers market I wanted to be involved. My roles have been to source out a variety of products from vendors in our own food shed of Oregon and Washington, and invite them to participate. In the process, I became increasingly in touch how these personal connections with food producers of my ingredients are central to my cooking.

I am pretty sure most chefs feel the same and yet with the distance from the valley to the coast, there is little opportunity here to buy directly from the source. Instead efforts often dead-end with the reality that little volumes don’t warrant the farmers cost to drive it here. That is why the market committee approached the farmers with what we hoped would make their participation more attractive to them. After lots of phone calls to the farms and considerable dialog with our local restaurants and businesses we were encouraged that our model could work. Chefs were very interested in the opportunity to buy directly from a weekly source for the summer. And the farmers and producers were definitely intrigued with the prospect of increasing their sales. The market committee held an initial “meet and greet” event where chefs and producers got together and the collaboration started. The market vendors are set to deliver business owner’s orders before the market starts every Tuesday, with plenty of product for the general sales to the public from 2-6. During the process, we learned that farmers sometimes shy away from new markets altogether, until the market is a year or two old. We think the collaborative helped us put together a nice diverse group for the first market.

You might think that is all there is to it, but we are following the Oregon state advisory on putting together a successful farmers market that suggests some type of quality assurance be in place. A farm or site visit is recommended to ensure that what is brought to market is actually produced at the source by the applicant. Aside from getting business licenses and vendor certifications, we set out to meet our vendors where they work.

A site visit to a farm, ranch or artisan producer not only tells me allot about the products and producers, but it also helps me unite and connect the circle with what I do. I am not sure if people actually think much about where food comes from. In fact as a city dweller all my life, I have been guilty of not giving it a second thought myself. This opportunity makes me hope I never forget the “who, when, and where” of my ingredients.

In every case, the story behind the food product and its cycle of growth to harvest brought out in me some of the passion I saw in the producers. In some way I imagine it must have been the way my grandmother purchased ingredients in her Italian village. To know the actual person(s), who grew the potatoes or whatever, makes my task to prepare them a bit more real. At the risk of romanticizing something that is truly hard work, I must say that Lenore and I came away from farm visits wishing we had just a little more land to raise a chicken, pig, cow or two. The farmers and producers welcomed us with open hospitality. We saw and felt their heart-warming pride in their contributions to this life.

One rancher that I have to mention is Lance Waldron and his wife Tammi Lesh of Lance Farm Vittles. Theirs is a third-generation family farm on the north coast of Oregon not far from here. Lance’s grandfather bought the farm in the 40’s with milking and beef cows only. Lance grew up there and by the time he was in high school they had added pigs and started selling to neighbors. Four years ago they added a small flock of Icelandic sheep to the mix, and about then they decided to sell frozen beef, lamb and pork at local farmers markets. Lance told me they had such great community support that pretty soon they added whole fryers to their product list.

I was most impressed with the quality of the pasture-raised beef and sheep because they are raised on a diet of grass and hay, and never any grain. After three weeks in a homemade brooder, the chicks on this farm move to a “predator proof” and moveable pen out in a grassy field behind the farmhouse. The pen is moved at least once a day so chicks have fresh grass, bugs, worms, etc. all the while they give back good quality nitrogen into the grass. They are also fed a natural vegetable protein based poultry food from the local feed store that augments the grass. Water is available like drip irrigation from a big bucket on top of the pen.

The pigs there also receive a natural vegetable protein based diet of barley vegetable compost along with fresh grass during summer. When we were there, they were fed the leftover milk from the dairy cows, called colostrum’s, which is the first milk after a cow has a calf. Apparently after a cow births, her milk has a strong flavor and fat molecules so large it mucks up the equipment at the dairy. Since this first milk, five to ten milkings worth, isn’t popular with humans either, after the calves get their share, the rest goes to the pigs! We watched in amazement while they poured several gallons of this sweet creamy liquid into the pig troughs. The pigs rejoiced and the smell for me was intoxicatingly rich, creamy and sweet, the way fresh milk should smell.
What a treat for us to see this well-run family ranch-farm and get to know the working-owners. For me, the phrase that kept going through my mind is one that I picked up at that software company I used to work with, you know, “garbage in, garbage out.” The feed on this ranch was anything but garbage, and for sure the resulting food products promise to be top of the line. I kept imagining working with the pinkish white fine-grained pork meat from those cream fed pigs.
These are just a few of the valuable outcomes for me after these visits. The farm and my stove are connected in a way that my appreciation for food ingredients I use takes me to a higher level of conscience. I no longer clean my walk-in refrigerator and dump spoiled food without truly feeling it. I know spoiled food happens, but now that I genuinely appreciate my ingredients. You might say I cook with more conscience now. It literally hurts when a bag of parsley or a piece of cheese goes bad due to my neglect or oversight. I have watched Lenore pat the noses of the Jersey cows in the pasture, and yet I do not imagine them a cute pet, but rather the proud example of their breed that are being raised sustainably for market. So for me, a food source with such conscience is just a required segment of the circle that continues in my kitchen.
My recipe today is one that utilizes our very first crop from our little backyard pea patch. We call it our ode to the New Radish Slaw, made with the radishes you either just picked yourself or ones you purchase from CB Tuesday market. Enjoy.

ODE TO THE NEW RADISH SLAW
2 bunches fresh radish, julienne or cut into matchstick pieces
1 handful micro radish greens* (optional)
1 bunch baby carrots with tops, julienne 1 handful new cilantro leaves only, chopped
1 skinny bunch chives, minced
2 TBS sherry vinegar
4 TBS EVOO
TT sea salt, ground coriander, ground pepper
1-2 tsp sugar, to taste, optional Method: Clean garden fresh radishes under cool running water to remove all the dirt; cut off the green tops. (Note we don’t even bother to take off the root once they are well cleaned as these roots are still so tender and sweet).
Do the same with the baby carrots, removing tops; clean well so no need to peel. Add radish micro greens (if available), cilantro, and chive; toss with sherry vinegar, followed by EVOO and seasonings. Taste and adjust with a tiny bit of sugar if it needs it. Serve immediately or chill for service.

*If you plant radishes from seed a couple weeks apart you will also have plenty of micro radish greens to add to the salad That would be just the sprouts of the when they are about 2 inches high.


Saucing for contemporary cooks

I remember the first day of culinary school. Chefs in starched white coats and white neckerchiefs leading the new recruits in their semi-starched coats with yellow neckerchiefs, made the subtle yet clear distinction of chef vs. apprentice. The halls smelled of spice, baking breads, simmering stocks and sauces. The curriculum was daunting, designed to weed out less serious students by overwhelming all of us with work, both hands-on and text-study. “A Chefs Orientation to Soups, Stocks and Sauces,” the most intense section of all, introduced us to the world of classical technique and culinary fundamentals, including required memorization of the five-mother sauces and hundreds of their offspring, called smaller sauces. We were told repeatedly this would ensure success with all we were about to undertake the next eighteen months as well as our whole culinary careers.

As in most things new you learn the basics and take baby steps forward from there. For sauces it begins with stocks. For soups, it begins with stocks. For braising, stewing and a variety of cooking techniques it begins with stocks. So stock is where I’ll begin today. A stock is the resulting liquid from cooking bones with aromatics (herbs, spices and vegetables) in water for long periods of time. There’s lots of skimming and monitoring until ready to strain out the bones and solids. However the resulting liquid extraction is not yet ready to serve. It is now an a important ingredient for making many more intense stocks, sauces, stews, soups and braises.

Today’s chefs and home cooks often use commercially made stocks and demi glace that saves the 12 to 24 hours it takes to make it from scratch. Demi is made from combining one of the mother sauces, Espagnole, with more brown stock and then cooking down by half with an herb bouquet garni. It is a long process that makes the choice to use commercial varieties a good alternative, especially since there are some really good ones available. I recommend resisting the varieties that come in a cube or dehydrated pack. In any case check the ingredient list and be sure the first ingredient list is stock and there is no salt or corn syrup.

Admittedly it is hard to beat a homemade stock especially chicken, which is pretty easy and still inexpensive to make. My love of chicken stock as a basic ingredient may be from my Jewish heritage. At all times, I keep a couple of gallons in the freezer for soups, sauces, risottos, braises, and pastas, and I still make it the way my mother does. But as much as I use chicken stock, lately I am into using the liquid made by extracting the flavor from single vegetables, like mushrooms and beets. My migration is toward simplifying the process without loosing the impact, with sauces made from reductions or those that are made without a stock in the background at all. Fresh sauces like salsa, infused oils, juice extractions, relish, pesto, chutney and even ketchup are often on my menus these days.

The word “sauce” according to Food Lover’s Companion is “thickened, flavored liquid designed to accompany food in order to enhance and bring out its flavor.” For many people, the word conjures up pictures of something flour or cornstarch thickened that our mothers made with mushrooms or possibly something from a can with the promise of low sodium. Roux (flour and butter thickener) thickened sauces and gravies are very challenging, and when a cook does them well, s/he wears it as a badge of kitchen accomplishment. Seems every family has one member who is known for making the best gravy. Still even though I am first to load up on the turkey gravy at Thanksgiving, sticking to lighter saucing is best for everyday dining for me. I find contemporary saucing, that is, sauces without flour thickening, easier to make, lighter on the palette and just more interesting to create.

Dining al fresco and grilling season is the perfect time to start saucing without roux. Sauces made with an acidic background from vinegar, tomatoes, or citrus are easy and light. They add a big punch of flavor without adding weight. A Latin favorite of green tomatillos salsa makes for a great companion to spicy rice and grilled halibut, for example. And a grilled vegetable relish style sauce adorning the top of a buttery risotto creates a yin/yang flavor profile. Golden delicious apple in a juicy chutney works well with goat cheese ravioli and toasted hazelnuts. I like a simple pan seared filet of beef with chive infused oil and fiery romesco sauce.

This week I am teaching a fundamentals class in cooking, which is probably what started me thinking about my early culinary training. I find myself wanting to skip over the mother sauces, and teach to my more recent repertoire that still fits the definition of saucing. Here I have a wine based sauce, and some others that are made without classical thickening.

MARSALA WINE SAUCE
¼ cup EVOO
2 each shallots, finely chopped
1-2 #mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Marsala wine
1-2 cup chicken stock
21 tsp. fresh thyme, hand picked from stems
2 oz butter, room temperature
Seasoning of salt, pepper coriander to taste
Chopped chives, as desired Method:
Heat the EVOO in sauté pan. Add shallots and mushrooms and cook gently until translucent. Add the wine and stock to deglaze; Add the fresh thyme and simmer to reduce by 2/3s.
Strain sauce into clean pan or service container. Add butter and swirl in to incorporate. (Off the heat) Season with salt, pepper, and fresh ground coriander, and garnish with a clipping of chives, if using.

Serve with chicken, seafood and steaks.

GAZPACHO SALSA (as a sauce)
¼ cup peeled, seeded, minced tomato
¼ cup peeled, seeded, minced cucumber
¼ cup seeded, minced red pepper
¼ cup seeded, minced green pepper
2 ½ tsp seeded, minced jalapeno ¼ cup minced red onion
2 ½ tsp minced shallot
2 ½ tsp finely minced parsley
2 ½ tsp finely minced tarragon
¾ tsp celery salt
3 TB EVOO
3 TB sherry vinegar
TT sea salt and coriander
Method: combine ingredients and reserve chilled for service. Serve on grilled fish; as dipping sauce for fried fish or fried shrimp; with Ahi tuna; and even grilled chicken.
ROMESCO SAUCE
4 roasted plum tomatoes, cooled
6-8 cloves garlic, roasted
6-8 raw garlic, peeled and chopped
2 TBSP plus 1/3 cup EVOO
¼ cup blanched whole almonds
¼ cup peeled hazelnuts
1 dried ancho chili, cored, seeded (rehydrated)
1 slice crusty It. bread
1-2 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP red-wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste Method: Coat with small amount of EVOO and roast the tomatoes and half peeled garlic for about 90 min at 375F. Meanwhile place about ¼ cup EVOO in a hot pan followed by the nuts and toast nuts about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towel. In same pan toast the chili pepper only about 15 seconds. Remove and soak in hot water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain; set aside. In the same pan toast the bread and set aside.
To finish: Place roasted tomatoes, garlic, nuts, bread and drained chili in a food processor with metal blade. Process pulsing to blend; add the rest of the EVOO and red wine vinegar and blend into chunky yet smooth sauce. Adjust thickness if too thin with more bread; if to thick with some red wine.
Serve with beef, chicken, and vegetables; stirred into soups as a finish, risotto, over polenta; and as a spread for bread or sandwiches.
BLACKBERRY CATSUP
1# blackberries*
1-2 TBS water
1 1/3 cups pure maple syrup
1/3 cup cider vinegar
½ tsp cinnamon ½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
Method: place blackberries and water in a large sauce pan and simmer until they begin to break up, approximately 20 minutes; puree through food mill removing seeds; return to stove; reduce to slightly thickened and add maple syrup, vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until ingredients have bloomed in the blackberry reduction, chill to serve.


Growing up Italian

Eating from the simple Italian pantry

I have always been proud of the fact that I have strong Italian roots and I find that when I speak of my family the story is almost always centered on something that happened in the kitchen over a good Italian meal. What I appreciate the most is I learned to enjoy simple pure, authentic ingredients. No matter what the time of year, cooking at our house meant the weekly trek to the West side Market in Cleveland. We’d always get the staples; see below, along with whatever fresh vegetables were available. We’d also get some imported meats or a fresh sausage, hand made in front of us, and of course, cheese. Our trip to the market was made faithfully despite our rather large well stocked pantry. We ate simple home cooked meals created from raw ingredients including lots of fresh market foods all the time.

So, eating and cooking Italian does start with picking out pure simple ingredients. For my family it meant maintaining minimum number of staple ingredients, any one of which might be called a basic Italian food group.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Ours was often from the bulk barrel imported from Italy. I guess we were unable to get the expensive imported varieties, so when I traveled to Italy the first time I remember thinking I had never tasted such olive oil! It was bold and grassy and made me want to eat it alone without adding vinegar on my salads. It is influentially tastier than butter to me.

Tomatoes: When they were not fresh in season we bought canned. My dad would proudly describe the farm in Italy where they were grown and canned when tomatoes were at peak, making them better than just any canned tomato.

Parsley: Flat leaf is what I recommend. And though it is easy to grow in season, it is widely available year round in markets due to local green house productions. It is undeniably a requisite for simple Italian food.

Garlic: There are many varieties and I look forward to garlic season when the interesting ones appear at farmers markets. My one consistent belief is that the sprout, especially when green, should be removed before chopping because it is the sprout that imparts bitterness and makes it difficult to digest.

Cheeses: Especially a good Parmigiano-Reggiano; in our fridge my mom kept a large Tupperware container of this good stuff, already grated! Cheese was not as much a main ingredient as it was used to add a punch of flavor in small amounts. Provolone Picante stands out as a super star that I use regularly today. Unlike the cylindrical domestic variety often confused with bulk mozzarella because of its bland flavor, the picante has a hard rind that surrounds a spicy, lemony-tang flavor with an herbaceous background, perfect for finishing Italian dishes.

Lemons were another staple in the produce bin of our fridge, along with the seasonal vegetables we’d get on market day. I don’t think my Mom knew what “real-lemon” was from the green bottle, that is. Fennel at our house was as common as celery is in most American households. I know it is seasonal, and there must have been times we couldn’t get it, but in my memory it was always there!
Pasta: Of course we always had pasta around. This would be mostly dried pasta as I recall, and even when the fresh stuff was sold commercially, my folks stuck with the dry varieties they had learned to trust. My mom would do homemade ravioli quite often, and that must have contributed to my taste for making it fresh now. I do like some dried pastas and use them regularly, too.

These basic ingredients or staples of our family kitchen together actually make up a meal that my dad would whip up pretty regularly. He called it pasta aioli (pronounce “i- yoy”) which distinguished it from the French garlic mayonnaise classic, spelled the same and pronounced, “ay-oh-lee.” I was corrected many times during my early culinary training when I would give my dad’s pronunciation. Anyway, Bob Sr. would put EVOO in a pan, just to warm it with the chopped garlic being careful not to brown it or let it cook too fast. Then he’d stir in pepper flakes, and many times, added canned anchovies packed in oil that would melt into the sauce. He finished with fresh chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon before tossing it in the pasta, usually fettuccini. Grated Parmesan went on at the table usually. This was dinner allot in our house, a sort of poor man’s Carbonara meets mac and cheese. And with the exception of anchovies, it is a meal most kids would remember, Italian or not.

Occasionally dad would dress up this family recipe with fresh tomatoes or chicory and even fresh spinach, making a primavera style pasta. And my mom would sometimes fry up a white fish to go with the pasta. In any case family meals were almost always accompanied by raw fennel. I believe one of the best ways to begin and end a meal so heavily leaden with garlic is with sweet raw fennel. Sprinkled with a little salt, this crisp vegetable promises a light anise flavor that not only cleanses the palate but aides in digestion.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as a side dish or light dinner meal. You will notice my recipe is a bit different from my dad’s described here, but I am sure he wouldn’t mind. I suggest you use it whenever you are thinking of macaroni and cheese—for a little variation.

BOB SR.’S PASTA AIOLI (i-ohoy!)
1 lb dry pasta, cooked in boiling salted water until just el dente
EVOO as needed
1 head of garlic, cleaned, peel, remove sprout, chopped or sliced
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
4 oz anchovies & oil
½ cup flat leaf parsley, washed, dried, roughly chopped
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated Method: Cook pasta; coat with small amount of EVOO set aside.
Place ¼ cup EVOO over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add ¾ garlic and all anchovies with their oil. When garlic is translucent, add parsley, lemon juice and zest. Add in remaining raw garlic pasta and toss.
Serving Suggestions: Add 1 pint washed cherry tomatoes to sauce when adding the anchovies and garlic; and or add 1lb washed baby spinach. Accent with dry cured olives. Eat along side crusty pan fried white fish or quickly grilled chicken breast.

Complete the dish with a salad of fresh shaved fennel or fennel sticks, lightly salted with sea salt.


More Baking Chatter

In Alton Brown’s book, I’m Just Here for More Food, he explains that in baking the “devil is in the details.” He says, “Baking is all about sweating the small stuff.” I agree, cooking is more forgiving than baking. It is more about personal taste, and we can add and subtract without danger of failure—a little of this, a little more of that! Baking just requires more precision than cooking.

Flour, eggs, liquids (milk, water), sugar, fats (butter, shortening, oil) and leavening, (baking powder, baking soda, eggs, air, steam) are the staples for baking. I believe that knowing what function these play in the baked good is a big step toward becoming a better baker.

If I could just pick one or two words that best remind me of their function, I would have to say flour is the backbone or structure in baked goods, and wheat flour is required to supply the glutin; eggs are there for many functions but for sure their proteins help the structure and they emulsify give help leaven. Milk is a big contributor but can be relpace with water or juice in most cases, but what milk actually brings to the table is flavor, browning, nutrition, and preservative. As for leavening agens, they well, make the product rise–or at least the steam and CO2 make it happen. Fats play a big role in making something satisfying in the mouth, especially butter that adds browning and richness and tenderizes. And of course sugar makes stuff sweet but also browns and tenderizes.

So, just getting a little lesson in the contribution that these ingredients make in baked products, may help us to understand that we are truly putting in action some of the chemistry we learned in high school. Baking simply requires a little respect, I think. It is important to believe in the formula, and of course, use good technique in measuring those ingredients.

Unlike in cooking, exact measured amounts of ingredients is required in baking. Compactable ingredients like flour, one cup of which varies in weight at least 3-6 ounces depending on the humidity, must be spooned lightly into a dry ingredient volume measuring device. Oh, and level it off to be accurate. Don’t tap, scoop or compact it in anyway. Scooping using the measuring cup is a good way to add way too much ingredient, so avoid packing, except for brown sugar.

After all ingredients are measured accurately, pans are prepared and oven set, it is time to mix. Here is another crucial place to understand the consequences of your actions. In cooking if you happen to put the onions in after the tomato sauce your spaghetti sauce will still work. But in baking, combining in the order dictated and with the proper tool, the right speed and timing is critical.

By now you have much to assimilate so I will end this home ec lesson, only to pick it up another day with the critical points for mixing that make a big difference in everything from biscuits and muffins to pancakes. Basically the recipes are usually good—the failures are usually in our execution. Our knowledge can be good but our experience is a better indicator of how successful we are. Practice makes perfect, afteall.

Check out these 101 recipes to sharpen your baking technique.

SWEET BUTTER SCONES 101

2 cups All-Purpose flour
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1Tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg lightly beaten
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
Mise en place: Preheat oven to 400°F. Pull out your baking sheet. (ungreased)
Measure all ingredients in advance and keep separate. Check before starting to mix.

Measure: Fluff up or sift the AP flour before measuring. Spoon it into a one cup measure and level with a straight edge tool (spatula). Measure each tablespoon of sugar and level off in separate container. Measure baking powder by first fluffing in the container, as it is very compactable, then level off. Dip ½ and ¼ measuring spoons into salt, level and place in separate container. Cut a stick of butter on the 6 TBS line, or measure butter by packing softened but not warm butter into a 1/4 cup measure, level off; plus pack into tablespoon measure, two times, for 6 TBS. Break egg into small bowl or cup and beat to blend yolk and white with a fork. Measure heavy cream using liquid measure and pour up to the ¾ line- when looking at eye level. (You bend down to it rather than holding cup up to your eye level). Measure 1 tsp. vanilla by using the 1 teaspoon measure. Measure over something so if it spills you can save it!

Mixing: Biscuit method: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and stir it up to distribute evenly. Cut-in butter into flour mixture until crumbly using a hand-held metal pastry blender or use two table knives, cutting back and forth, until butter is completely distributed throughout the flour. Set aside.
Blend liquid (egg, cream, vanilla) ingredients together. Pour liquid ingredients into the flour and stir together gently with a fork until liquid is on all parts of the flour. No more than 8-10 stirs.

Shape: Dump onto lightly floured spot on your clean counter or cutting board. Pull dough together gently a few times until it holds its shape and pat into ½ inch high circle of dough. You don’t need a rolling pin with such a small amount of dough. Cut into triangles by cutting circle in half, and then half again until you have the desired size and number. Sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired.

Bakeat 400ºF for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom. Cool on rack until you can handle. Then enjoy with butter, crème fraiche, jam or all three!


Sardines, Quail, and Lamb too obscure?

This week Lenore got me thinking that my menus for our Small Plates with Wines classes may have strayed too far left of center. She said we usually have only one item that might be considered out side of mainstream. Neither of us believes lamb is in that category, but when served with two courses that are not so common, well, it just got both of us thinking.

When class started we had some guests who actually reported they had signed up for this class because we were serving sardines. Unfortunately, sardines have just been named to the endangered list and we used fresh halibut instead. The sides and flavors on the plate were matched to the sardines, but went quite well with the halibut, too. One guest told me that the halibut course was the favorite last night until we served the grass fed free range lamb from Anderson Valley. She was thrilled with its tenderness and couldn’t believe how great the forbidden black rice went with it.

In between those two courses, we slipped in a proscuitto wrapped sausage stuffed quail. The dinner companion of the guest who liked the lamb best was not as intrigued with the quail. He wished more quail flavor came through. My spicy pork sausage was the dominant flavor he said. Thinking about it now maybe Lenore’s comment about serving quail, lamb and sardines on the same menu made me make the choice I did. I was trying to introduce the quail with some familiar flavors. I liked it allot, and would do it again, and yet will remember that feedback the next time I stuff quail.

In last night’s class there was several in fact the majority of people who had been here before. A group of ten women, escaping husbands and children, and bonded together for the last 20 years by college, seemed to enjoy last night’s dinner the best of the three times they were here.

What prompts me to write about this is that the answers to a chef’s questions are usually right in front of him or her. I got the feedback that I needed to continue letting my inspirations take me into new territory for our menus. And by now I think I have made it clear to our guests that we want them to make our recipes their own. It always pleases me when they have no trouble saying what they might do differently.

I am going to include that quail recipe here. Since I made the sausage, I suggest for more quail flavor, one might use less seasoning in the sausage or actually make it with ground quail rather than pork. Tell me what you think.

SPICY SAUSAGE STUFFED QUAIL
Spicy sausage:
½ # pork shoulder, cubed**
2/3 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sweet paprika
2/3 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp fresh ground coriander
1/2- 1 TBS EVOO (add to make up for Pork fat when substituting all quail or chicken meat)
**You may substitute with 1/2# of ground quail and chicken thigh meat for the pork so more quail flavor comes through.

Sausage method :< /b> Place spices over cubed meat and toss to coat completely. Refrigerate. Grind after meat has rested under refrigeration for 30 minutes. Make a small meatball of the sausage and cook in a small pan or in the microwave to check the seasoning and mouth feel (fat). Proceed as directed below.

Quail Breasts
4 each quail breasts
4 oz sausage mixture
4 slices Prosciutto
4 rosemary spears, needles removed
1 TBS light sesame oil
As needed fresh grind of coriander
1 lemon quarter
Quail method: stuff breasts with 1 TBS sausage mixture; wrap breasts with Prosciutto and skewer with rosemary spear; season with sesame oil and coriander. Sear quail on preheated grill to mark; remove and finish cooking in 375F oven for approximately 5-8 minutes or until it reaches 160F. Spritz with lemon before serving.


Sardines, Quail, and Lamb too obscure?

This week Lenore got me thinking that my menus for our Small Plates with Wines classes may have strayed too far left of center. She said we usually have only one item that might be considered out side of mainstream. Neither of us believes lamb is in that category, but when served with two courses that are not so common, well, it just got both of us thinking.

When class started we had some guests who actually reported they had signed up for this class because we were serving sardines. Unfortunately, sardines have just been named to the endangered list and we used fresh halibut instead. The sides and flavors on the plate were matched to the sardines, but went quite well with the halibut, too. One guest told me that the halibut course was the favorite last night until we served the grass fed free range lamb from Anderson Valley. She was thrilled with its tenderness and couldn’t believe how great the forbidden black rice went with it.

In between those two courses, we slipped in a proscuitto wrapped sausage stuffed quail. The dinner companion of the guest, who liked the lamb best, was not as intrigued with the quail. He wished more quail flavor came through. My spicy chicken and pork sausage was the dominant flavor he said. Thinking about it now maybe Lenore’s comment about serving quail, lamb and sardines on the same menu made me make the choice I did. I was trying to introduce the quail with some familiar flavors. I liked it allot, and would do it again, and yet will remember that feedback the next time I stuff quail.

In last night’s class there was several in fact the majority of people who had been here before. A group of ten women, escaping husbands and children, and bonded together for the last 20 years by college, seemed to enjoy last night’s dinner the best of the three times they were here.

What prompts me to write about this is that the answers to a chef’s questions are usually right in front of him or her. I got the feedback that I needed to continue letting my inspirations take me into new territory for our menus. And by now I think I have made it clear to our guests that we want them to make our recipes their own. It always pleases me when they have no trouble saying what they might do differently.

I am going to include that quail recipe here. Since I made the sausage, I suggest for more quail flavor, one might use less seasoning in the sausage or actually make it with ground quail rather than pork. Tell me what you think.

SPICY SAUSAGE STUFFED QUAIL
Spicy sausage:
½ # pork shoulder, cubed**
2/3 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sweet paprika
2/3 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp fresh ground coriander
1/2- 1 TBS EVOO (add to make up for Pork fat when substituting all quail or chicken meat)
**You may substitute some ground quail and chicken thigh meat for the pork so more quail flavor comes through.

Sausage method :< /b> Place spices over cubed meat and toss to coat completely. Refrigerate. Grind after meat has rested under refrigeration for 30 minutes. Make a small meatball of the sausage and cook in a small pan or in the microwave to check the seasoning and mouth feel (fat). Proceed as directed below.

Quail Breasts
4 each quail breasts
4 oz sausage mixture
4 slices Prosciutto
4 rosemary spears, needles removed
1 TBS light sesame oil
As needed fresh grind of coriander
1 lemon quarter
Quail method: stuff breasts with 1 TBS sausage mixture; wrap breasts with Prosciutto and skewer with rosemary spear; season with sesame oil and coriander. Sear quail on preheated grill to mark; remove and finish cooking in 375F oven for approximately 5-8 minutes or until it reaches 160F. Spritz with lemon before serving.


BAKING INTENSIVE SERIES

Last week I had 2 and 3 students here from 9am – 3pm getting intense about basic baking techniques. I think they did fabulously, and it was great for me as we did kick out some product. Starting with baking powder biscuits and piecrust, puff dough and sour dough, and finally angel food cake and gelato; it was a great review for me and a way to remember old times.

To my good fortune, I was first trained as an apprentice in a large-scale bakery. Otherwise I might be like my many of my comrades who defer to the pastry chef for their entire baking repertoire, and mind you I do too for many things. Even Rachel Ray, the Food Network chef admonish herself for steering clear of baking. Why?

I think it is the same for home cooks, too—perhaps lack of experience and maybe even fear! Fear of making piecrust is one comment we hear over and over. When it comes to putting together something that requires flour and ovens, it seems to stop even very accomplished cooks. But in baking, the recipes themselves are carefully written in ratios of ingredients that go together in a certain way to create the desired end result. Maybe it’s the science that scares cooks away from this side of the culinary arts.

Ah, but the satisfaction of turning out simple banana bread when the bananas went too ripe, or getting up on a sleep-in Saturday and making a batch of blueberry muffins for breakfast is so worth the effort. Trust me, I know, I am not about to change anybody’s mind who, like Rachel Ray, has already drawn the line; but I think I might sway a few fence sitters into giving it a try. I can hear Lenore saying don’t even bother to teach me anything mechanical that has to do with the car, because she is not about to start now! So let’s focus on the fence sitters. Think of it as the home economics class that so many schools have dropped from the curriculum. Hmmm… maybe a contributing factor to why cooks don’t bake


Ready for Spring and interns!

Lenore and I love this time of year when days are getting longer, supposedly warmer, though not yet, and the promise of spring is everywhere. We are especially aware when a short-lived sliver of sunlight briefly warms our front deck after a rainy morning and draws us outside. We all seem to smile more. But the best indicator that spring is about to “pop” is when asparagus and Spring Chinook Salmon make an appearance on our menus.

In addition to planning and ramping up for the new “season,” we have been preparing the studio bedroom in our building for the culinary interns that are coming to learn and work with us in three month intervals. We have been quite successful with the quality of individuals that come here, and yet it was becoming more challenging because of the lack of affordable housing in Cannon Beach. Our quick remodel, well maybe not so quick, has opened the door to many more potential interns to come.

Some of you might remember the room downstairs in this building as a former beauty salon with charming dark wood work wainscoting, and a not so charming hair washing sink in the middle. We converted that sink to a little kitchenette sink and counter cupboard from IKEA; adding a refrigerator and small microwave oven to complete. We then replaced carpet and painted the walls and ceiling. But the big news is the shower that we punched into the little bathroom. Under the capable direction of friend, Eric Nagel, our Tolovana neighbor (he and wife, Sarah own the Surfcrest Market), I faced my admitted fear of dry walling. There is a definite sweet satisfaction when one accomplishes a goal of something completely out of his/her comfort zone. In some ways it is just like cooking is for people who don’t feel comfortable in the kitchen. Sometime our guests are intimidated by a French omelet, and we know to keep encouraging them to push past their fear and go for the satisfaction that comes from “doing it themselves.”

The first person to use the studio bedroom is Wendy Noon, who is with us end of March through June. She is in the homestretch of her formal training as a chef from Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland. Of the studio bedroom, she says it is “awesome,” but then so far she describes most things that please her as “awesome.” And luckily, most things do please her! Having interns is a good thing! Keeps me young and on my game!

RECIPE FOR THE WEEK:
PAN-SEARED CORIANDER SALMON
4 ea 4 oz salmon, block cut
Fresh ground Coriander, to taste
Sea Salt, to taste
EVOO as needed*
Method: Ask your butcher to cut salmon filets into 4 oz blocks, so all will cook the same rate. Prepare salmon for searing by brushing with EVOO and season with sea salt, and ground coriander. Preheat pan over med high heat. When hot add approximately 1 TBS EVOO to the pan and immediately add the pieces of salmon, top side down. After 2 minutes, turn over and cook 1-2 more minutes or just till au pointe, and the center is just turning opaque. (Au pointe, in French means just to the point of done); serve immediately with fresh asparagus for an early spring repast. (*Don’t worry about searing with EVOO because the second you put the fish into the pan, the oil will temper and not over heat–and you will get the benefit of the flavor of EVOO and its healthful qualities too).


SOUP

Soup is so appealing in the winter, and as I embark upon a cleansing diet to make up for holidays and vacation power-eating, I am inspired by the benefits of eating freshly made soups.

More encouragement came last evening at friends for dinner. The first course was a delicious Tomato-Basil soup that I would not have thought to make in the middle of winter. It was absolutely great and I find myself modifying one of my guiding principles—“eat only in season,” to say, as in this case, use canned tomatoes that were organically grown and canned in their season somewhere! And making another exception for the fresh basil from CA, I am ready to say I would repeat this one any season. I know for some restaurants, tomato basil soup is actually a staple all year round, and what keeps it consistent is the canned tomato product!

Our hostess graciously dictated over the phone what she had done to make the soup, as she had not used a recipe. She winged it! Good for her! Cooking without recipes is the sign of a confident cook. She did something key to her success that really made a difference with her soup. She roasted the canned organic tomato paste in a little butter on top of the stove to caramelize it. With Marni’s permission, I have included the recipe here exactly as dictated.

For the remainder of this article I thought I would offer a basic recipe for a simple stock soup base, from which to create different soups by varying the add-ins, such as winter root vegetables and hearty grains such as barley, Farro, and beans. There are no set rules for the add-ins; simply experiment with the combinations I recommend in the recipe or wing it and make it totally yours.

Quick two-step stock making is not only easy it is efficient because in our busy lives, cooking for more than one use is a great timesaver. I am also suggesting chicken stock because it is so versatile, and easily creates the basis for two or more meals.

I am learning that that in most busy households today cooks do not roast chicken bones and make stock the old fashioned way, but before you grab the commercial stock, consider the quick chicken stock that starts with a whole chicken as in my recipe. It takes only an hour or so, saving time and money, especially when you consider whole chicken prices compared to the same chicken cut-up.

Don’t leave it whole as smaller pieces release flavors faster into the liquid. Don’t worry about the proper way to cut it up. Just cut through the bones and all if you want, leaving the two breast halves in tack as much as possible for secondary use. What makes the stock richly colored and flavored in a relative short time is the braising of the chicken pieces before adding the rest of the liquid. Braising creates browning or caramelizing, intensifying the flavors. Be sure to retrieve the chicken breast-halves first, after about 30-minutes, and cool them for another meal. (De-bone the breast and throw the bones back into the pot if you want as they still have more flavors to give up into the stock). Add the boiling water and simmer about an hour in total. Remove the remaining chicken pieces and strain the liquid. You can throw away the mirepoix of veggies with the bones, because they may have some bone fragments and they are usually pretty flavorless by now.

After straining stock through a fine sieve, I usually quick chill it to skim off the solid fat, and then divide the liquid stock into 2 smaller portions. Freeze one half immediately for later use as a base for a quick sauce, another soup or the liquid in a risotto. Simmer the remaining half and add in one of the finishing touches as recommended in my recipe.

People tell me they like making enough soup to have leftovers. But when reheated the vegetables and grains, and especially noodles, tend to overcook and become mushy. One way to keep leftover soup fresh is by borrowing the concept of Vietnamese pho-bac, where fresh cooked vegetables and meats are placed in a warm bowls and covered with the steaming hot broth. A basic chicken broth keeps much better than full-on soup, so use only small amounts at a time. For chicken noodle soup or other pasta soups, hold out the pasta until the last minutes of cooking, and only make what you need for the one meal. Change out the vegetables and meats and you have a completely new fresh soup with the same chicken broth!

Here are a few more soup making techniques worth considering:

Cut vegetables uniformly so they cook at the same rate. If you prefer a variety of cuts (julienne, dice, or even rough-cut), blanch them separately so they all have the same finish cook time together.

Mirepoix is a traditional flavoring trinity that consists of 2 parts onion and one part each carrot and celery, and should be cut into small dice for my quicker stock described here.

Bouquet garni is a spice pouch made by laying fresh +/or dried herbs and spices onto cheesecloth or a coffee filter, then tying the bundle with kitchen twine. Drop the pouch into the soup, tying the other end of the string to the handle of the pot for easy removal.

Stock, stews, braises are easily defatted by quickly chilling the cooked product allowing the fat to rise to the top. When solid it is easily removed, as desired.

Beef Broth can be very mild made traditionally from roasted bones. To get real beefy flavor be sure to use meaty, bone-in, tougher cuts of beef (shank or chuck) and braise the beef first before covering with water to extract the flavors into the broth.

To thicken soups and stews without roux, puree the mirepoix into the liquid, then add in freshly blanched vegetables.

Pureeing soup can be accomplished by using a stick blender or bar blender. I prefer these to the food processor, which often leaks or spills over.

Carefully salt soups remembering that as soup simmers, water evaporates and concentrates and intensifies flavors. Be especially aware when using cured meats such as bacon in soups.

For Italian soups, especially tomato based, add the leftover rind of good aged parmesan or Romano cheese; it adds flavor and makes the cheese go farther.

Two-step SOUP Step 1. Soup Base
1 whole chicken, cut up small pieces
Mirepoix: 1 onion, 1 celery rib, 1 carrot, rough chopped
EVOO as needed
1 bouquet garni consisting of 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 4-6 parsley stems, 2-4 white peppercorns.
1 tsp salt
3 quarts boiling water
Method: Brown chicken pieces and mirepoix in hot Dutch oven in EVOO. When brown, add about 1-3 cups of water (do not cover chicken) and continue braising the chicken for 30 min. Remove chicken breast meat, de-bone, return bones to the pot, and chill breast meat for another use. Add the rest of the water to the pot with the bouquet garni. Simmer 30 – 45 more minutes. Remove large pieces of chicken and bone, reserve. Strain liquid broth through a fine mesh sieve. Chill broth until fat rises to the top and is easily removed. Pick through chicken and bones when cool, and remove just the meat; chill until needed. Discard bones, skin, bouquet garni and scraps.
To finish base:
2 TBS EVOO2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
Method: Heat oil in dutch oven. Add & sauté onions, carrots, and celery until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking. Add quick broth (reserved above), bring to a simmer, and simmer 1 to 2 minutes. Cool half of this base in shallow metal pan in the refrigerator then freeze for another use. Finish the soup in the dutch oven with one of the following suggestions.

Step 2: SOUP SUGGESTIONS added to 1-quart simmering soup base
A. Chicken Noodle:
2 cup picked chicken reserved from step 1, chopped
2 cups cooked egg noodles
2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
Method: Add picked chicken from step 1 to the soup base. Add cooked noodles. Bring back to simmer and reheat thoroughly. Serve immediately; garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
B. Potato broccoli:
1 bunch fresh broccoli, trimmed, cut into small florets
2 large potatoes,
1”cubes, peeled, cubed to 1”
Sea salt, pepper, coriander to taste
EVOO as needed¼ tsp pepper flakes, optional
Method: Add the potatoes to simmering soup base first 5 min. then add broccoli and cook until very tender but not mushy. Add seasonings to taste and pepper flakes if desired. Puree vegetables using bar blender in small batches. Taste and adjust seasonings; reheat if needed. Serve immediately hot, or chill and serve cold. Float small amount of EVOO on top.

C. Italian Sausage & Bean Soup:
½ # sautéed spicy Italian style ground sausage
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
3 cups ribbon cut Swiss chard, ribs removedSeason with sea salt, pepper and coriander
Method: Brown sausage; add to reserved hot soup base. Add beans and bring to simmer. Add swiss chard and cooked additional 10 minutes until chard is bright green and tender. Garnish with grated aged parmesan cheese, if desired.

Marni Postlewait’s Tomato-Basil Soup
Mirepoix:
1 onion, small dice,
2 celery, small dice,
1-2 carrot, small dice
EVOO as needed
2 TBS butter6 oz tomato paste
28 oz organic tomatoes in juice
¼ tsp. pepper flakes
1 large bunch basil, chopped
2 cup chicken broth, as needed
½ cup heavy cream + 2 TBS
½ tsp salt1 tsp sugar, if needed
Method: Sauté mirepoix in small amount of EVOO until tender. Remove from pan; reserve. Add butter to pan, add tomato paste and stir as it browns and caramelizes. Add tomatoes and juice, pepper flakes and reserved mirepoix. Add first heavy cream, 2 cups chicken stock a little at a time until desired flavor is reached. Set aside enough basil for garnish, and stir in the rest. Puree soup using a hand blender. Season with salt. If needed to reduce the acid of the tomato, add up to ½ tsp sugar.At service, place soup in warm bowls, drizzle in a swirl of heavy cream and garnish with reserved basil. Serve immediately.


Power Dining-out

With my nose to the grindstone working in my own place, it is harder to keep up with what’s happening on the city restaurant scene. We ate out so regularly in the cities we have lived that keeping current wasn’t an issue then. Now when customers ask us if we’ve eaten here or there, we too often haven’t even heard of the restaurants. So when the opportunity arises and we find ourselves in the city again, we’ve come up with a new way to get it done. It’s fun, quick and even efficient –we call it power dining. On a recent trip to Seattle for example, we got together with three of our friends and hit 9 places in 12 hours. We started at with a couple new bakeries and one old fav, and ended at a fine new Italian restaurant in old town Ballard, followed by dessert at Palace Kitchen, another old favorite.

We are always on the lookout for menu/recipe inspiration to stay competitive in a marketplace whose guests also keep up on the latest food trends, and power dining is our way. Since we are taking a few weeks off this winter, we decided to spend a couple days getting know the restaurants of Portland. Considering the suggestions by customers, other chefs, along with restaurant reviews I outline our weekend. Our goal is to go to as many restaurants in one day as we can, staggering reservations based on walking or driving times. Walking is preferred.

Now you might wonder how we eat that much. Let me assure you that this undertaking works best with like-minded friends so we can taste more stuff and leave less food on our plates! This speed eating is a blast, yet it is research that drives it. It is not unlike how I imagine a restaurant critic approaches a review, except that our discussion is always positive, focusing on the creative process, techniques in execution and what changes/options one of us might utilize if repeated back home.

In Portland our culinary whirlwind was less aggressive than Seattle. It began a little later with lunch at Blue Hour, so named for the romantic “blue hour” in the evening as sun begins to fade. The romance we found there was the way chef Kenny Giambalvo took some of the classics and gave them a fresh spin. Clearly there’s talent in the kitchen that starts with great ingredients so that even a grilled chicken and truffle mashed potatoes is executed so well it is new again. I really enjoyed learning that this kitchen brings in whole pig and uses every part of it. We sampled the slow roasted suckling pig of pulled pork butt wrapped in a thin crepe that is pan seared into a crusty oversized egg roll and is as good as it sounds.

Dinner at Clyde Common was a surprise. This funky respite greets you with communal tables and a happening bar area. We were seated beside a party that was well underway in their dining and we took their lead on some of our choices. We began slowly with a seared squid stuffed with fennel sausage and bathed in a broth of sherry vinegar and squid ink. It came with perfectly cooked garbanzo beans that popped with every bite. A martini with a hint of smoky scotch, peaty and rich, complimented the dish perfectly. Following our neighbors lead, we ordered the “Poutine” – French fries, gravy, Gruyere and Foie gras torchon. Put simply, fries with gravy, duck liver, covered in cheese that takes bar food to another level, not to mention our blood pressure. Next it was a short walk to Saucebox, a Pan-Asian restaurant featuring sushi and diverse menu items. We ordered the appetizer platter to try several options at once. It is especially nice to see assortment plates on the menu when power dining. In this case the sampling included one of the reasons we want to go there in the first place. Tapioca dumplings were an interesting texture of large unsweetened tapioca pearls wrapped around chicken, peanuts, cilantro and garlic oil and enhanced by a tamarind dip; as good as we had heard.

As I often say in our classes, I almost always order duck when it is on the menu. It is my version of a collectible. I collect orders of duck, making mental memories of its characteristics. This one was right up there, especially with the Thai ginger gimlet we ordered to go with. Specialty drinks was another must at the Saucebox.

Breakfast on Saturday took us to the highly touted Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen where pastrami is the mainstay. It was tender with a slight salty background and pungent smoke that came through with a burst. Piled on top of classic rye, it was made only slightly better by my slathering of coarse mustard and horseradish.

Our evening dining started at 5PM with the arrival of Cannon Beach friends, Rob and Kristin, who had recently returned from a trip to New York City and were pretty familiar with power dining, though this is the first time they heard the label. Leveraging our ability to try more things, and me as the designated driver, the four of us set out to discover what’s new, delicious, and worthy of recreating at home. We began with an encore at Clyde Common since we had time before our first reservation at Hiroshi, and ended at VooDoo Donuts! If that sounds extreme take a quick look at our entire weekend itinerary. After some amazing dishes and a new wine blend discovery by Sinnean called Abbendente, we were back to the hotel by midnight with full bellies and many new food memories.

The next morning we got up late, checked out and drove for dim sum at Wong’s King Seafood, whose chefs have received international recognition. The shear volume of food that came to our table probably matched what we had consumed the entire night before. It was quite good and takes care of our dim sum fix for a long time.

Admittedly our approach to culinary research seems extreme, but it gets the job done. Power dining is like taking a bus tour when arriving in a new town so you can see all the sights in just a few hours, and discover where you want to focus your time while there. We know we want go back to Portland and hit the places we couldn’t get to this time such as Le Pigeon, Country Cat Dinner House, Pok Pok, and Moonstruck Chocolate, and to return to a few of our discoveries this visit. In fact, so many good restaurants still to see we will be power dining in Portland again another day!

Power dining in Portland
Blue Hour (250 NW 13th avenue 503.226.3394) for slow roasted suckling pig
Clyde Common (SW 10th and stark 503.228.3333) for grilled whole fish with winter tabouli, pistachio and pomegranate molasses or the crispy pork belly with blood orange marmalade
Saucebox (214 SW Broadway 503.241.3393) for tapioca dumplings and updated martinis
Kenny and Zuke’s deli (1038 SW Stark 503.222.3354) – pastrami, pastrami, pastrami
Hiroshi’s (926 NW 10th Ave 503.619.0580) for sushi or whatever owner Hiro fancies that night – the tuna belly with ponzu sauce and steamed monk liver over miso dressing was fantastic!
Wildwood (1221 NW 21st 503.248.9663) for pork rillette and foie gras with zinfandel braised cippoline
Paley’s Place (1204 NW 21st Ave 503.243.2403) for either the house specialty of razor clams with a petite cassoulet and bacon wrapped radicchio; and the emmer faro, wild mushrooms with roasted squash and black truffles.
VooDoo Donuts (22 SW 3rd Ave 503241.4704) for crispy bacon maple bar!
Wong’s king Seafood (8733 SE Division 503.788.8883) – dim sum! Plan to wait.


The Comfort of cheese: so many cheeses—where to start?

Everyone seems to like cheese! Me, too, but I have to admit this is the only time of year that I allow myself to indulge with extra cheese in my cooking. Something about chilly weather that inspires the comfort of cheese. But where to start?
I taste as much as I can. When shopping Metropolitan Market in Seattle or Whole Foods in any city, I linger as long as I can next to the cheese display. So many cheeses, and they are all available to taste! There in lies the root source of my education. As with wine—if it tastes good to me, it is a good match. So I usually tell our customers to taste a new one each time you shop where there is a well versed cheese monger. Most of them will ask you a few questions about what you like before making their suggestions. Then taste and learn!
With a world of wonderful cheeses to pick from, how is it that the only cheese with “American” as a name is not a cheese at all but a cheese-food. American cheese is a blend or processed product that is only flavored with aged cheese. It may be closer to that ubiquitous cheese ball that surfaces this time of year. I am risking my reputation, but I admit to liking both! Of course, there are many American cheese varieties, Colby, Monterey Jack, and Humboldt Fog, to name a few. American cheeses are often judged inferior to French and other European cheeses. One factor that has changed in our favor is the recent allowance for unpasteurized milk in cheese production. As long as the producer ages the raw milk cheese for a minimum of 60 days, along with careful testing and maintenance, local artisan producers now have advantage to their European counterparts. The majority of these cheeses are “farmstead,” that is, cows raised and milked on the farm and the subsequent cheese is also made on the farm. This has brought back a renewed interest in American cheese. In fact some of my professional magazines are encouraging restaurants to add a cheese course or cheese plate for a finale, a practice that is more Euro than American.
Here in Oregon there are some amazing artisan cheeses that for us stack up to the best. One example is from the Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon. In 2003 at the London World Cheese Award they were voted best blue cheese. This was the first time an American cheese factory had won this high honor. We carry theirs and other fine Oregon produced cheeses in our own shop. These notables include Willamette Valley Farmstead cheeses, Fraga farms goat cheeses, and Rivers Edge Cheeses.
Our guests really appreciate being introduced to what is good local cheese on our cheese boards, where we highlight only the best on a marble slab presentation. Pick up a scrap of marble from anywhere that sells it for a reasonably priced decorative cheese platter. Reserve the cheese balls for a plate of their own.
And if cheese balls are too retro for you or you want to avoid risking a food snob’s criticism, we suggest a sophisticated alternative, a stuffed fresh mozzarella. You can either stretch homemade mozzarella, or just soak purchased fresh mozzarella in hot salted water and reshape it into a log with a spiral filling or even a stuffed round shape. The fillings can be fresh herbs, vegetables, proscuitto, anchovies, pesto, nuts, etc. See our recipe for fresh rolled mozzarella logs.
And another twist on an old theme, we make a sweet version of a cheese ball. See our recipe that is good with a chilled sparkling wine or winter punch.

MASCARPONE WITH DATES AND TRUFFLE HONEY
3-5 dates, pitted
1 cup Mascarpone
½ cup Cream Cheese
2 TBS plus 1 cup Toasted Hazelnuts, finely chopped
½ tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp truffle flavored honey, or plain honey
Method:
In food processor, process dates into paste. Add cheeses, vanilla, first hazelnuts and 1 tsp honey. (Taste before adding second tsp honey. If you want it sweeter, add, but it should be plenty sweet from the dates.)
Chill for 30 minutes then shape into one ball or a few small balls. Roll into more toasted chopped hazelnuts before serving with apple/pear slices, Pistacio biscotti,Gingersnaps, Ritz crackers, or Carr’s Wheat crackers. This makes a great filling for wine poached pears, with or without nuts, too.

FRESH MOZZARELLA WITH STUFFING
1 gallon water
8 TBS sea salt
1# fresh mozzarella curds (or substitute 1# fresh mozzarella balls – proceeding from second paragraph)
1 medium bowl filled with ice water
Cutting board
Rolling pin
¼ cup sun dried tomato pesto
1 bunch basil leaves
3 TBS pine nuts or other
Plastic film
Method: bring water and salt to a simmer; meanwhile cut curds into small pieces, approx. ½” and place into a medium bowl; pour simmering water over curds and stir to begin melting curds and forming long strands; lift curds up with spoon and allow gravity to pull them down. Dip your hands in the ice water so that you can handle the heated curds. With one hand on the spoon, use the other hand to assist in stretching; continue stretching until curds develop a shine to them; form them into a ball and plunge into ice water to set up.

Remove house made balls from ice water (or purchased balls if using), and place back into simmering salt water to re-stretch. Remove as soon as cheese appears to be malleable. Place on a cutting board and roll as thin as possible without tearing, into a square like shape. Spread a thin layer of sun dried tomato pesto over the cheese, followed by several leaves of fresh basil. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Roll the cheeses into a log; wrap the log tightly with plastic film. This will help the log set up firmly. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour before slicing.

PISTACHIO BISCOTTI
2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
6 oz sugar
3 oz white dry breadcrumbs
8 oz whole pistachio nuts
3 TBS toasted sesame seeds
½ tsp orange flower water (if you can find it)
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp anise extract
2 TBS orange juice
2 large eggs

egg wash–(1 egg and small amount of water blended)
powdered sugar

Method: sift flour with baking powder; add sugar and bread crumbs; add nuts. Combine wet ingredients and flavorings and gradually add into dry ingredients to form a firm dough. Roll into two 16” long logs; place onto baking sheet pan, brush with egg wash and dust with powdered sugar. Bake at 350ºF for about 25 minutes until golden brown; cool about 30 minutes. Slice log on angle into 1/2 inch cookies (or thinner if desired) and place cut side down on parchment lined pan. Second bake at 375ºF for approximately 15 minutes or until sides are golden brown.
Cool. Serve or store in air tight container.


IT’S ALL ABOUT PASSION…. BY BOB NERONI

Imagine going to a foreign place where you don’t speak the language and where your main objective is to work in one of the world’s best restaurants! Imagine asking to work for free for the sheer opportunity to learn. You take your resume to one of the chefs in the kitchen who tell you they will call if anything comes available. You wait two weeks and get the email to start work. Arriving in the kitchen, there are at least 20 other chefs working “apprentissages’ or ‘stage for short.

Well, for many it is a privilege to experience this world. And for Kyo, our former sous chef, the time spent abroad was quote, “life changing”. Culinary education isn’t enough for some chefs. The opportunity to travel the world and work with chefs in a variety of settings can help to mold a chef’s future style and direction.

So I sat down with Kyo to have a conversation about his recent eight month sojourn in San Sebastian and Barcelona, Spain.
Bob: How did you pick Spain?
Kyo: I wanted to improve my Spanish, so I enrolled in a 8-week language class in San Sebastian. It was pretty intense and I came away knowing a bit more, but have a long way to go. I could understand when the person speaking knew I needed them to slow down, otherwise the sheer speed of the language slowed my progress.

Bob: So it was while you were learning Spanish that you started looking for the opportunity. Were you particular about working at Mugaritz, under chef Andoni Luis?
Kyo: Yes, it was my first and only choice. I gave one of the chefs my resume and was told I would be contacted. It was more than two weeks before I received an email to report to work.

Bob: So what was your schedule?
Kyo: I worked a lot of hours—20/day. It makes a 12-hour shift look like nothing. I’m amazed by my own stamina. They didn’t serve dinner on Sunday night and closed on Monday, so we had about 36 hours off. The first 8 of those I slept, but I made up for it on Monday. Can you see 20 chefs away from home letting off steam from the previous week in the kitchen? It wasn’t pretty.

Bob: What was the hardest thing about the experience?
Kyo: The language barrier, long hours and some real abusive language. I didn’t speak as well as the others but I always understood when I was being yelled at.

Bob: Why do you think they used that approach?
Kyo: It is what drives the quality. They had so many chefs in the kitchen they had to keep everyone on the edge to maintain quality.

Bob: What was the facility like?
Kyo: Beautiful! They have several kitchens and lots of space including a service kitchen, the big production kitchen that is kept at 12 deg C, the family kitchen for cooking the staff meals, and the pastry kitchen also used for catering. They do a large business catering weddings, only weddings, for 150-200 people. It is what gets them through the winter. The kitchens were very well equipped. Any tool you can imagine was there!

Bob: So the restaurant is a seasonal business?
Kyo: Yes, the restaurant is well known but is a long way from Barcelona on a windy country road. The tourists come when it’s warm on the coast and that is the main season. The restaurant only seats 50 guests, and yet we had up to 32 chefs in the kitchen some days.

Bob: With so many chefs, how did they decide what to assign to you?
Kyo: I was lucky to end up as Chef de Partie, pescadoes or fish cook. I started like everyone outside at the barbeque grill. Heck some guys never get past that station. I went on to the aperitif station. Even though it was an 11 course degustation menu, meaning a tasting of foods, they also served three appetizers to start that were mostly new every night. So really it was 14 courses and I had to learn new stuff every night.

Bob: How much does that cost?
Kyo: About 115€.
Bob: Wow that is good. Did you have any creative input on the appetizers?
Kyo: Oh no, there are four chefs that do nothing but imagination and creative research, three fourths of which never makes it to the plate. They told me what to do. In that station, I was always in the weeds. They would tell me so fast in the native Spanish that I couldn’t get even half of it. I also realized they usually assign two people on that station, but I was always alone. I had to ask anyone standing nearby what the heck chef said.

Bob: Were they testing you or just believing in you that you could do it?
Kyo: Don’t know. I kept asking for help. I was doing 3 appetizers per guest, about 105 plates a night by myself.

Bob: So what kinds of appetizers did you do?
Kyo: They always did one of their signature dishes, a potato encrusted with clay. Yes it was natural gray clay (Kaolin) mixed with a dark squid stock, lactose and water, that was sprayed over beautiful little round cooked potatoes. Each potato was on a skewer and placed on a piece of Styrofoam so it could dry completely in an oven of about 70 deg C. When dry and cool enough to handle, the skewer was removed and the small hole covered with more wet clay and dried again. The potato itself would stay warm the whole time because the clay kept it warm. It was served on a plate of river rocks and when the waiter brought it to the table he would tell the guest which ones to eat! They served it with a garlic ali-oli.

Another appetizer was just a simple goats milk crème fraiche and beets cooked sous vide style, i.e. in a vacuum bag at low temperature for long time.

Bob: What was your favorite thing about the experience?
Kyo: The techniques! They were incredibly innovative. I think we actually have more variety and better quality ingredients here in America. But techniques and tools were amazing. They would use a compact Roner, kind of a portable bain marie that maintains constant temperature and keeps the water gently moving for sanitation. It was used to make incredible vegetables and meats. They come out incredibly tender and naturally flavored. You don’t have to do much more to them for service. They used laboratory beakers for serving sauces and such. They finished stuff at the tableside like adding the consommé to a dish.

Bob: So this restaurant has three Michelin stars and on the best restaurants in the world list. What do you think is required to receive such honors these days?
Kyo: Innovation. You have to be inventive. It isn’t enough to do the classics– you need to refine them.

Well, needless to say talking with Kyo is very energizing and reminds me why I am in this profession. I know why he has returned 20 lbs lighter! His passion is what makes celebrity but what makes Kyo genuine is he is driven by making the next great dish, not celebrity. He is already looking for the next opportunity, perhaps with Chef Ethan Stowell in Seattle, and eventually, I am sure, we’ll see him in his own place. I asked if he’d like to return to EVOO sometime soon and cook with us. He likes the idea. We will keep you posted. For more about Mugaritz restaurant, visit www.mugaritz.com.

Now for this week’s recipe. Here’s one of Kyo’s own creations that earned him recognition while working at Mona’s Bistro in the Greenlake area of Seattle. This one was named by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine as one of the 15 legendary dishes of Seattle. Enjoy!

Arugula Salad
Serves 2

6 oz baby organic arugula
4 oz roasted red pepper, peeled and deseeded, torn into 1/4 inch pieces
4 oz Humboldt Fog chevre, 2 slices
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp white truffle oil
2 tsp. verjus
1.5 tbsp arbequina olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine honey and truffle oil, mix well with fork.
2. Mix arugula, roasted red peppers, verjus and olive oil in mixing bowl.
3. Add salt and pepper to desired taste.
4. Arrange salad mixture on 2 plates. Mound with some volume.
5. Add cheese slices as desired to the salad.
6. Take truffle honey and using a teaspoon, drizzle over finished salads. Serve immediately.


THERE’S MORE TO SQUASH THAN ZUCCHINI by Robert Neroni

Ever since a kid, I have had an aversion to zucchini squash; maybe because it was always steamed. A vegetable that is virtually all water to begin with just seems to dissolve into a lack luster and soggy pool on the plate. As my culinary career advanced so has my repertoire with all things squash. Guests are generally surprised at the varieties available throughout the year and especially here in Oregon in the fall and winter. I remember one of our first catering requests came from a group of doctors who wanted a Vegan experience, that is, no animal products what so ever. Thanks to the local farms combined with fall harvest, we were able to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner for several days without repeating a single vegetable preparation.
Squash comes in a variety of shapes and sizes weighing in just under a pound to up to fifteen pounds and more. Flesh tones range from green, golden–yellow to bright orange. Color in squash does not dictate flavor or sugar content. Winter squash take approximately three months longer to mature than the summer varieties and best harvested when the weather turns colder. Labeling squash by season is somewhat misleading today. Originally named because they store well in cool cellars, the winter varieties are actually available all year. Still our palates have grown accustomed to heavy thick skinned varieties showing up on our plates when the weather turns cold.
Special care should be taken when prepping the winter thick skin varieties since it is difficult to get a steady grip on the squash with your knife. Peeling these thick skin spheres also proves difficult, which is probably why so many are cooked in their skins till soft enough to scoop out the pulp. Many winter varieties of squash store up to 6 months in a well ventilated dry place at about 50°-55°F, and will keep best if their stems are in tack.
My favorite thing about Winter squash is that they lend themselves to every method of cooking: boiling, sautéing, steaming or baking (roasting), while the pulp makes fabulous quick breads, soufflés, custards and pies. No wonder there are so many ways to create variety in menus with squash!
No discussion of squash would be complete especially in October without mention of pumpkins, truly a North American native. The exact relationship to squash I am not sure—I leave that to the farmers, but I am told they one in the same. To me cooking the jack-o-lantern variety doesn’t really deliver results for the amount energy it takes. Except for roasting the seeds, I don’t cook those pumpkins. My produce guy brings me the sweet meat pumpkins that are great for soups and pies, and worth the effort.
Here now are a few of my favorite ways to prepare squash. Soup comes to the top of the list because of the time of year. I am also including my Zucchini mash, which is how I learned to like those watery wonders.

Here’s how I learned to love zucchini squash. Make them into a mash like potatoes with cream, and then season them well with fresh herbs. Now you’re talking. Note that the summer squash here will make their own liquid but must be watched so they don’t go dry and scorch.

HERBED END OF SUMMER SQUASH MASH
As needed EVOO
16 oz. Zucchini or yellow (or combination) squash, small dice
8 oz other winter squash, small diced
4 oz. onions, diced
1 TBS fresh fine herbs minced
2 TBS reduced cream*
To Taste sea salt
Method: Place all the cut vegetables and onions in medium sauce pot with a little EVOO . Allow vegetables to steam in the pan without adding water. Cook on medium heat for until tender, about 6-8 min. Roughly mash with potato masher. Add fresh herbs, cream and sea salt to taste. Serve immediately.
*To reduce cream: Start with twice what you want; place into pan over medium high heat. Bring to soft boil and continue a soft boil until evaporates to half the amount. Don’t leave the pot!
FINE HERBS
½ – 1 cup chervil, tarragon, chives, It. parsley
Method: Wash and pat very dry equal portions of herbs by volume; mince each and combine into a small bowl. Cover with paper towel and then plastic and refrigerate. It will keep a only a couple days after chopping so make only what you will use up in 2 days. The whole herbs keep longer in as whole herbs.

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A great menu idea is to use the Curried version here served with Apple cheese turnovers and cilantro yogurt to round out the flavors.
ROASTED WINTER SQUASH SOUP (& CURRIED VARIATION)
2 #butternut squash, peeled, seeded, 1” pieces
to coat EVOO
2 carrots, 1” sliced
1 large onion, large dice
1 TBS thyme
1 qt chicken broth or water
4 teaspoon salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
Optional garnishes:
walnut oil
bleu cheese
toasted walnuts

Method: Preheat oven to 400ºF; place squash, carrots and onion in different roasting pans; drizzle each with olive oil, season with salt & pepper; roast about 45 to 60 minutes or until vegetables are tender and are beginning to caramelize; place vegetables in stockpot; add stock or water, thyme and salt & pepper; simmer until vegetables soften more; strain then purée the solids or pass them through a food mill; save the remaining liquid if desired to adjust consistency later; return purée to pot and adjust seasonings; garnish with walnut oil, bleu cheese and toasted nuts.

CURRY VARIATION: Add 2 TBS of good curry powder and 1 TBS of ground coriander while the onions are sautéing, then proceed as directed. Serve this version with Apple Turnovers and Cilantro Yogurt. (see recipes) Drizzle in some orange infused olive oil on the hot soup just before serving for optional pizzazz!

APPLE TURNOVERS WITH MANCHEGO CHEESE
Crust:
2 cups All Purpose flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
4 oz. shortening
4 oz. butter
½ cup iced water Filling:
1 TBS cinnamon
¾ cup sugar
5-7 Gravenstien or this seasons golden delicious apples, peeled & sliced
Pinch of sea salt and ½ tsp. ground coriander
Manchego (or white cheddar) cheese, about 1 cup crumbled/grated
1-2 TBS butter

Method: Pie crust: Combine flour and salt and sugar; mix to incorporate; add both fats and using a pastry blender, cut into flour; combine water, egg and vinegar into flour mixture and gently fold in to combine; place in plastic film and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. Roll out dough and cut into 3 inch to 4 inch circles. Set aside on cookie sheet in refrigerator.
Filling: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Combine cinnamon, sugar coriander and a pinch of sea salt; toss with the apples. On each circle of dough, place 1 TBS of filling and 1-2 tsp crumbled Manchego cheese. Dot with butter. Fold over making half circle, and crimp with fork. Bake 400°F for 15- 25 minutes.
CILANTRO YOGURT
1 cup yogurt, dried *
¼ red onion, minced
1 TBS cilantro, chopped
To taste: sea salt and freshly ground coriander Method: Hang yogurt in cheesecloth over bowl or in container large enough to drain; Refrigerate 24 hours before using. It will resemble cheese. Blend remaining ingredients. Season to taste with pinch of sea salt and freshly ground coriander. Serve a dollop on Winter Squash Soup.
This is a traditional recipe for gnocchi for fall. I prefer the yellow variegated or Italian sage that grows well here for this recipe because it is a heartier.
SWEET PUMPKIN GNOCCHI WITH SAGE BUTTER
1# potatoes, russets
1# sweet pumpkin, cut into pieces
1 ¾ – 2 cups AP flour
1 egg
Sea salt
Butter, as needed (1/4 cup)
¼ cup sage, rough chopped Method: boil the potatoes in their skins to cook, remove, peel and place through a ricer. Steam pumpkin until tender; remove meat from skin and place in ricer. Combine with potato; work in flour, egg and salt; dough should not be sticky to the touch. Roll into long cylinders on floured surface; cut into desired size and mark with fork or gnocchi paddle; place in boiling salted water and cook until they rise to the surface of the water; drain well – reserve on a sheet pan.
Sauce: Heat butter over moderate flame. Just as the butter begins to brown, add the chopped sage. Strain out the pieces of sage and toss butter with cooked gnocchi; season with pumpkin oil if available, salt pepper and coriander.


How to shorten the distance from Farm to Table

Summer is in full swing, kids are all out of school, visitors in town, and farms are once again making their way to open markets. When Lenore and I first arrived four summers ago, we began sourcing ingredients, which tends to take allot of time since our commitment is to use local, organic, seasonal, and sustainably produced products. Even with the frequency of deliveries at the coast, I still couldn’t get the best and freshest because the small farms were not dialed into our little strip up on the North Coast. I like many other chefs in our community participate in the chef-farm collaborative, where as the name implies, chefs and farmers meet one on one to talk about availability and what’s new. I met not only produce farmers, but was able to link up with ranchers, dairypersons, and seafood producers as well. For more on the Farm-Chef connection, visit www.ecotrust.org/foodfarms/farmerchef.

These producers, i.e., farmers, fisherpersons, ranchers, dairypersons, etc, are integral to our success in starting with the best ingredients. It is impossible on my own to stay up on all the trends, seasonal variables and multitude of things that impact products at the source. We depend on being educated by those producers and artisans and all those who support our efforts on a daily basis, including various brokers who are in the middle.

I have met artisan cheese makers who have helped me build our cheese counter. It is mutually beneficial because I carry their products to the beach, and their cheeses have helped EVOO pick up a few of the customers who loved buying cheeses from the old Osborne deli.

Lenore and I have always maintained that the best meals start with the best ingredients so once we became comfortable with our sources we wanted be sure that our students and guests could find the same quality where they shop. Of course, one of the shortest paths from farm to table is to grow your own. Hats off to those who maintain a sustainable vegetable garden! Unfortunately, the wide spread availability of organic and sustainably produced products in supermarkets still needs improvement. In the summertime, one of the best resources for the consumer is their local farmer’s markets. The internet provides ample websites to help source out seasonal markets as well as markets committed to sustainability. Look at such sites as Local Harvest, http://www.localharvest.org/, to find good resources across the United States.

Shortening the distance from farm to table by buying seasonal and close to home is one way to strengthen your community. Consider joining a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, where you actually partner with one or more local farms by paying them a fee early in the season when they are still buying seeds and planting. You then receive the freshest locally grown produce all throughout the growing season! In turn the farmers gain a guaranteed customer base throughout the summer. CSA’s and going to the open markets are small but significant ways to keep small farmers prosperous and working in our state.

Without opening up a political debate, I think there is still some confusion about “organic” vs. “sustainable.” Just being organic, that is, produced without chemicals, isn’t necessarily sustainable. The word sustainable speaks to the “long term” viability of what we do now. Can we live with our choices and the long term effects? This is most clear when considering the “green” aspects of sustainability. Of course there are consequences to depleting soil and over use of chemicals. Consider the contradiction in purchasing produce, for example, that is labeled organic from a South American country and the fuel it takes to get it to the markets in the Northwest. In addition, we want to consider the laborers and field hands and ask if they earn living wages, have healthy living quarters, and are treated equitably.

So for me, the best organic foods are those that are produced locally, in season, and by farms that integrate the principles of social and economic equity for workers as well as environmental health. It is important to note that there are many farms who practice organic farming as well as sustainability but who are not yet officially certified. And if they were, having organic certification does not ensure fair practices for workers. It takes a large financial commitment to gain organic certification for the smaller farms, so I think for now it is more important to be on the sustainable path than to have the certification paperwork. So I ask questions of my vendors and producers. Lenore asks questions on business practices of the manufacturers that produce the culinary tools and gifts we sell in our gift store as well. We humbly aspire to become more and more sustainable as a business, and know it is a process that is not accomplished quickly. We believe that every consumer can take small steps toward creating sustainability. The more we learn the more we apply in our own commerce the closer we get. Every little step adds up.

Much to my wife’s surprise, I have become adamant, no, she would say stubborn, about using produce not just sustainable but in the local season. It is my personal commitment to keep as many of the dollars I spend on ingredients in the state where I live, and so I am going to wait for Oregon’s season for tomatoes! I know I can get organically grown hot house tomatoes all year long, and California tomatoes that are in season earlier than Oregon, but my commitment is to Oregon farmers as much as possible.

What it all boils down to is that though it is tempting to buy foods off season, we are sticking close to the natural growing season and buying in our own food community as much as possible to shorten the distance from farm to table.

Here’s a short list of what we are getting right now from Oregon farms:

Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Braising Mix
Carrots
Cherries
Edible flowers
English peas
Fennel
Garlic
Green beans
Herbs (cilantro, basil, chives, rosemary, lemon verbena, mint, sage, tarragon)
Leeks
Radishes
Shallots
Squash blossoms
Stone fruits like peaches, plums, apricots
Summer Squash
Sweet Onions
Wild greens

Here’s an example of what you might receive from your CSA partner this week in the summer and a week this Fall.
Summer CSA Box Winter CSA box
Blueberries
Raspberries
Peaches
Marion berries
Oregon wild rice
Summer Squash or Squash blossoms
Golden Beets
Haricot vert green beans
Sweet onions
Goat Cheese
Melon Heirloom Tomatoes
Radicchio
Pimiemtos
Arugula
Apples
Grapes
Pears
Melon
Leeks
Dry roasted hazelnuts
Chevre goat cheese

HABONARO CHILI SALSA
1 yellow bell pepper
1 sweet onion
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, paste
1 red bell pepper
1 Habanero chili pepper
2 each summer squash
1 TBS lemon verbena
As needed sea salt, coriander and lime juice Method: Grill the vegetables and cool; dice the vegetables and place in large bowl (be sure to remove the membrane and seeds of all the peppers); chop the herbs and add them and remaining ingredients to the vegetable mixture; adjust seasonings and serve with pork or fish.

PEACH CRUMBLE
4 –5# firm, ripe peaches
1 orange, zested
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1½ cups plus 3 tsp All Purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
½ cup Amaretti cookies, crushed (optional)
½# cold butter, diced Method: Preheat the oven to 350F; butter the inside of a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish. Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock them in cold water; peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl; add the orange zest, ¼ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, and 2 TBS of flour; toss well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes; if there is a lot of liquid add 1 more TBS of flour; pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, cookies and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly; sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches; bake for 1 hour or until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly.

SUMMER PEAS & LIGHT PASTA CARBONARA ( NO CREAM OR EGG)
4 oz Pancetta or bacon, rendered and chopped ¼”
3 TBS shallots, minced
2-3 TBS EVOO
½ cup parmesan, finely grated
1# spaghetti
1-2 cups fresh peas*
sea salt, to taste
3 TBS flat leaf parsley, minced
Method: Cook spaghetti in 1 ½ gal salty water until tender to the tooth (al dente), according to package. (all brands do not cook the same rate)

Sauté pancetta or bacon with shallots in medium sauté pan and cook to render fat and crisp bacon. (Shallots should be aromatic and translucent) Add drained cooked pasta to pan along with olive oil and peas. Tossing to warm peas.

Remove from heat and toss with cheese; taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

*You may substitute frozen peas for fresh; fresh peas may be blanched before adding. To blanch, drop shelled peas into boiling salted water for 30 seconds; shock in ice water and drain immediately.

SUMMER BEET SALAD (RAW)
1 lb young summer beets
1 red onion
¼ cup basil, chiffonade
2 TBS cherry vinegar
3 TBS EVOO (orange flavored-if available) *
To taste: sea salt, fresh ground coriander, fresh ground pepper Method: 1# beets, 1 red onion, ¼ cup basil, 2 TBS sherry vinegar, 3 TBS orange EVOO – method: julienne the beets into a medium bowl; slice the onions and toss together with beets; loosely chop the basil and add to the vegetables; add the vinegar – toss; add the oil – toss; adjust seasonings with sea salt, coriander and pepper.

*You may infuse 3 TBS good EVOO oil with 2 tsp orange zest for 2-3 hours if you cannot find Orange infused oil in the market.


No sweat! Meals for the Dog Days of summer

Yes the dog days of summer¦. Where in the world did that expression come from anyway? Lenore tells me the origins are ancient, coming from the big dog constellation, whose brightest star, Sirius, rises with the sun during the summertime in the northern hemisphere. I have lived a long time not knowing that. To me it denotes hot and muggy weather and a great time not to cook, especially indoors. It inspires me to make salads and all things cool and crisp! It also makes me think of another dog, as in hot dogs cooked over a beach fire—but we will save sausage making for another article.

So the ancient Romans thought that because Sirius is such a bright star that we must surely receive heat from it and when it coincides with the sun July 3 through Aug 11, or there about, it delivers even more heat. Of course we are much wiser than the ancient Romans and we know rising summer temperatures have nothing to do with that star. Still I guess it is nice to know the origin of the saying.

So now back to the better known and popular meaning for the “dog days. When I worked in Wash DC, on the muggiest days, so very hot and very humid, only cold liquid seemed to matter. Especially since most of those days I was in the kitchen where even with air conditioning, the ovens and stoves always prevailed. Those were the days our Cuban and Mexican cooks would put together some pretty refreshing concoctions that kept us all going. They’d refer to these drinks as agua fresca. The reason they were so interesting to me is that it would never occur to me at any other time to drink cucumber flavored water sometimes using only the peels and a few lemon slices. Except on those dog days, when I would actually crave it. More recently, I make my own version of agua fresca that has little more fruit in the water to keep it only lightly sweetened. I have included a couple recipes that I make for our staff at EVOO during the work day to keep everyone well hydrated.

As for no-sweat menu ideas, I like salads. No-heat menu planning at its best! And now the market is overflowing with all the best salad ingredients. This week, I brought in the first of the season Oregon grown tomatoes, and tomatoes will star in every meal until September 30 or as long as they are available! Panzanella salad, aka Italian bread salad, is one of our favorites where tomatoes are prominent. This sandwich in a bowl conjures up memories of dining in Florence Italy during tomato season. Making Panzanella in a restaurant I would most likely peel the tomatoes, but during the dog days even boiling water to blanch a tomato is too hot! In the recipe that follows make it with or without skin on the tomatoes, your choice.

Melons offer cool dining with cantaloupe, honeydew, Crenshaw’s, and watermelon, eaten as is, slightly chilled or made into a great summer soup, beverage, salsa, or salad. Try your favorite summer fish with a watermelon salsa for a refreshing summer meal.

When eating out, I admit to enjoying a good sushi bar for the real deal. I love watching the masters create their tasty works of gourmet art. Homemade sushi is easy when you stick to the basics and use great Pacific Northwest ingredients to produce the cool light fare.
One tip for relaxed summer dining is to find a spot with a view of a cool body of water, whether you are inside or outside, it’s the view that offers cooling satisfaction. I enjoy eating light during the dog days. I enjoy time off from the stove and the ease of creating satisfying meals with little more than produce. Lenore reminds me that eating protein is important too, so remember to grill a few extra chicken breasts to freeze and use when no cooking in the house is preferred. Legumes such as garbanzo beans offer good protein and can be purchased in cans—but do rinse them well and chill before using.

I would be remiss to leave the topic of dog days without mentioning our canine friends. After all they get hot too and we need to remember that they need to remain well hydrated in the summer. So we are including a recipe for them, created by Caron Hart, part of the EVOO family. She makes them for her Labrador, Iris, and has taste tested them on our standard poodles, Olivia and Taylor. All give their enthusiastic approval for beating the heat of the doggie days of summer!
CUCUMBER FRESCA makes 1 quart
½-1 cucumber, sliced
¼ cup fennel, sliced
½ cup black berries
½ cup raspberry
1-2 stems of tarragon
(or basil leaves)
½ quart filtered water
½ quart sparkling water or Gingerale ( for sweeter results)

Put together in a pitcher and muddle* to extract flavors; Add the chilled filtered water and chilled sparkling water or any combination of liquid. Sometimes we use leftover sparkling grape juice that is not going to last for our next service.
*to muddle is to mash or crush with spoon or rod-like tool with flattened end.

CITRUS WATER makes 1 gallon
Up to 2 cups of citrus juices such as lemon, lime and orange
1-3 TBS honey (optional)
½ gal cold filtered water
½ gal ice cubes
Method: Blend all in large container. Adjust the honey to suit your taste, but keep it on the less sweet side. Chef’s note: Don’t expect this to taste like pop or fruit juice as it is meant to flavored water that is refreshing, nutritious, and low cal.

PUPPY POPS (by Caron Hart)
Chicken bones, skin, giblets, scraps of meat after roasting a chicken


CHILL Making ice cream is a smooth move!

“I scream you scream we all scream for ICE CREAM!” That childhood riddle (*) rings in my head when I think of summer and one of my favorite creative outlets, that of making ice cream.

About twenty five years ago I bought my first ice cream maker from William Sonoma, and quite a serious machine it was. As a chef it marked somewhat of a right of passage to own such an expensive tool. Interestingly, I used it only a few times at home, as it wasn’t large enough to use in the places I was working, and so it sat on the shelf looking impressive, without much action. In fact, it wasn’t until we opened EVOO, that I put some miles on it.

Now, it is so much a part of our daily routine that the dusty days of shelf-sitting is but a dim memory. I find making ice cream incredibly rewarding because the process can be so creative. Now mind you I am not a fan of the “iron chef” way of making every secret ingredient into ice cream. I draw the line on “trout ice cream.” But I do enjoy experimenting outside the box with herbs and spices and, of course, all sorts of fruit/veggie and nut/herb combinations. One constant favorite of mine is no surprise any longer, is coriander sour cream ice cream, which for me just transcends the average apple pie to greater heights and takes the chocolate flourless treats up several notches. (did I just say that, Emeril?).

For me making ice cream falls into the category of “what is so hard about that?” It is why I make my own pasta—it is so easy—I cannot think “why not?” Here’s all there is to making ice cream.

Start with basic custard: egg yolks, cream, and sugar (see recipes). Next, you need to decide on a flavoring—keep it simply vanilla or use your imagination. Right now I am thinking of Cherry Amaretto because cherries are in season. Throw in some dark chocolate pieces after churning and a new flavor is born. How about Chocolate Hazelnut with fresh raspberries folded in; and Vanilla bean folded with Cashew Brittle!

The secret to my ice cream is in the heating of the custard. After placing the egg yolks, cream and sugar into a medium saucepan, I whisk to combine and place over medium flame. Switching to a rubber spatula, I stir in figure eight motion, scrapping down the sides every other turn, until the mixture coats the spatula (or the back of a spoon). This might be a perfect time to for you to invest in a digital thermometer because taking it to the exact temperature of 185°F is needed, and “coating the spatula” isn’t an exact measurement. Once to temperature, I remove it from the heat and strain through a fine mesh into a large metal pan or bowl for cooling. I want to get the custard as cold as possible before churning; at least 40°F or lower. The cooler I take the base the shorter the churn time, which translates to a creamier ice cream.

I recommend you follow your machine manufacturer directions from here. Right after churning, the ice cream resembles soft serve—very nice but still not ice cream yet. You will want to place it into a container, plastic with tight lid is my choice, and freeze for at least 3-5 hours before serving. I usually place a piece of parchment paper on top of the soft ice cream before snapping on the tight lid. I think this helps keep the ice crystals away. And I do this with store purchased ice cream too—keeping the cardboard container in a plastic bag or wrapped in foil to extend its freshness.

What about other frozen treats? Gelato is an Italian favorite that is increasing in popularity in the US. In a gelato, the high butter fat of ice creams is displaced with more concentrated flavorings. Check out my Hazelnut Gelato, for example, and see how many hazelnuts are required to create the intense flavor of the finished gelato.

Sorbets differ from Sherbets (also lower butterfat-1-2%), in that they have no dairy and are fat free. They are essentially a frozen ice, usually fruit based that is churned into a smooth whole fresh fruit taste. My favorite is Strawberry Sorbet (see recipe) which I use on strawberry shortcake when fresh berries are out of season! I usually make sorbet from the frozen berries I processed during the peak of berry season. That way I almost always have a true berry flavor, even in the winter.

If you don’t have an ice cream machine, you can still make granites! These are frozen non-dairy mixtures made from sweetened fruits; you can stay savory too with a tarragon gewürztraminer or a tomato ice. To make, place the mixture in a freezer pan or ice cube tray. Instead of churning in a machine, you agitated with a fork, every 35-45 minutes while freezing, creating a slushy, coarser flavored “ice.” Check out the Tomato Horseradish Ice that I use on fresh shucked oysters or over a shrimp or crab cocktail.

There is no end to making up new ice creams, gelatos, sorbets and granites or granitas, (the Italian word for these icy combinations.)! I encourage everyone to give it a whirl, and especially if you own a not-frequently-used machine, just dust it off and get churning! Ciao, Bob


RECIPES OF THE WEEK-ice cream, gelatto, granites, & ices

** recipes referred to in story gazette story on ice cream,CHILL Making ice cream is a smooth move!
**TOMATO & HORSERADISH ICE (Granita)
8 oz organic tomato juice (Vegetable juice such as V-8 works well too)
1 TBS fresh horseradish, grated
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS ground coriander
Zest of 1 lemon
½ lemon juiced
Season with sea salt to taste
Method: blend ingredients; taste and season with sea salt, if needed.
Place mixture into freezer pan (shallow glass container or stainless steel pan/ice cube tray). Place level in freezer and stir with fork every 25-45 minutes, depending on how fast your freezer works, until all well frozen.

At service: place over fresh shrimp or crab salad for refreshing appetizers; or shave small amounts onto fresh shucked oysters.

Chef note: If you like it a little hotter, shake in a few drops of your favorite hot sauce before freezing.

**CORIANDER ICE CREAM
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
3 TBS ground coriander
¾ cup sour cream
Method: in a heavy sauce pan, combine heavy cream, sugar, yolks, salt and coriander; cook over low heat, stirring in figure-8 constantly for 12 -15 minutes or until custard coats the back of a spoon without running off. This is happens at about 185°F. Remove from heat and cool in shallow pan completely to 40°F.

Before churning, strain chilled mixture through fine sieve; add the sour cream, whisking to combine.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for ice cream machine blending.

EASY STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM
2¼ cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 cups unsweetened frozen or fresh washed, stemmed fresh strawberries

Method: in a heavy sauce pan, combine heavy cream, sugar, yolks, salt and strawberries; cook over low heat stirring constantly for 12 -15 minutes until it reaches 185°F or custard coats the spoon without running off; remove from heat and cool completely. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for ice cream machine blending.

For very light pink color and more variation in the finished product, add the berries the last 10 minutes of churning.
You may use the same procedure for raspberries and blackberries.
MINT ICE CREAM
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 bunch mint leaves, washed and patted dry (about 1 cup)
6 large egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
¾ cup sour cream
Method: in a heavy sauce pan, combine 1 ½ cups heavy cream, sugar, mint, yolks, and salt; cook over low heat, stirring constantly for 12 -15 minutes; custard should coat the spoon without running off; remove from heat and cool.

Before churning, strain mixture through fine sieve; fold in sour cream, whisking to combine.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for ice cream machine blending.
Variation: Add chunks of dark 70% cocoa chocolate last 5 minutes of churning.

**STRAWBERRY SORBET
2 lbs. strawberries, washed, hulled; OR previously frozen strawberries, unsweetened
¼ cup honey
1 cup superfine sugar
pinch of sea salt
Method: Puree all berries and strain; add honey, sugar and salt; freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Remove to freezer, well sealed.

**HAZELNUT GELATO
2 cups toasted and skinned hazelnuts
1 tsp hazelnut oil
3 ½ cups whole milk
¾ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 TBS Frangelico, optional
½ tsp vanilla paste

Method: Grind hazelnuts and set aside; place oil, milk, and nuts in a heavy sauce pan; bring to a boil; cover, remove from heat and steep for 30-60 minutes. Using a fine sieve, strain over a new sauce pan, pressing down firmly on nuts to extract all flavors. Place strained mixture into a new sauce pan; bring back to a simmer.

Beat yolks with sugar until frothy. When flavored milk is ready, temper yolk-mixture by adding warm milk to the egg-mixture a little at a time. When completely combined, place bowl of custard over simmering water, (double boiler fashion) and reheat until it is thick enough to coat a spoon.

Cool in an ice bath for approximately 1 hour and place in shallow pan in the refrigerator until it reaches 41°F. Add the vanilla paste and Frangelico, if using. (The chilled custard is now ready to be placed into the ice cream machine to finish, according to machine directions.)

Remember a true gelato doesn’t contain as much “air” as ice cream because it churns less, making gelato denser in texture. Follow your machine directions for gelato.


Dueling Dinners, A Friendly Cook-off!

It was a beautifully crisp summer day in Cannon Beach last Tuesday. I took the day off to go fishing. I have taken up fly fishing—for salmon this summer, along with summer residents, Mike and his son Will. On previous Tuesdays we had scouted for fish and were content that we just hadn’t found the right location yet and happy for the practice. This day, we were going where the internet directed us. Confident, I invited our visiting guests from Maryland to join us, and Will loaned his fishing gear so they could fish, too. I was pretty sure they’d be content to snap some pictures of the scenery (and the fish that Mike and I catch).

The night before we all got together and the wives decided to have a relaxing day at the CB spa then come home to cook our catches on the Barbie. Sounded reasonable to us and then the conversation took a “what-if” turn. What if we don’t catch fish, then what? Well Marty, our friend from Seattle, proclaimed himself a great Carbonara cook and said with only a few ingredients and very little effort he’d cook it if we didn’t get fish. Next thing I know Lenore is bragging on my Carbonara and you guessed it, we were all signed up for a cook off regardless of salmon on the menu! Well, in my mind, all that nonsense would be forgotten when we came home with the fish.

The next morning we took off for the internet fishing hole looking for the promised fish. John and Marty, followed behind us in their car, in case they wanted to leave before us. At streamside, they watched us awhile and took some pictures. John even caught a salamander with his bare hands and snapped its mug shot before tossing it back. Then after the third fishing hole we took them to, they politely excused themselves, something about scaring the fish and the ford SUV they had rented couldn’t take the rough terrain. Now the pressure was really on. Mike and I worked it a bit longer and started talking about listing our gear on eBay. It was looking like we’d never catch a fish.

On the way back my attention turned to Carbonara. I know my recipe isn’t at all the classic method. Lenore makes one too, but again not the classic. It’s not that we don’t like the classic recipe, but it is just that we try to avoid using raw or under cooked eggs and the classic uses eggs that are cooked only by the heat of the pasta! So my version is reduced cream and no egg at all. And Lenore’s version is with olive oil and no egg or cream. Light and summery, she says.

The judge for the contest was self appointed. Claiming expertise on Carbonara, our friend, John took on the job. He had tasted a few different ones in his day, and Marty’s as well. Gee that sounds a little slanted right there, but they are “company” and it wouldn’t be polite to insist Lenore judge too!

Coming in empty handed again, I knew there wasn’t going to be much I could do to changes the course of the evening. The Cook-off was on. I do this very recipe for the Pasta 101 class, and it is often voted their favorite, but next to the real deal, I couldn’t be sure.

John and Marty were already home when we strolled in with tackle—no fish. Marty had already gathered his ingredients for Carbonara and was relaxing on the patio. I started to pull together my ingredients feeling very happy that I froze the English peas when they were sweet and fresh a few weeks ago. I was sure that gave me some edge. Then I pulled out my house smoked bacon made from pork bellies that I cured and smoked myself—I’m thinking, another plus. To keep it simple we are using dry pasta—same brand of linguini for both dishes. If only I could make fresh Pappardelle—Is that my secret ingredient? Marty is using pancetta since the ham he always uses wasn’t available. Sounds like a great substitution to me. He doesn’t use peas of any kind, so that could be a plus on my side.

Marty finishes his dish first—everyone gathers at the table—a few pictures—then serve it up! The ooze and ahs for Marty’s recipe were loudly ringing in my ears as I am still finishing my batch. At last, my bowl goes to the table—wait don’t forget the fresh grated aged parmesan. Again, snapping pictures and audible accolades coming from the wives and John. I sit down to my plate of both kinds side by side. I taste Marty’s; darn this is good. I taste mine; good but sure miss that homemade pasta; maybe I’ll try pancetta in my recipe next time—a nice salty addition.

Plates were clean—no one could even eat the salad Lenore made. We just sat there content. “Time to judge, John,” someone said. “I cannot,” he responded like a diplomat. Come on John, it’s your job to judge—you said so, I thought. “No, really I liked them both—they are so different, and both great!” So I proclaim Marty’s version the winner—after all I really enjoyed the garlicky version he created. Lenore smiled a proud smile—knowing how I much really like to win.

Here are the recipes for you to enjoy!
MARTY’S CARBONARA Watch out for the garlic! 1 # best quality spaghetti
½ # ham*, bacon or pancetta cubed
1 whole head garlic, peeled, sliced, reserve 1 TBS raw
3 eggs
Pepper and Salt to taste
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Flat leaf parsley garnish
*When using Ham add EVOO for cooking in the pan since ham is so lean. Method: Cook the bacon in a skillet big enough to hold the finished dish. Pour off some of the fat leaving about 3 TBS. Sauté the garlic, (reserving 1 TBS for later), with bacon until slightly translucent and not brown. In separate pot, cook spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain well and toss in pan with bacon and garlic. Toss well to distribute meat and garlic. Remove from heat and stir in eggs and the reserved tablespoon of raw garlic. Toss gently to cook the eggs from the heat in the pasta and the pan off the heat now. Season with Salt Pepper and grated Parmesan Cheese. Serve immediately garnished with flat leaf parsley.

BOB’S CARBONARA
½ cup bacon, minced
½ cup shallots, minced
2 cup heavy cream, reduced to 1 cup
½ cup aged parmesan, finely grated
1# cooked spaghetti or other pasta
2 cup peas, blanched, optional
3 -5 TBS parsley, minced Method: Cook bacon in medium large pan to crisp and render fat; remove bacon and reserve; remove ½ the bacon fat; add shallots; cook until aromatic not brown; add cream and heat thoroughly; Add pasta, cheese and peas; dish up and garnish with parsley.


Tastes of BRAZIL….

I have always been a fan of the cuisines from different cultures and enjoy watching others bring their menus to life. That said as a chef I try never to attempt a menu from a culture that I know nothing about or if I cannot guarantee the authenticity of the recipes. That way my inspiration comes from the cuisine, but I am not held to the standard of that cuisine. When Sandra Werner and Nausa Crosby expressed interest in having me bring Brazil to life in Cannon Beach, I encouraged them to do it with me. Both women have been guests at the school and both are expatriates from Brazil now living in Cannon Beach.

The menu for THE TASTE OF BRAZIL class Sat. Jun 2 came together with ease since we all agreed to showcase many of the national dishes in one evening. It was the recipe development that created some challenges. First we were faced with the Portuguese language translation, and finding ingredients and appropriate substitutions for ingredients. Sandra ordered some imported ingredients from her connections, and we were feeling pretty set with a few American substitutions our Brazilian advisors approved.

Reservations began to trickle in. Soon we realized they were all friends of Sandra, and who were also Brazilian expatriates! Now the pressure began to mount–I am going to be cooking my first “authentic” Brazilian menu for a dozen or so Brazilian natives! Others who had spent significant time in Brazil signed up too; one couple came because they recently ate at a fabulous Brazilian restaurant and wanted to compare! I got the feeling that I was about to cook for a Brazilian family who had just given me their mothers’ recipes, and who were much better equipped to make them. To ease the pressure, both women assured me they were ready to work with me.

That morning we decided to have a trial run on the popular Brazilian bread, Pao de queijo. Nausa brought her bread baking skills in to monitor the cheesy bread production. And a good thing she did. The recipe seemed easy enough: milk, water, oil, eggs, salt, cheese and manioc starch, the native name for tapioca. No flour and as I mixed the ingredients, a glue-like mound formed in my bowl. It was so gelatinous I needed to get oil on my hands in order to form it. With Nausa’s encouragement, I kept going. Clearly if left alone, I would have thought the whole thing a mistake and started over. The finished bread filled the kitchen with nutty cheesy smells and it was brown and slightly crisp on the outside and softly chewy inside. Nausa had recommended we change the parmesan cheese to feta cheese and it resulted in a very soft center.

As the remaining dishes were prepped, I still had some trepidation. I was about to cook the raw snapper in coconut milk on top of the stove—in kind of a stew fashion way I had not done before and my instincts were fighting it. How could possibly turn out? My confidence was slowly being chipped away with each new dish, and I was mad at myself for not practicing on Lenore a week earlier.

By the time the Brazilian expatriate’s guests arrived a little early, I was braced for anything. To my relief, I found myself immediately drawn in by their excitement and esprit de corp. It seems their party had actually starter earlier at Sandra’s house for a sip of the national drink, Caipirinha. It is made with distilled sugar cane juice, (potent), muddled with lime and sugar. I am going to try it with RUM, which is readily available and is also the distilled sugar cane, including the molasses. After tasting, my nerves were grateful!

First course, Moqueca – the fish gently cooked in unsweetened coconut milk! A mixture of piri piri, meaning pepper-pepper, was added and the dish took on a pinkish cast. It was beautiful on the plate along side the chewy cheese bread. Something, I was told isn’t usually done, but it worked, they said! I waited for more guest comments on my first course. One of the guests graciously encouraged me to use more salt as Brazilian’s tend to like more salt than Americans. Another guest said it was just right. I said give a recipe to six chefs and there would be six different results. All nodded with understanding. And one guest said that is why we are here—for your interpretation of these recipes; you have make our “family food” much fancier! My confidence started to grow to its normal stride.

Next course Feijoada with Arroz Branco – beans and rice. Don’t be fooled by this simple combination. In all my years cooking, I have never spent as much time on a single bean dish! In the end though, I think they were the best beans I have ever eaten! (see recipe)

The braised Portuguese sausage with roasted pork loin was next, and if I learned only one thing from our Brazilian guests, it is that Brazilian’s like their meat! This was meat on meat and seemed to fulfill their expectation!

Dessert consisted of home-made passion fruit ice cream and some fresh bananas. I made a fresh caramel sauce to pour over all. It was another “interpretation.” Caramel is a flavor I saw several times in my own research on the cuisine, so I felt it would be well received. However, my guest cooks said I must also serve coffee and bon-bons to end a Brazilian celebration meal. Of course, coffee, one of Brazil’s most important crops! Both the coffee and the candies were among the imported ingredients Sandra had pre-arranged. And when we passed out the chocolate covered crunchy candies, the guests squealed with approval!

All-in-all it appeared that our guests and staff enjoyed the experience very much. We are already talking about making Tastes of Brazil an annual start to summer! Enjoy the recipes—make them your own! Ciao – Bob


RECIPE OF THE WEEK: FEIJOADA – BRAZILIAN BLACK BEANS

FEIJOADA – BRAZILIAN BLACK BEANS From TASTES OF BRAZIL Sat June 2, 2007
1# black beans, dried
1# salted beef (beef jerky)
8 TBS EVOO
2 onions, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1# pork ribs
1 TBS black pepper
5 bay leaves
Method: Cover/soak the beans in cold water overnight; soak the salted beef covered in water overnight as well. Drain the beans and put them into a large saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and then simmer for 30 minutes until tender.
Rinse the soaked beef well; add to the beans and cook for 90 minutes at 200 degrees F; heat a large saucepan over medium high heat; add the oil, onions and garlic and cook until softened; add the ribs, pepper and bay leaves; pour in the cooked beans and rehydrated meat and top up with water; place back in the oven for about 5 hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Remove bones and stir meat into beans. Serve.

Chef’s note: Serve the Feijoada with white or brown rice, sautéed greens, and a salad of butter lettuce, red onions and orange slices.


Guys and Grilling

Grilling and Father’s Day just seem to go together. Heck, grilling and men just seem to go together! Guys who may be a bit intimidated by the whole cooking thing become almost fearless at the grill! And have you seen the grill choices today? Equipped with stovetop burners, smoking compartments and rotisseries, some of these babies are even better than what is in the home kitchen. When it comes right down to it, though, it’s just heat and meat! It’s the culmination of the hunt; the primal need to take the steak and place it over an open fire and watch as the flesh browns creating intoxicating aromas, all the while the family gathers to enjoy the fruits of his labor. At least that is what gets some of us guys started. Being more realistic, it’s sometimes more like what happens when cooking a fresh caught trout over the open flame. The fish is charred black on the outside and raw in the middle! The humbling process begins and we learn what should be so easy actually takes some technique.

And it is technique I am talking about today. There are so many versions of how to grill and/or barbeque. There’s even a debate about the term barbeque itself, some defining it the same as grilling others not. Should we use charcoal or gas, par-cook the ribs or finish them in the oven, and so the “discussions” go on and on. I cannot begin to cover all the debates today, and in the end it will be just another opinion!

So lets start with the science of grilling. What actually happens when protein and heat get together? Technically a transformation occurs called the “Maillard” reaction. When high heat is applied, the browning of proteins begins, creating various flavors and aromas that contribute to our enjoyment of food. The controlled use of this process is used by food scientists to create flavor profiles for products geared at consumer buying habits – but that is a whole other subject.

Basics: How hot is hot enough for grilling? I use the two-second count. If you can hold your hand above the coals for only two seconds before instinctively jerking it away, then the coals are some where near 500°F and ready to use! If the coals are not ready, don’t rush it as that is when you can get off-flavors from the charcoal itself. Coals are meant to be white-hot! When using gas, don’t forget to preheat—about 20-30 minutes before you’ll need it, and then use the two-second count as well.

Grilling is a direct or indirect and dry heat method of cooking, making it best for the more tender cuts of meat. Cook individual tender cuts fast and hot, preserving the juices. Use cuts like New York strips, tenderloin filets, T-bone steaks, chicken fryers, and fish.
For straight direct heat grilling make sure that each piece of food is the same size and width, whether it be beef, chicken, fish or vegetables. That way each piece cooks evenly and they all finish at the same time. For example, it is best to cut blocks of salmon rather than placing a whole side on the grill, because the section where the filet tapers toward the tail is thin and will surely over cook before the rest is done.

In contrast to dry direct heat, barbequing is done by cooking slowly over low heat, indirect heat. For this method we prefer spare ribs, briskets, pork shoulders, and tougher cuts of meat that require the slow steady breaking down of connective tissues from moist heat.

And for the whole pieces of tender cuts, like whole tenderloin, whole fryers and whole turkey breasts, indirect high heat works best. This is accomplished by raking the hot coals to either side of the grill and placing the whole piece in the middle (over a drip pan); proceed with the grill covered and the meat will brown and cook without burning. Gas grills with two or more burners can be set at different temperatures for indirect heat, creating a similar outcome.

Troubleshooting: Flame flare-ups from dripping grease can be controlled. Trim all external fat and dry off any marinade that may be left on the meat. When the external degree of browning occurs, move pieces to finish cooking with indirect heat. That is a good time to brush on the sauce. We always have a water spray bottle handy for extreme flare-ups—just to gain control, but I don’t recommend using it constantly as the coals will cool down too much (spray the coals not the meat). Resist the temptation to put the BBQ sauce on too early.

Food Safety: After cooking those burgers to perfection take care not to place them on the very same plate that the raw burgers went on. Remember, items that touch raw meat (platters, tongs fork, knives, etc) should not touch the cooked foods. Be sure to discard marinades that are meant to bath the raw meat— unless you bring the marinade to a full boil for a minute or two to kill the bacteria and then use it at the table as a sauce. Whole muscle meats like bone on steaks can be served rare because the unwanted microbes are killed when heat is applied to the exterior. Fabricated meats such as hamburger or meats tenderized with needles require the product to be cooked to 155 F which will kill the unwanted bacteria – the problem is whatever was on the outside was put on the inside through fabrication. So if you are a fan of rare beef, choose whole muscle steaks over hamburger.

Choices: The equipment for grilling is another consideration and though we are strong proponents of charcoal grilling for its simplicity, there is allot to be said for the “lazy” side to using gas or propane. Nowadays grills have enough BTU’s to cook like the professionals. In fact there is a great evolutionary flat top grill designed for year round use outdoors. It’s called the EVO (for Evolution) grill and is manufactured in Beaverton OR. However, if price is an object, you might do as Lenore and I do, and keep replacing that old hibachi or kettle cooker. For the price and the results, we think simple is best.

A few good tools are a must regardless of your choice of grill. Long handled tongs ensure that hands stay far away from the rising heat. A charcoal chimney starter is nice, and the butane matchsticks are a must. You’ll need a good stiff brush for cleaning and a heatproof silicon brush for basting at the grill. A fish /veggie basket or mesh mat is very handy for cooking small cuts and fish of any kind to prevent sticking and falling through the grill slats.

Remember that anything you can cook on your stove or in your oven can be cooked outside with a little imagination and planning. Enjoy the process!

BBQ SAUCE FOUR WAYS*(just change the liquid-see recipe)
1 large onion, diced

3 TBLS butter

1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup catsup, or tomato paste
1 cup strong beet stock or juice, strong espresso, dark beer, or water Method: place onions in heated sauce pot and caramelize without oil/fat; add 3 TBS salted butter and continue browning; add spices, Worcestershire and Tabasco – cook to combine; add remaining ingredients and simmer 5 minutes; add beet stock/juice, espresso, beer or water and simmer 20 minutes; reserve to use immediately or chill and keep refrigerated until needed.

BOB’S SPICE MIX
2 1/2 TBLS paprika
2 TBLS salt
2 TBLS garlic powder
2 TBLS coriander
1 TBLS black pepper 1 tsp ground mustard
1 TBLS onion powder
1 TBLS cayenne pepper
1 TBLS dried leaf oregano
1 TBLS dried thyme Method: blend all in small container—reserve in zip lock bag or snap close air tight container.
LENORE’S SPICY WINGS
12-24 chicken fryer wings

1 TBLS Sea salt
2 TBLS Garlic powder
2 TBLS Fresh ground pepper
3 TBLS Fresh ground coriander
Method: Wash the wings under running water in a colander. Dry with paper towel. Tuck little wing tip under “drumette” to form a V; place each dried tucked wing onto baking sheet.

Blend salt mix in a baggy; liberally sprinkle wings with salt mix, both sides, and refrigerate until your grill is ready.

When the coals are white hot, place the rack at the highest position about 6 inches above the heat. Be sure the grill has been cleaned and brushed with oil. Place the wings evenly over half the grill the first 3-5 minutes; then start to turn the wings over all to the other side of the grill. Repeat every 2 or 3 minutes until the wings are done. About 30 minutes. Move the grill down as the coals cool. Keep a water bottle handy so you can catch the flare ups.

Serve with a large green salad with chunky bleu cheese dressing.

ILSA’S OYSTERS

1-2 doz freshly shucked oysters

As needed, finely grated parmesan cheese

Fresh ground pepper Method: Shuck oysters maintaining the juice in the larger side of the shell. Place oysters in their shells on the hot grill. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. When they bubble remove and enjoy!

Ilsa says to tilt your head back and let the warm oyster slide into your mouth all at once!


THE SUBTLE IMPACT OF SEA SALTS

One key ingredient at the cooking school is SEA SALT. Some months ago, we conducted a tasting of various sea salts such as our favorites, Sel Gris, Fleur de Sel, and Cyprus Black Salt. Sea salt as an individual ingredient, like herbs and spices, actually counts for more than a salty flavoring, much like olive oil contributes more than a cooking medium. We consider sea salt an ingredient worthy of the added time it takes to select them. So how do we choose from the hundreds of brands and types available today?

First consideration for sea salts is to remember they are, after all, mostly sodium chloride! Table salt, being 99.9% NACL, is on one end of the continuum and some varieties of sea salt that contain up to16% natural trace minerals and electrolytes on the other end. So sometimes the differences in taste are subtle. The most distinctive characteristic may not be taste at all, but rather the color and texture of these specialty sea salts. Texture in salt is attributed to the way the salt crystallized. The area or region from which it originates determines the crystallization much the same way snow flakes are formed, and the color depends on where salts are collected and how they are processed.

For example, Fleur de Sel and Sel Gris, our everyday salts are both harvested at the mouth of the La Geurande River in the South of France where the saline is thick. In the Celtic style the salt is stirred with wooden rakes as it dries in the sun. When the pure white top layer is formed, it is immediately collected. This is considered prime because it doesn’t always appear as it depends on climate and weather conditions. It is celebrated when it does appear, and it is aptly named, Fleur de Sel, “salt flower.” The salt beneath is Sel Gris, or “gray salt,” taking the gray color from minerals absorbed as it dries on the mud flats. For a long time the gray layer in salt cultivation was left behind, and only the very white salt went to market.

Keep in mind, the natural minerals in sea salts are absent in ordinary table salt. And table salt usually contains added iodine and chemicals for anti-caking that contribute off-flavors and lower its absorbency. Some Kosher sea salts are available today, but generally Kosher salt is mostly like table salt that is a mined salt, and is a good all purpose choice for cooking because it is inexpensive, mostly free of the additives, and it meets the Jewish dietary guidelines for making Kosher meats, as well has being blessed by the rabbi. Though I sometimes still use Kosher salt, my preference is still sea salts that are harvested and dried naturally by the sun, and especially the slightly wet salts that are found in the layers closest to the earth. Wet salts absorb more quickly making them easier (for me, anyway) to control the amount I use than Kosher or table salts.

Black Sea salt is a good example of what we call a finishing salt. It is evaporated by sun in above ground pools that formed naturally from lava flows. “Activated charcoal” is added for color and detoxifying health benefits. As a finishing salt it adds striking color and texture, adding drama and smoky notes to fish, salads, Sushi, grilled meats, and tofu.

We suggest customers TASTE as many sea salts as possible before buying. Many markets do olive oil and salt tastings on Saturdays and kitchen supply shops now offer tastings, too. So take advantage of tasting opportunities–I do, and always learn something. Lenore and I are fortunate that we can ask for a sample before we stock our shelves with a product. That way we can get to know it and decide application before buying. Whenever someone asks about the salts we carry we encourage them to taste before buying.

To learn about salts in general, you might read one of the books on salt, like Salt: A World History or The Story of Salt, both by Mark Kurlansky. Or my personal favorite is the Food Network’s Alton Brown’s chronology of salt www.goodeatsfanpage.com. Also check the web to learn about specific brands and what makes them special and different. For me choosing salts is similar to choosing wines. I ask winemakers, wine store owners, wine reps directly when I can, and when a live person is unavailable, I read what they say about their wines on their websites and backs of labels. This info gets translated in my mind to foods and ingredients that go well with them.

To recap, salt as an ingredient should not be underestimated. When trying to decide which to buy, taste as many as you can first, and read about their properties. Find one that works well as an everyday all-purpose salt, like Sel Gris, the gray sea salt we use. Then experiment and play a little with the specialty salts. I have listed just a few, below. My bottom-line is that sea salt can contribute much more than the salt we need in our diet or the salty taste we crave. We can enjoy those dimensions along with textures and colors and healthy benefits that sea salts versus table salts provide.

Before leaving this subject I must confess my desire to use locally harvested sea salt in my cooking. In fact a good friend waded out by Haystack Rock and collected one gallon of sea water. We put it in a pot and brought it to a boil, allowing the water to evaporate. My friend had done the research on the methods Lewis and Clark used and he said they got 2/3 cup of salt for every gallon of boiled seawater. We watched the boiling pot until someone finally said, “A watched pot of boiling sea water does not make salt!” And then with a flourish from the pot and slight pop, we had our salt. It was pure white and exactly 2/3 cup! (Note: I am a “seasoned” professional; please don’t try this at home. Many more steps and tests for wholesomeness are required for the production of Haystack salt. Perhaps it’s prime for an eager grad-student in search of a topic.)

Some favorite “finishing salts” sea salts from www.seasalt.com
Fumee de Sel – Chardonnay Oak Smoked Fleur De Sel – by Le Tresor
Fleur de Sel is cold smoked with Chardonnay oak chips to preserve the mineral content and natural flavor of the salt.

Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt, fine and coarse. Alaea is the traditional Hawaiian table salt used to season and preserve. Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt is non-processed and rich in trace minerals, all of which are found in sea water.
Maldon Sea Salt Natural product with no additives retaining sea water trace elements for a non-bitter taste. It is very “salty” and means less is required, an advantage for those who whish to reduce salt intake.
Black Truffle Salt Italian sea salt mixed with luxurious dried Black truffles harvested from the Abruzzi region of Italy.


MENU PLANNING—How to do it? By Robert Neroni

We are often asked where we get our inspiration for our menus. Then after describing the many periodicals we read, the food network shows we enjoy, and the desire to recreate what we have enjoyed eating out, we realize that there is more to the question than how we do our menus. The real question is “how to do it?” The answer is not so simple because there are so many choices and influences. We think there is more than one successful approach, for sure. No doubt though, whatever the style of menu planning a cook does, it corresponds proportionally to their success and satisfaction. So we thought we’d discuss a few menu planning methods that seem to work and provide some structure for the cooks that use them. Maybe you can identify your style or one you might like to try.

Of course, when consulting a TEXTBOOK or cookbook on the subject, we are advised that the key to a good menu is variety, as in variety of everything: cooking methods, colors, textures, temperatures and flavors. This is typically followed by a case in point example: Which is more appealing menu A or menu B?
Menu A
Steamed halibut Menu B
Mashed potatoes Pan-fried Potato Crusted Halibut
Steamed cauliflower Steamed Fresh Asparagus

Clearly variety of color, textures, and even method of cooking are important in this example.

As we gather our thoughts on the subject a pretty great example comes to mind from Lenore’s mom, Bette. As it turns out, it is a viable way of how one might tackle the job of making up menus.

We call it, “Monday is Meatloaf,” or the “Meat & Potato Method.” If you can tell the day of the week by what’s on the table, you may be already using this style. Notably here, Lenore’s mom was not an adventurous cook by any means, but the dishes she made were just like they’re supposed to be! I had the pleasure of eating Bette’s meals and told Lenore how great they were. And why not, Lenore laughs, “Mom, made 52 meatloaves a year, so she got pretty good at it!” So if Monday is Meatloaf, here is how the remaining week filled out according to Bette.

Tuesday was chicken, always in a tomato sauce, sort of cacciatore style served with egg noodles. Wednesday was stuffed bell peppers with mashed potatoes or some other hamburger dish—Bette always bought enough ground beef for meatloaf and one other meal. Of course she’d skip a day between. Often the second hamburger dish was called goulash as it was a one dish meal and had a sloppy joe consistency. Thursday was polish sausage or hot dogs with sauerkraut and came with macaroni and cheese. Lenore said she and Mom would gladly eat just the macaroni and cheese, but Dad had to have meat on the plate, even if just a hot dog! Friday consisted of one of two extremes: it was either in celebration of the weekend with steak and baked potatoes or it was leftovers from the week. Saturdays was about eating out—fast food or one of dad’s favorite restaurants where baked potatoes came with everything! Sundays was pot roast with carrots and potatoes and dark brown gravy. Least you think there were not many veggies, to Lenore’s mom credit every night had a different veggie as long as it was frozen peas, frozen corn, or the occasional fresh broccoli. Salads came later after Lenore had some Home Ec at school and it became her job to make them.

I deem the next the “Menu Trinity Method: Protein Starch & Veggie.” Of course this is clearly a spin off “Monday is meatloaf,” with the only difference being it doesn’t repeat by week day. The decision making is still based on protein as the center of the plate. Most restaurant menus are designed this way. Easy enough to pick the protein category—beef, chicken, pork, fish; a bit more challenging to choose the cut and the cooking method. The starch is easier still, choosing from potatoes, rice or pasta. Lots of variety comes in from the choice of vegetable—from asparagus to zucchini, you can make it raw, fresh, frozen or canned. To modernize this method, we suggest adding tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, and other vegetable proteins to the animal proteins as center of the plate. And choose from the “newer starches” like barley, kasha, farro, and Chinese imperial black rice.

“WHAT’S IN THE MARKET METHOD” is a favorite of ours. We usually start in the produce section because produce is the center of the plate at our house. At least for us it is the biggest category of food on the plate. From there proteins and starches are added. To best work within the seasons, its good to start in the produce section or at the fish counter of the supermarket.

“THE MULTI-TASKING MENU PLANNER” is a contemporary approach. Multi tasking is just one of those phrases we all seem to use these days. And no wonder, with so much to do and so little time. The cooks who choose this method typically have one or two good prep days a week, with no time to scratch cook the rest of the week. Here’s a for instance, they might bake a chicken; (eating the breast meat that night) then pick the dark meat for a quick chicken enchilada, and maybe a third night it is chicken noodle soup.

If you even have less time for food preparation during the week, you might be a prime fit for the trendy “what’s for dinner” kitchens (www.whats4dinner.ca) that are springing up in America’s malls. There you choose from 12-15 recipes, already cooked, package them in amounts you need, and carefully take them home to your freezer. Now you have a different meal each night ready to heat and serve.

And finally there is our personal menu planning method. We ask ourselves a series of questions about the menus we create to for our Small Plates with Wine classes, as well those we might create for company at our house.

First, does it reflect sustainability—did we choose products close to home and locally produced? Are portions smaller, (nutritionally supported), and are the flavors bold and distinctive? Does it work within our budget and the available time to cook? Note: often the more economical the dish, the more time it takes. What will it look like on the plate?

Then we throw it past the “variety question.” Does it have different cooking methods, various textures, temperatures, colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors within the menu? We feel pretty strongly about giving our taste buds a work out so we become satisfied with the size portion and don’t require seconds. The more variety the more likely our taste buds will go the distance. It prevents “tongue fatigue.”

Before we close, let’s not forget to consult cookbooks and other resources. Remember when you used to buy a cookbook and none of the recipes worked, or you decided you would need an army of cooks or credentials to prepare the labor intensive items? Today you can trust that many chef authored cookbooks have teams of people testing their recipes before they are published. Also, go online and check out “Cook’s Illustrated” (www.cooksillustrated.com) or the “Food Network” (www.foodnetwork.com). Customers tell us they love “Epicurious” (www.epicurious.com) which claims the world’s greatest collection of recipes.

Recipe testing is notably what makes it possible for the success of today’s resources. I have simply “googled” an ingredient followed by the word “recipe” for a list too long to read. Sometimes the recipes found in this manner tell you whether or not they have been tested or even rated by users.

We think this is an immerging menu planning method too easy not to use. Let’s call it the “GOOGLE METHOD.” One might find a year’s worth of menus on line complete with recipes and even shopping lists!

One thing is certain; the resources to get menu planning done have increased ten-fold from when I started out. I am confident that many formulas work. Feel free to email your thoughts as well as questions for us to answer. Lenore and I would love to hear from you. info@evoo.biz.


SPRING TIME IS HIGH TIME FOR TEA! By Lenore Emery

I know it seems a bit old fashion, but the modern versions of afternoon tea sometimes referred to as “high tea” can be pure pleasure for both hosts and guests. It certainly has endured the test of time having been given British historical reference in the early 1800’s. Many fine hotels all across America serve everything from elegant formal affairs to afternoon tea and scones. Clearly a tea party is what you make it! Whether celebrating a birthday, graduation, Mother’s Day, or simply an excuse to dress up and use the fine china, a tea party is both trendy chic and traditional.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending TEA at the home of one of our customers. Shirley, who owns a vacation home here in Cannon Beach, has dropped in at the cooking school many times since we opened, and has even taken a class or two. Shirley’s enthusiasm for cooking is so evident in speaking with her that both Bob and I believe her to be an extraordinary cook! And indeed, we learned that Shirley’s passion is planning and giving afternoon tea! What a coincidence, I told Shirley one afternoon last December. I was writing curriculum at the time for how to give a TEA to debut this Spring! To my delight Shirley said she would work with me, but I didn’t expect an invitation for me and a guest to tea at her home! A good friend of mine, Wendy, had spent quite a long time as a child in London, and knew first hand all about tea time in Britain. Wendy was the perfect companion to take to tea at Shirley’s.

After greetings and introductions, we began in, almost unintended tutorial fashion, the how-to-do’s of giving a tea. The dining table was set for a very feminine tea party, so appropriate for the baby shower she had given just days earlier. She kept it set just to show us. The coffee table and mantel displayed many beautifully illustrated tea books from her collection, and though she insists nothing fancy is required, her collection of tea service pieces and art was ample and as special as any fine art collected over time. Our tea table was set in a bright windowed corner of her living room with a variety of tea cups, creamers and sugars that all came with a story. Dixie, close friend of Shirley’s, was there to help, and she is also a frequent hostess of teas. Dixie had made several of the menu items we tasted including some of the best shortbread I have tasted. Together Shirley and Dixie described tea-time formalities and traditions—everything from napkins, how to set the table, and what hand to use to serve. After all, this is the way our children learned their table manners, Shirley explained. And TEA isn’t just for girls and women, you know! Mother of six, three boys and three girls, one can only wonder how many tea parties she held. Now her children are all grown up and married with children of their own, and it’s clear that Shirley’s tea parties are more popular than ever.

I guess until now, I would have been more inclined to give a BRUNCH, and go out for TEA! I remember well the many tea dates Bob and I had with other chef friends—sort of a culmination to our working weekends, the busiest time for chefs. Late Sunday afternoon we would pick a different hotel in the Wash DC area to meet for tea, one of the most enjoyable times those days. Since working on the class and research at Shirley’s, I think teas and brunch have many similar attributes. I like that they are both typically held early in the day or early afternoon, and certainly end in plenty of time to get cleaned up without extending into the wee hours like so many dinner parties. And tea and brunch by virtue of their name give your guests a pretty good idea of what will be served. Most of the work is done in advance. Except for making the tea, the menu for tea can be made ahead of time. Some traditional items can be purchased like the jam and lemon curd. Shirley’s tea menu was mostly home made, and yet she was almost excited to share that some things came from the supermarket! She proclaimed them good enough to pass as homemade.

Whatever the occasion for tea, the approach we are taking at the school is to maintain the tradition of menu, time of day, and the genteel hospitality of it all. We prefer not to let words like “fancy” or “formal” deter us. And we really don’t fuss over which side of the guest to serve! In fact, during tea with just the four of us, Shirley, Dixie, Wendy and I, all with a fair amount of tea time experience, there were small differences of opinion on small details. But nothing we believed so important that we must change! And we agreed as for which hand to use to serve and clear—just pick one way and be as consistent as you can. Tea is the time for friendship, and that is the tradition of tea that’s worth repeating again and again!

A recipe follows:

JAM STUFFED ORANGE SCONES
2 cups All Purpose flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
1Tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon orange zest
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg lightly beaten
¾ cup heavy cream

Your favorite Jam Method: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside.
Blend egg and milk together. Gently fold liquid into flour mixture; stir only to combine and knead a few times until holds into a ball.
Place onto a floured board. Pat or roll into a about 8 inch diameter circle about ½ inch thick—careful not to go too thin! Cut circle into half and half again until you have 8 pieces. At this point, you may freeze dough for baking later.
To bake, preheat oven to 400ºF; Place slightly separated on ungreased sheet; sprinkle with sugar and bake for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom.
To stuff a scone: After baking, cool slightly. Then make small slit in one side. Stuff with 1-2 teaspoons of raspberry jam. Serve immediately!

HOMEMADE LEMON CURD
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs, whole, well beaten
¼ cup sugar
3 oz butter, cut into pieces

Method:
Blend eggs with juice, zest, sugar and butter and place over low flame; bring to boiling point, stirring constantly until thickened. Strain immediately through a fine sieve and cool. Hold in refrigerator for several weeks. Makes about 1 cup.


Kids in the Kitchen: teach them to cook!

Teaching kid’s classes provides us a growing repertoire of recipes that that work well, and those that don’t. Pizza is always popular! Pasta, too. But when we make a common dish like mac ‘n cheese from scratch, it often fails to live up to the child’s vision of what it should be. No surprise that the blue and yellow box, for example, is the standard for macaroni and cheese for children even as young as three! I loved it myself—until I read the ingredients. Adults—parent or teacher, who want kids to eat healthier, have quite a challenge. No doubt about it, the blue box will beat our scratch recipe for speed and ease of preparation, and it certainly encourages the child to be more independent—cooking class not needed. So when daring to make a recipe that has competition from a crafty version in a box, we advise making the new recipe as close to the “box” in flavor and appearance as possible. Don’t go for cutting fat and calories right away. Just make a great tasting alternative. Then hope that the satisfaction of “doing-it-myself” adds up to a desire to do it again and again! Our position on this subject is that teaching kids to cook helps develop their independence and gives them alternatives, but most importantly, they start to enjoy the process.

Of all the positive outcomes of learning to cook, we like that it helps kids enjoy the eating because they made it! A common expression heard in our classes is “this is the best “blank” I have ever eaten.” We can only guess it is because they did it themselves. With that kind of reaction to cooking, we dare to cook many foods that don’t make it to a kid’s list of favorite foods. For example, we were not real confident about making a fish burrito in one of our classes during Spring Break last year. But the children—8 to 13 years old, seemed quite eager to learn how to make it. The first step was to “bread” the fresh fish in a tasty seasoned bread coating. Everyone in class willingly took their turn during the breading procedure (process of getting the crispy coating to stick to the fish for cooking). Then again they enthusiastically helped “swim” the fish in the deep fat, (holding one end and moving it back and forth in the fat to set the breading before letting go), with adult supervision, of course. At this point, Lenore and I were encouraged that we had picked a recipe that made a hit with the kids. We assembled the other ingredients, and the children served themselves. The older kids filled their tortillas to the brim while the younger ones picked everything but the fish! Surprised we inquired. “We don’t eat fish,” they explained. I asked why they didn’t mention that while we were cooking and they didn’t know. I guessed the process of making it was enough fun to trump the fact that they don’t eat fish. Would the younger kids eventually enjoy eating the fish, we wondered, while the older kids went for seconds—proclaiming it the best fish taco they had ever had!

Parents often ask us how to get kids to eat better. Never having had kids, Lenore and I do not pretend to know for sure. We rely on good books on the subject by experts. We especially like the book, “Meals without Squeals!” by Christine Berman MPH, RD & Jacki Fromer, which is aimed at day care providers of young children. With a title like that, we believe mealtime to be one of the great challenges of childcare. Not speaking first hand, however, (having only parented our dogs, for which we provide a ration of kibbles at mealtime), I can only offer what I have read. These authors say to offer only healthy choices and allow kids to choose from them at mealtime—even if some items are left on the plate. They say avoid negotiation when it comes to food and mealtime, and only make exceptions to the family meal when there is an allergy or medical reason to do so. And of course, most authorities say kids will eat what they see parents and teachers eat, so it just makes good sense to be good role models. I don’ t judge, mind you—my dogs eat better than I do, but when people and kids tell us their creations are the best ever tasted, we go right back to our favorite way to help kids eat better, “teach them to cook.”

Here are a few of our kids tested recipes.

PIZZA DOUGH (using a mixer requires adult supervision)
1 cup water, warm 110°F. or less
1 pack active dry yeast, or about 2 ½ teaspoon
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 cups AP flour
1-2 Tablespoons EVOO
1 Teaspoons salt

Vocabulary & Abbreviations:
EVOO=extra virgin olive oil TT=to taste TBSP=Tablespoon TSP= teaspoon PUNCH DOWN= removing air after first rising with “fists.” KNEAD=working dough with rhythmic motion until it becomes very elastic—developing the gluten. This can also be accomplished in a mixer with dough hook and adult supervision. Method: 1. Combine water yeast and sugar in bowl of mixer & stir; set aside until mixture is foamy. 2. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon of EVOO, and all of the salt blending with the dough hook on the mixer about 3 minutes, or mix by hand about 7 minutes. 3. Add flour gradually until all flour is incorporated. Mix with dough hook until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. OR, dump onto floured surface and knead for 4-7 minutes by hand. 4. Oil a clean bowl with remaining EVOO, swish dough in bowl and cover with towel. Let rise 1 to 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size. See diagram for shaping.
RED PIZZA SAUCE
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can Roma tomatoes
1/2-1 cup water as needed
3 oz butter or EVOO
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
TT salt and pepper
Method: Heat EVOO in sauce pan. Over medium heat, sauté onions until soft about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add all tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add water, if needed. Simmer 20 minutes. Blend (in food processor or blender) and strain, if desired. Whisk in butter and parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cool quickly in the refrigerator and save for another day.
YIELD: 2 ½ cups
EVOO=extra virgin olive oil
TT=to taste
As needed, means ingredient is optional and only used to thin down sauce.
Minced= very small squares


EATING VEGETARIAN, PART-TIME!

About a dozen years ago now, I spent about a year and half eating no animal products of any kind. Virtually Vegan! At the same time my sister was doing the Dr. McDougal no-fat diet and it sounded good, so I did that too. During that time, I was able to loose a substantial number of pounds. Pounds I found unfortunately over the next several years, some of which are still with me. That is how my education about eating vegetarian or vegan began. I had much to learn.

I admit I chose an extreme way to loose weight. As a chef, I was grooving on the many interesting dishes that I could make—sans meat. I liked taking my personal stand against industrialized agriculture too! But mostly I enjoyed what I still believe is true—that those who eat a vegetarian diet have a lower incidence of hypertension and/or death from type 2 diabetes. Not to mention the fact that eating five fruits and vegetables a day may reduce overall cancer rates by 20%! As time passed, I started missing certain flavors and learning that I could take a more green-clean approach to cooking meat without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. I could see myself cooking with animal products that were raised sustainable, without hormones and other additives, and I felt I could manage my own calories better by simply cutting portion sizes and eating fewer meals with meat, and especially red meat, as the center of the plate.

When I was eating no fat and weaning off vegan style, Lenore, my wife, was working as the director of the Children’s Kitchen, a small whole foods catering company for child and adult day care centers in the Seattle area. It was based on the premise that eating whole foods creates the best nutritional advantage for kids and adults. Their menus eliminated the convenience and processed foods, most canned foods, and the cooking was from whole grains and fresh raw ingredients prepared from scratch every day. There were some frozen, dehydrated, and sweets, that were from fruits rather than refined sugars, as much as possible. Portions of animal proteins were small and limited to a few times a week in the lunch cycle. Lenore was beginning to adopt some of the same principles at home, and we were having dishes like vegetable stacks with an ounce or two of homemade turkey sausage for accent and flavor. Sometimes the meat was the garnish, while fresh herbs, grains, nuts and vegetables were the center of the plate.

Fast forward now to when we started the cooking school here in Cannon Beach. We believed it required that we declare our style of cooking and guiding principles. Mediterranean seemed to be our favorite style—lots of salads, lots of veggies, and good breads and artisan cheese. Our “fat” choice for eating and cooking is extra virgin olive oil-EVOO. We were learning, too, that people of the Mediterranean enjoy less coronary heart disease, due in part because the predominate form of dietary fat is non-hydrogenated unsaturated fat. We were learning “French women don’t get fat”—when they stick to the traditional French style of eating. That means three home cooked meals a day, no skipping and no snacking, but if snacks are needed, yogurt is suggested. We have learned that yogurt is one food that helps keep our digestion working so we gladly add it. Many European cultures prepared their three meals after shopping three times a day, keeping with truly fresh ingredients. Now I cannot see us Americans doing that, but I do think more of us make up our menus after seeing what fresh ingredients are offered in the markets. So our preferred style and menus began to reflect the following guiding principles.

1.Use strict portion control for animal products— 3-4 ounce portions. Unless the fat and skin is required for the outcome, remove it!
2.Use red meat only once a week and maybe as a garnish or flavor agent, more than center of the plate.
3.Eat vegetarian part-time: include vegetarian (includes dairy and eggs) and even vegan (no animal products) on 2-4 days of the week. (This act alone greatly reduces cholesterol and calories).
4.Include salmon or other fish high in “omega 3” fats 1-3 times a week.
5.Enjoy cooking with foods that grow together in seasons. Flavors tend to mate better when they grow together. You see spring lamb with asparagus, for example.
6.Enjoy! Life is too short to be on a diet. Create a lifestyle and cook and eat using these few guiding principles based on healthful evidence.

Here is a week of Part-time Vegetarian Dinners:
(Note: These menus are featured in EVOO’s LIGHTEN UP series by instructor, Grace Laman, MS, RD. Supporting date also provide by Grace Laman.)

Monday* Roasted Red Pepper Pesto with Whole wheat Pasta
Tuesday Baked Chicken Tenders and Sweet Potato Fries
Wednesday*: Hearty Kale Stew, Quinoa Pistachio Salad
Thursday: Pork loin with pomegranate, Rosemary Potatoes, Baked figs with cinnamon
Friday* Balsamic wild mushroom lettuce wraps, Stir fry of Beef and Broccoli
Brown rice Carrot Cranberry Salad
Saturday: Pan Seared Salmon with Watercress sauce
Chocolate Apricot Torte
Sunday*: Garlic crostini w/carrot pate Spicy Black bean cakes Sweet Potato Sauce
Sesame Crusted Tofu Salad and Citrus Vinaigrette
*denotes VEGETARIAN


FEAR OF PIE-ING!

Mention making pie and strike fear in the eyes of even the accomplished cook. What about making pie strikes such fear? The crust, of course! Is it the rolling out? Or maybe transferring from the counter into the pan? Is it making the crimped or scalloped edge? Maybe it’s the memories of tasteless dry tough pies of the past. Why worry about the crust or even bother to make a pie since so many people leave the crust on the plate anyway? Aren’t they the ones who say, “I don’t even like pie;” maybe never having had a good crust? Then there are those who only eat pie—they even prefer pie to cake. Have they only had great pie crust? All are compelling reasons to avoid making pie. Still there may be hope for those willing to face their fear of pie-ing.

It may just be possible to gain some confidence in the art of making pie by practicing the French version of the dessert—called “galette.” One of the only times doing it the French way may be easier! A galette is a free formed tart made without a pie pan. Being pan-less also allows for more “variation” and even requires imperfection. We use this strategy at the cooking school to flake away some of the scariness, and have dub these pastry gems “beach pies.” Seems many guest cottages here don’t have pie pans anyway.

So now when you take away the fear of getting it into the pan and making the edge pretty and symmetrical, there’s still the challenge of making it flaky, tender, and flavorful. For starters, try to find a good pastry recipe. Borrow one from somebody whose pie crust you liked! Or use the one we are listing here. Either way you know that the ingredients work.

Now focus on method. Regardless of the ingredients the method should always be the same. Here are our eight tips for handling any list of ingredients and adapting most pie crust recipes with great success. So fearless pie warriors go ahead and make a “beach pie” for the shear pleasure of accomplishment!

Key points to remember every time:
1. Cold. Start with very cold ingredients (ice cold water, sour cream, egg). Fats should be very cold too. (butter, lard, shortening).
2. Blend dry ingredients first. Combine all dry ingredients well (flours, sugar, salt dry seasonings) in a dry food processor*—with the regular metal blade. Run until well blended.
3. Coat fat with flour. With processor off, add the cold fat in small chunks. Avoid handling the butter, lard or shortening with your fingers as it will warm up too much. “Pulse” the food processor* on and off to distribute the fat—about 5 seconds. Fat pieces should be much smaller though still visible, and well coated with the flour.
*(What? You say your beach house doesn’t have a food processor—oh, well there is a hand method too. To cut fat into the flour mixture, simply distribute the pieces of fat throughout the flour using two table knives that you “cut through” the mix until the pieces of fat are smaller and well coated with flour.)
4. Measure water carefully. Add the exact amount water and any other wet ingredients after careful measuring; again pulse for only about 4 seconds to wet the dough. (It not yet hold together, but do not add additional water until you are sure the mass will not hold together—after next step)
5. Handle very little. Dump the mixture onto parchment or waxed paper. By hand, quickly and gently press the dough together using the paper to mold it into one ball, and being careful not to over-work it. Divide into equal size flattened disks, about 6 ounces each. Wrap and place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to one hour. This step relaxes the dough making it easier to roll; it also helps re-chill the fat that may have warmed up during mixing.
6. Keep from sticking. Roll one disk onto lightly floured surface using a rolling pin. Roll from the center out, all the way around the entire surface evenly. With each roll the dough grows larger until you reach your goal. If it stops getting bigger because it is stuck, lift dough with flat spatula, pancake turner or baker’s tool, and dust under with more flour. Slide rolled dough onto cookie sheet.
7. Shape like a pouch. Place the prepared filling onto center of the rolled crust leaving about 2 inches of dough on the outer edge. Fold this outer edge of dough over the filling, enclosing the filling and leaving an opening in the center. It looks sort of like a gathered pouch! Refrigerate again to let the dough relax after the rolling workout!
8. Bake on bottom shelf of 375° F preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the crust is brown and filling is cooked (fruit is tender).

Suggested Fillings:
1. Apples with cinnamon and honey or sugar. Apple, date and walnuts—with allspice, coriander and honey or sugar.
2. Berries in season with sugar and a touch of almond extract.
3. Savory Four Cheese—such as ricotta, farmer’s goat, grated mozzarella, and parmesan, a few fresh herbs like parsley or chervil, and seasonings of sea salt, pepper, coriander and allspice to taste.
4. Roasted tomato, black olives and fresh basil on a bed of seasoned ricotta cheese. Seasoned with salt pepper and coriander, and sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Recipe: Apple Beach Pie (aka Galette)
Crust: Use key points for method
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, very cold (you may substitute ½ cup well chilled lard or shortening for half the butter)
1/3 cup very cold water
½ tsp. white vinegar
1 egg, beaten with the water
Filling
2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced (Golden Delicious or Granny Smith)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
dash sea salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground coriander
2 tsp butter
Blend sugar, salt, coriander and cinnamon; toss with apples. Place apple mixture onto the center of the crust; dot with butter and sprinkle with vanilla. Close pie by gathering up the edge and folding toward the center leaving the very center exposed. Bake as above.


OUR JANUARY 07 ROAD TRIP!

A COOKING ROAD TRIP IN JANUARY ……On Saturday, January 6, we set out for a little road trip heading south on 101. Objectives: drive on the best roads to avoid weather issues; relax allot; visit friends and family— do a little cooking using ingredients from the local markets; see some sights! And from all perspectives our objectives were met! It was an easy drive—longest leg 11 hours but most days were 5-6 hours of driving. Once we reached a destination we were chauffeured around, and that was sure nice. First stop was Calistoga and the Napa Valley—a wonderful place for foodies! Good friends moved there recently and took us to the Cakebread Cellars winery and HONIG Winery. Both favorites of ours and the tours very worth while. From Napa we arrived at cousins in BREA, CA for a quick overnight getting ready for the long drive to SCOTTSDALE AZ, via Palm Springs. Road conditions still great, but hills around Palm Springs had a liberal dusting of snow, and the temperature allowed for Sweaters and not the short sleeves both of us packed. Snow also threatened in Scottsdale but held off for our visit. In Scottsdale we visited family who said Yes, when we offered to cook, and proceeded to invite 20 of their friends and neighbors! Felt a little like a Small Plates class back at EVOO! While in Scottsdale, we toured the Taliesin campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. It was inspirational! http://www.franklloydwright.org/index.cfm?section=home&action=home

Leaving Scottsdale/Phoenix, we headed back to BREA, CA to visit those cousins again, this time long enough to take a short side trip for a little family reunion in OCEANSIDE. Again we volunteered to cook and what do you know? They said YES, too! By now we were mentally listing how to make this a permanent part of our road trips. MEALS in exchange for lodging, not a bad deal. The tools we brought along were simple and easily did the job! Yes, we ‘roughed’ it at some households where cooking supplies were from generations long passed. (It’s okay though Aunt P and Uncle J) Oh, and never assume every household has a cutting board! But still and all our basic supply kit of one good French knife, a paring knife, bread knife (we made bread everywhere we went) did the job. Also we had packed our seasoning trinity: sea salt, fresh black pepper (mill), and of course, our coriander mill with extra seeds on the side! We packed EVOO, too, forgetting where we were going—to olive country! Next time we’ll buy it along the way.

We had no idea what we would make each time, until we went to the markets. It was especially easy to shop in Napa—picking up fresh lemons, eggplant, red peppers, zucchini, portabellas, and fresh herbs. We picked up a few homemade sausages in our friends favorite butcher shop—and they were amazing! In Brea and Scottsdale, we also went to Italian markets to pick up some of our ingredients—we find these stores to be similar whatever city we are in—run by the family and been there for years! They are pretty reliable and reminded Bob of Cleveland shopping trips. We loved these market trips because it is a good way to get a feel for the area’s food scene and at the same time we’d usually sample interesting finds along the way.

The trip home was very pleasant considering we just missed the LA freeway snow and ice ordeal. Exactly one day later and we would have postponed our return by at least a day. Who would expect snow on the CA roadways! Actually we avoided all snow issues in January—even back home–it snowed 6 inches on the beach! Our house/poodle sitter, Glynis Valenti took great snow pictures for us.


FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES

Food is an integral part of my life and its no surprise that I came by this at a young age. I am Italian after all. I wish I could say I was born in Italy, and not Cleveland, which sounds more romantic. Still I do have strong ethnic roots that come to play whenever I am in the kitchen. Holidays especially bring it out in me. Our family’s Christmas Eve dinner comes to mind.

My dad’s father is from Ascoli-Piceno in Marche on the Adriatic Coast. Growing up I assumed this was the birthplace of the tradition we celebrated my whole life, “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”. As I got older I realized that it was a celebration that many Italians from all regions in Italy enjoyed, each with their own special nuance. Even the count differs–some areas celebrate nine fishes while others celebrate eleven. One thing is certain; the menu on this night is “meatless” as it was the night prior to a holy day and it was considered a vigil.

At the Neroni’s, Christmas Eve day started before daybreak with a trip to the west side market. From dried cod (Baccala) to fresh smelts-we kept the fishmonger busy selecting species that would marry well with our family recipes brought out year after year.

My alarm clock was in the form of Mom’s Marinara, scented with garlic and fennel, filling the house with its sweet tomato aroma. When I arrived in the kitchen, dad was at the sink measuring his ingredients for pizza while mom peeled garlic. This scene played out many times in my life, but on the morning of Christmas Eve, it meant the beginning of a long day of cooking.

As a boy I thought it was a huge menu—as a chef, I think it is a huge menu! We began with fresh fennel, along side EVOO, Kosher salt and cracked pepper – a way to stimulate the appetite. Then the fish courses were placed. First, a platter of large Steamed Prawns topped with horseradish sauce, followed by Pan-fried Smelts with aioli (garlic mayonnaise). Calamari, was stewed in a tomato sauce that would sometimes include crab or lobster, not usually both. The Baccala–Salted Cod, is my favorite now, not as a boy, and it was traditionally served with eggs and onions. If Clams were present, they were baked with oregano and breadcrumbs. Our final fish dish, Lake Perch, was simply baked with capers and lemon. Miraculously all these dishes made their way to the table at once, accompanied by spaghetti or some other pasta, a fresh green salad with an oil and mostly vinegar dressing that my dad loved and most of us got use to, stinky cheeses, a variety of olives, and of course, crusty Italian breads! Notice I have not describe the wines that accompanied these Fishes! No, indeed. Dad would serve what he called an “Italian high ball,” only one, and it would last the whole meal. It consisted of red table wine and gingerale. Dessert this day was never the focal point, but still an amazing array of our favorite cookies including biscotti, pizzelles, apricot fold-overs, thumb prints, rugelach, and pecan tassie. The sampler was available following dinner but as I recall there was a requisite that my sisters and I do the dishes before rewarding ourselves with cookies.

Today the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a little more extravagant to prepare than it was when we were kids. The varieties we served for holy days were very inexpensive, and at least then, were not given the gourmet status they are today. As they became more popular and mainstream in restaurants, they also became more expensive. This in mind, I do enjoy the challenge of creating the modern version of my family’s feast. As always, I stick to the local and seasonal products and usually have no trouble coming up with seven courses, especially when one dish has two or three species in it, like a Cioppino or a seafood salad. And for that matter why not a one pot feast containing all seven fishes? Now that is my idea of quick feasting—one pot fish stew that I pair with crusty bread, and a nice Chianti, or a Sangiovese blend, such as Oregon produced Farmhouse Red by David Hill. Buon Natale!

Feast of the Seven Fishes in one Pot
As needed EVOO
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 shallots, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrots, diced,
1 bulb fennel, diced
1 cup red wine
2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked coriander
1 lb fresh or frozen calamari (squid), cut into small pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
2# mussels
2# clams
1# rockfish, 2 inch chunks
1 # salmon, block cut 2×2 inch
1 # link cod, 2 inch chunks
1 # bay shrimp
1 # crab, picked and clean
1 bunch fresh basil, sliced just before adding
Crusty bread

Method:
Add EVOO to bottom of preheated Dutch oven. Add first 5 ingredients and cook until vegetables are aromatic and still firm. Add tomatoes and wine, sea salt, oregano and coriander. Bring to simmer and add calamari; cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add potatoes and continue cooking an additional 30 minutes. Test the calamari for tenderness, and if not, continue cooking until it is. Hold warm until service.
At service: Add remaining seafood in the following order gently stirring after each addition:
Mussels and clams—cooked cover for 3-5 minutes,
Add rockfish, salmon, and link cod for 3 minutes,
Add bay shrimp and crab last. Replace lid and about a minute just to heat through.
Taste the broth and adjust seasoning with sea salt, coriander, and black pepper.

Dish up into large “pasta size” bowls. Drizzle with your favorite EVOO and top with shredded basil. Serve with crusty bread and a great Chianti.

Serves 6-8 generous portions with leftovers.


Winter Feasting

Growing up in the Midwest brought with it a variety of cuisines. I think many people think one dimensional if you mention Chicago, Detroit or even Cleveland for its perceived lack luster food and concord style grapes that are relegated to jams and jellies and never wine. The truth is that these cities offer a melting pot of culture and great food. Growing up in Cleveland (Ohio) I often reminisce of the Friday morning drives to the market with my dad in his grand Cadillac (it always seemed grand to me) and the stops we made along the way. One such stop was the Lebanese bakery, about three miles from our destination and the best coffee and pita in the world! Well, you will have to take my word on that, but it is hard to beat the aroma and flavor of freshly baked pockets of dough hot out of wood fired ovens, slathered with sweet butter and served alongside dark roasted coffee….euphoric.

On the other hand it only got better as the day went on. Ice cold buttermilk from the dairy farmer, only hours old and artisan cheeses, cut to spec as you watched with anticipation. Charcuterie made old world style from Italy, Germany, Lithuania and Poland, all reeking of exotic aromatics from their points of origin.

Multitudes of fish from the great lakes cut and cleaned from tanks where moments earlier they swam without a care in the world.

All this fresh food made us appreciate the effort put forward by the craftsman and women who rose before dawn and slept little to deliver the fruits of their respective labors. I am confident that this is one reason I work as I do today. The other without question is due to my childhood where cooking was an integral part of the Neroni household. With a Jewish mother and Italian father, I often joke that there was a lot of good food and greater guilt! All kidding aside, being the youngest with four sisters, it was part of the daily routine to be in the kitchen with mom and dad preparing, playing, testing and eating new and old family recipes. One such recipe that I often recreate is Dad’s Braciola.

Braciola (bra-chee-oh-la) is kind of an Italian pot roast. My dad’s version used lesser, tougher cuts of meat like chuck or clod that were fanned out, stuffed and rolled jelly roll fashion. A favorite stuffing was sautéed escarole, pine nuts, garlic and golden raisins. After stuffing, the meat is usually tied with butcher’s twine, seared for browning, and then slowly braised in a marinara sauce until the tomatoes and garlic fussed with the beef turning it tender and succulent. Fresh made pasta drizzled with olive oil from Galucci’s downtown always accompanied my dad’s Braciola! The recipe comes together pretty quickly and simple substitutions can be made if needed. One thing will be clear as your Braciola is cooking—garlic is good and you will want to have a lot of crusty bread so that none of it goes to waste. Enjoy!

My Dad’s Braciola, as I remember it!
BRACIOLA (say, “bra-chee-OH-la”) A braised beef dish that is served with fresh made pasta! Here it is with Spaghetti squash instead of pasta
1 ea spaghetti squash
1 ½# chuck roast*
1 head garlic, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 head escarole, chopped
2 TBS pine nuts, toasted
2 TBS currants
1 TBS dry oregano leaves
2 tsp dry thyme
4 oz bacon, minced, rendered (fat reserved), optional
2 quarts Marinara sauce

Squash method: wash and cut squash lengthwise; brush with EVOO and season with sea salt, pepper and coriander; wrap with foil and roast at 375ºF for approximately 45 minutes or until tender and squash-meat begins to pull away from the skin; remove and flake pulp into warm serving dish; toss with EVOO and adjust seasonings.

Braciola: fan out chuck and season with salt and pepper- reserve cold; heat 3 TBS EVOO in large sauté pan; add garlic and onions and cook until aromatic; add escarole and cook to wilt; add nuts and currants and cook to incorporate; add herbs and bacon and remove from heat – cool completely. Lay filling out over the fanned out chuck and roll/tie; meanwhile bring sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Heat large skillet with EVOO and sear meat on all sides; cover with sauce and simmer/braise for approximately 2 hours or until tender. Remove twine and cut into individual portions.

*You might ask your butcher to “fan” out the beef so you can fill it when you get home. Or ask if he’ll fill and tie it for you if you bring in the stuffing. You can also use flank steak or top round steak, which do not require fanning.


Talking Turkey

This time of year, more than any other time, Americans are overwhelmed with the task of making not only turkey – but a better, new and improved from last year bird that will rival all other competitors. In all fairness, Holiday time is the only time we cook a meal of this magnitude. And so, it should be daunting! Friends, family and in-laws gathering around the communal table having anticipated the holiday’s culinary magic, puts pressure on even the most seasoned cooks. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit but it does seem to me there is a lot of energy spent this time of year on how to cook a better bird. So I offer this friendly discussion to help you in your decision making.

In most of my menu planning, I start by thinking about the big picture first. What flavors am I going for—will it be spicy, herbaceous, or refreshing. This line of thinking helps me create the sides and condiments, and the center of the plate follows. But when working with turkey,that bird gets my full attention up front.

Thinking about last year’s bird, I just want to make this one tastier and juicier!—tastucier! So I am in competition with myself now. To save some time I need to decide which of the myriad of cooking methods available will give me the best shot at ”tastucier!” Quickly I narrow down my choices to brining the bird or oven roasting!

Brining the bird – the purpose of brining is to tenderize meat proteins and add flavor. In the simplest sense, salt is dissolved in water and the meat submerged for a period of time, depending on weight. Sugar or sweeteners like honey or maple syrup may be added along with seasonings to make it more interesting. There are also recipes substituting water with other liquids such as fruit juice, wine or beer. But simply salted water will produce juicier meat. Brined items should be patted dry once finished and then cooked. But cooked how?

Oven-Roasting is a common method for cooking turkey. It is a technique of dry heat cooking at generally higher temperatures for more tender pieces of meat, utilizing small amounts or no fat/oil. This works best on small cuts of meat. Whole roasted turkey is often too large and results in becoming too dry! I think this is where the foil wrapping or “baking a turkey in a bag” probably started. In my experience it is the white meat that is dry from roasting, because by the time the dark meat is done, i.e. no longer raw and is safe to eat, the white goes beyond done. I have had pretty good roasting results when I flip the bird over on its breast for the first half of the cooking. This way all the juice flows into the breast making it less dry—so the hypothesis goes. I think it is more because it takes longer to cook since the breast is buried below the roasting pan. So why not combine the best of both methods?

After brining the bird, simply place it breast down on the roasting rack, and roast uncovered at moderate heat until the bird is in its last hour, at which time you flip it right side up and turn up the heat to brown its chest! Results look great, the dark meat is fully cooked and if I do it right, the breast meat temps just below 165°F while the leg and thighs come in at 175°F—perfect! Adding fat, like olive oil goes a long way to keep the breast meat moist, so after turning it right side up, I also “baste” like crazy with EVOO!


Giving Thanks!

This time of year most of us take the opportunity to reflect on the past years events and how the choices we have made have impacted our lives. For me it has been a year of great reward both personally and professionally.

Lenore and I continue to grow in our relationship, able to separate the day-to-day business from our home life. I can tell you that it’s a lot easier when you have been together for 17+ years. Our poodles, Olivia and Taylor have taken to the beach like troopers, although supposedly water dogs, neither really like it and Taylor only goes in if her beloved tennis ball goes in first.

We continue to enjoy the bounties of the coast as well as the good fortune of the farming community of the Willamette. Our resources for local products grow each season and with the help of by chef bud, Will at the Wayfarer (Martin Hospitality – part of the Surf Sand Resort) other farms have expressed interest in coastal deliveries. From a chefs’ perspective Oregon is a culinary paradise.

Lenore and I cannot forget to give thanks to each and every guest who walks through our doors. Our success to date has been largely based upon our return customers and “word of mouth”. We are extremely proud and thankful for the support of our friends and alumni of EVOO. Thank you all – Have a great Thanksgiving!


Fall memories

The signs of fall are with us again. Burning leaves, higher than usual tides, horizontal rain and apples fermenting on the ground in our back yard (unfortunately I cannot keep up with the clean up). All combined, they remind us that its time to break out the rain gear and put on a pot of soup.

I’m not sure whether it’s the shorter days or high winds, but with this change in temperature I often revert back to childhood memories growing up in the Midwest (Cleveland, Ohio). I enjoyed the efforts of my Italian father and Jewish mother in the kitchen. Both my parents were good at preparing recipes from their roots and I often remember their playful banter about the proper way to make the sauce or how big the matzoah ball should be – yes both in the same meal!

One specific treat that has a special place for in my heart is my mothers’ potato pancakes. Food smells always made me quicken my step as I walked through the door after school and the scent of caramelizing onions with potatoes could never be ignored.

My mom, Phyllis – loved to cook. She would often greet us with soups – mushroom barley, chicken noodle, matzoah ball, borscht or kreplach (noodles stuffed with meat). She also loved to bake and her cinnamon swirl bread which was made with challah dough (egg bread base) was award winning form her kid’s perspective.

Nothing was more fulfilling however than her potato pancakes. She would use matzoah meal instead of flour and smaltz (chicken fat) instead of vegetable oil. If we were lucky, she topped them with her homemade apple sauce and smoked whitefish. I am not sure how all this sounds to you, but it was a feast for us.

Today Lenore and I enjoy this recipe with a few twists and of course a crisp white wine. I must be feeling a little nostalgic since this is about to appear on my menus. Hopefully our guests will feel the same way I do – of course today we smoke the fish in house – not that I have much choice…the closest deli is about 500 miles away….enjoy- ciao Bob!

4 large yukon gold potatoes
1 egg
1 TBS sea salt
dash pepper
1 TBS matzoah meal
2 TBS grated onion
½ tsp baking powder

4 qts water
1 qt soy sauce
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup sea salt
7# sable fish

Method: peel and grate potatoes; mix in remaining ingredients; place a large spoonful in 475F vegetable oil or smaltz; brown well and drain on paper towels.

Whitefish method: combine water, soy, sugar and salt; mix well to dissolve; cut fish into 6” pieces; place in brine for 70 minutes; remove when complete; rinse and pat dry; place on rack and refrigerate 24 hours to continue curing; smoke with desired wood chips until cooked through; remove and refrigerate 24 hours before using or freezing.

Chive crème fraiche: 1 cup heavy cream, ½ cup sour cream, 3 TBS minced chives – Method: combine cream and sour cream into a bowl and blend well; cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours; finished product will become thick; refrigerate and fold in chives at service.

*Garnish with applesauce and micro greens.


NEW YORK NEW YORK!

New York New York!

As you may know I have just returned from NYC where I was cooking at the James Beard House in the trendy community of Greenwich Village, near SoHo. The Beard Foundation, as it is known by most foodies, was created in 1986 after the death of Oregon native James Beard. Julia Child encouraged his estate to create the foundation to celebrate the man who many remember as a teacher, journalist and gastronome.

To be asked to cook in this prestigious venue is for many chefs a milestone in their career. On this occasion it was John Newman of Newman’s 988 in Cannon Beach, who was asked to the Beard House for the third time, no less! I was part of John’s team to assist and “schlep” as needed. More than happy to oblige, I packed my knives, whites and checkbook and boarded a plane heading east. To be perfectly honest, I was so excited to go back to this culinary mecca that John didn’t need to ask twice! “Deli” was the first on my list, “Matzoah Brie” to be exact. This concoction does not include “brie cheese,” but rather consists of matzoah crackers (Jewish unleavened bread) soaked in eggs and then scrambled with a little caramelized onion – top it off with a potato pancake that only Arnies’s on Broadway can make and voila – breakfast is served. The meals that followed were as diverse as the cultures that surrounded them. From the dim sum off Canal Street to Italian near Chelsea Market my meals were quintessential NYC; that is to say, served as is, no excuses and no special requests! The highlight of my palette pleasing excursions was at the Alain Ducasse Restaurant in the Essex House on central park. Ducasse is well known in the industry as the only chef to be given multiple stars by Michelin in two locations, Monaco and Paris. His New York scene was phenomenal! From start to finish, every course was executed with finesse and precision often equated with a symphony performance. I could go through each course but that is for another time. Suffice it to say that if you ever find yourself in the Big Apple, and want the ultimate food and wine experience, just go for it!

Oh and for the record, John Newman’s dinner at the Beard House was stellar! Way to go John! And we all can experience his talents right here in CB!

Ciao Bob!


SPEAKING OF SPINACH

Hi! Lenore here again, stealing a moment while Bob is too busy to write. Lots of people are asking about SPINACH!

“Why” spinach? How it is responsible for such a wide spread serious foodborne outbreak? Maybe you might remember the apple juice incident a few years back. Again “why” apple? Both of these foods seem low on the foods that cause illness list. Fish, beef, chicken, sure, these are the food safety red-flag foods. What happens to fruits and veggies to make them dangerous, too? In both the current spinach and apple juice outbreak, the cause is contamination with E.coli, the same nasty bug that caused illness from raw or undercooked hamburger. In both cases, the organism was found to be inside the cells of the spinach and apple, rendering thorough washing ineffective.

The CDC has been good about finding and letting us know the source of the tainted spinach, and the fact that they have traced such a wide spread outbreak back to a few counties in CA is very good news. This means the systems are in place for doing such a trace and notification is fairly swift. I congratulate our main food purveyor, Food Services of America, for being the first to let us know. Their email notice was in my mailbox the morning it was reported in the news. Of course, those who have suffered in this outbreak may not think highly of the pace for notification, and I am sure the CDC strives to become speedier. This outbreak began August 1 and the product recalls began Sept 15. If we look from the perspective of the CDC and powers that be, we can understand why they don’t want to label the source too quickly. Case in point, a few years ago the California strawberry was named in an outbreak from a parasite, and later, they discovered that it wasn’t strawberry but red raspberry sauce on the strawberry dessert that caused the outbreak. The raspberries came from a country that didn’t, at the time, use chlorinated water, and the chef didn’t wash or cook the raspberries in making the sauce. Either potentially would mitigate such an outbreak.

Both the spinach and raspberry stories gives credence to my favorite mantra—buy locally! Spinach from farms in Oregon and Washington as well as many other states are now exempt from the recall, according to the CDC this week. Hopefully people will continue to buy spinach. They say the California Strawberry farmers unfortunately never recovered the year of the red-raspberry outbreak; strawberry sales remained flat all season. I often wondered why the news doesn’t mention that spinach may be cooked to 160, for 15 seconds, to ensure safety. When used in fillings such as our Florentine crepes, it is safe because the filling reaches well over 160 degrees.

I have talked allot about the “what”—but now a few stabs at the “how.” The source of E.coli is from animal or human feces, so it is reasonable to think the contamination occurred in the field; not enough Port-a-potties in the fields to manage safe picking, I think. Improperly cured and prepared manure for fertilizing organically is another potential cause. And since most of the spinach had been prewashed, it certainly could have happened in the food packing plant, too. Whenever these outbreaks occur, it seems we never really get the lowdown on how it happens. Some form of human error is almost always a factor. Maybe by the time they narrow it down, it isn’t much of a news story anymore. I used to find out because I attended health department workshops that covered all recent outbreaks. I miss going to those meetings. It helps me know how to play it safer in my own food handling, and what to emphasize in my classes. It is how the health departments come up with their rules of safe food handling.

In summary, for now we can know only that we should avoid CA spinach until otherwise given the all clear. Continue to buy from local sources and, if we don’t know the source, we can cook it thoroughly to be safe. Oh, and continue to wash all greens, fruits and vegetables thoroughly whether cooking or eating raw.

Fresh Spinach Filling for Crepes (Florentine) For Florentine filling:
1 TBS shallots, minced
1 TBS garlic minced
4 bunches fresh spinach, cleaned, chopped
2 TB salted butter
2 oz. heavy cream, reduced by half
TT sea salt, ground pepper, ground coriander
TT Pernod
2 TBS Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp tarragon, chopped
Method Heat EVOO in sauté pan; add shallots and garlic; sauté until aromatic and slightly translucent. Add spinach and cook until it’s tender. Add butter and cream and season with spices. Add Pernod and cook for 10 more seconds; adjust consistency with bread crumbs and finish with tarragon. Place into oven proof dish and finish cooking in 350 degree oven for about 20 min or until to 160 degrees F. Fill crepes.

Whole Wheat Crepes
½ cup whole wheat flour pastry flour
½ cup AP flour
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
½ cup milk
2 tsp EVOO
½ c seltzer water or club soda Method Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate 30 min or overnight. At service, slowly whisk seltzer water or club soda into batter. Heat small nonstick skillet; lightly oil surface with cloth or paper towel dipped into oil, and ladle 2 TBS batter into skillet—tilting and rotating the pan to spread the batter evenly over bottom. Cook until lightly browned—30 seconds. Using small spatula, lift the edge and flip the crepe over. Cook second side about 20 more seconds. Slide onto plate.


Romance

Hi! Lenore here, writing in Bob’s Blog. I know Bob as one of the most romantic men on the planet, but he probably wouldn’t think to write about this topic here. However, I have been anxious to share this with you since it happened a few weeks ago now. It all started when Tony called to make a reservation to bring his girlfriend, Honora to class, with a special request. (Oh a birthday, I thought, maybe a cake!) I said, ìSure!î He explained that they love to cook and last time Honora was here she enjoyed the evening so much that he thought this is the perfect place to pop the question! Ahhh!of course, I was hooked! A couple weeks before the date, Tony called again with his plan—weíll surprise her by presenting the ring as a course, on the plate, he said. Our staff would have to get the ring, figure out how to put it on the plate, switch plates during service, and make sure that plate is placed last! Tony requested this be done right away, the first course—because he was a little nervous and wanted to get it done to enjoy the rest of the evening! ( He must know she’ll say yes, I thought to myself. Finally the day was here. Linda and I practiced the hand off. Tony would arrive a little early, excuse himself to use the rest room, and when inside, place the ring in the locker marked, ìThyme,î as in ìthyme to do it!î That went like clockwork! Linda had the velvet bag of goods in her apron pocket. The first course was on trackóBob gargling wine and setting the plates. Time to serve—Linda positions herself behind the post, out of guestís view. Rebecca and I begin to serve, orchestrating the starting points so that Honora would be last. I picked up the last two plates to serve, and at the post, I hand off one food plate and take the plate Linda had readyóthe ring sitting now on top of the velvet pouch! I hold it high—place Tonyís plate first, and then, Honoraís. For a few seconds, she starred, hands over her mouth, so Tony picked up the ring, and started to explain his purpose for the charade! He said Honora has always known the way to his heart was threw his stomach, and itís their love of food and cooking that makes this moment so right; he bent down on one kneeóthe class gave a collective sigh of approval, and he popped the question! Honora, still a little stunned, teary eyed by now, and smiling, spoke for the first time, ìYES,î she said! Clapping, hooraying, and again, a collective, ìAhhhhh!î He did it! A magic moment shared with 20 others in an intimate space around the stove! Hot, really sweet, and hot!


Smoked Salmon

Soup and chowder sales always seem to pick up as the weather turns cooler on the coast. Anyone visiting the area can find a good array of seafood-based soups, stews and Cioppino. Lenore and I decided to introduce our smoked salmon chowder to the local scene with great success about four months ago and many people have asked for the recipe.  The chowder recipe is here.

The key to any recipe is beginning with great ingredients and we begin our chowder with wild pacific salmon that we smoke in house.

Smoking isn’t really a big deal but many cooks are slightly intimidated. Let me walk you through our method:

Brine for Smoked Salmon
4 quarts water
1 quarts soy sauce
1 pounds light brown sugar (2 cups)
1/2 cups sea salt
6 pounds fresh wild king salmon

Combine water, soy, sugar and salt; mix well to dissolve; break down salmon and cut each side in half through the center segment. Cut each segment into smaller, manageable pieces about 4-6 ounce portions and place in brine for 70 minutes. Remove after 70 minutes and place on rack on sheet pan, and refrigerate unwrapped 2- 24 hours to continue curing.

To smoke: Prepare smoker pan (a foil disposable works here) using desired wood chips on bottom (about 1-2 cups only) and cookie rack over chips to raise fish above chips. Place salmon on rack. Place over gill or burner and turn to high heat. When chips begin to smoke, cover and start timer for 60 SECONDS, (one minute). Turn off heat and time for one additional minute.

Remove fish from pan and place into refrigerator uncovered  for 2-24 hours before cooking or freezing.  When ready to cook 4-6 ounce fillets, place onto sheet into 400 degree F preheated oven for  7-10 minutes. Fish is done when starts to part on sides when pinched, but remains together in center. Slightly “au point,” meaning to the point of just under. (About 138 F) Then some carry over cooking occurs to take it to the 140F required.

 


Fall is coming…

With the weather at the coast changing and the new varieties of vegetables showing up on my order guides, it is beginning to smell and look like fall. Since our move to the coast I have been enjoying the many seasons that transpire here. From a culinary perspective there are many more than four seasons. Last count I figured there were somewhere between ten and fourteen.

Most people donít realize it but if you take a moment and reflect about your own experiences at the local grocer, you have undoubtedly seen your favorite vegetables/fruit come and go to be replaced by other favorites. Imagine that change on a larger scale and you are tracking with our order guides.

The bottom line results in a great shopping cart of fruits and vegetables, not to mention seafood and meats, that makes for great menu planning. Enjoy the bounty!

Ciao – Bob


Try a “blush” wine for summer!

I think many of us can remember when Mateus Rose was hot; I think it was in the 70ís, and then there was the White Zinfandel craze that seems to be hanging on still. Because of great marketing by the early promoters of the white zins, like Sutter Home Winery, people believe that if it is blush, it must be sweet. Not so, and letís digress for a minute to talk about how the ìblushî gets into the wine.

First, white wine can be made from either red or white grapes, but only red wine can be made from red grapes. Color comes from the fermenting juice spending time on their skins. In the case of a blush wine, the juice spends much less time on the skins than the reds do, giving it the beautiful rosÈ color. Next residual sugar plays its role on sweetness. For a detailed description ñ go to Wikipedia for the best definition Iíve seen in a while.

Not all White Zinfandel is sweet and hard to know the difference without tasting. In some cases the label can fill you in, and as I have said before–don’t hesitate to ask the wine merchants for their descriptions.

My point for this particular commentary is to entice you to try blush wines again if you are avoiding them because you think they are all sweet, and to try them for the first time, if you have never tried them before. And with summer right around the corner, a cool crisp pale blush can be a very refreshing choice. Blush wines are suitable for an aperitif or with dinner depending on your choice. I am recommending a few pairings below to get you started – enjoy! Ciao, Bob!

Chateau Lorane Gamay Noir Rose ñ 13.8% alcohol; dry, crisp, flavors of under ripe strawberry and touch of citrus; clean finish; great with shellfish, smoked salmon, creamy cheeses, and roasted pork.

Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot Noirñ 13.5% alcohol; light aroma of rose petals & strawberries, melon, with minerals undertones and citrus. Long finish and well balanced; great with oily fish such as salmon and tuna ñ especially sushi style with wasabi and soy; creamy cheeses, cream sauces and poultry.

Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rose ñ 12.5% alcohol; cheery blossoms and raspberry overtones; crisp, dry finish; great with ham, cured meats; hard yeasty cheeses; foie gras and other rich style foods.


Tastes of French Bistro

After completing another class from our, ìTastes ofÖî series, I am reminded how many culinary nuances exist from the cuisines making up the Mediterranean. This has been a departure for me since I have always enjoyed mixing up the flavors and pulling what I perceive as the most interesting from each region.

France is considered by most consumers as the birthplace of modern cooking. In truth it is the Italians who amongst chefs, are given credit for sparking the industry we love today. Let me digress a momentÖCaterina de Medici of Florence was wed to King Henry II of France in 1533, bringing along her chefs as well. After entertaining the nobility of France, Caterina would loan her chefs to the various Dukes and Duchessí so that they might reciprocate in style. The face of gastronomy was changed over time and took on a look of its own, utilizing local ingredients and techniques applicable with the French bounty.

This brings us back to Bistro cooking. Our research indicates that bistro style refers to an unpretentious, less formal and quicker dining experience. Quicker is meant in relative terms to the long ìformalî dinners that European meals have been noted for. For us the menu was reminiscent of meals Lenore and I had while in Paris. Our menu follows:

Chicken Liver Mousse Croustade with Aspic GelÈ
Spring Asapargus Spears with Sauce Bearnaise, French bread
Grilled Steak with Pommes Frites, Tossed Greens with Fines Herb
Mussels with Court Bouillion and Garlic Croustade
Lavender Creme Brulee with Orange Shortbread

I have included the mussels recipe for your enjoyment. Bon Appetit! ñ ciao Bob

Mussels with Saffron Court Bouillion and Garlic Croustade
3 TBS EVOO
3 cloves garlic, paste
1 leek, minced
1 carrot, minced
1 small jicama, julienne
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 pinch saffron
‡ cup dry white wine
1 cup reduced fish stock
1 cup ‡ & ‡ cream
3# mussels, cleaned

Method: place oil in large preheated sautÈ pan; add garlic and leek; cook until aromatic; add carrot; cook until tender; add jicama, tomatoes, saffron, wine and stock; bring to a simmer; add cream; adjust seasonings; add mussels; cover and cook 3 ñ 5 minutes or until opened; remove and serve immediately.

Croustade: 12 thick wedges artisan bread, as needed EVOO – Method: place sliced bread on sheet pan and brush with EVOO; season with sea salt, ground coriander and pepper; place in 400†F oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the bread is lightly toasted ñ remove and serve with aioli.

Roasted Garlic Aioli: 4 cloves roasted garlic, 3 RT egg yolks, ‡ cup EVOO, ‡ cup grape seed oil, juice of 1 lemon, TT cayenne pepper ñ Method: mash garlic into a paste; add yolks and whisk well; add oils in a steady stream, whisking constantly; add juice and season with sea salt, cayenne and coriander; reserve chilled.


Chili

Well it is 4:30 PM on Wednesday and we have just finished a couple of days of a coastal heat wave. Now I am certainly not complaining, however I have not felt like doing much cooking, even though today was cool enough to get back into it. I guess you wouldnít expect chili on a day like today, but maybe you should.

I have always been fascinated by the use of spices and herbs in cultures where temperatures exceed 100†F daily. Weíve all experienced the layer of perspiration we get after eating something spicy ìhot.î This in a warmer climate helps to actually cool the body. Although, spicy does not have to mean, ìhotî. It should mean bold flavors that make your senses wake up and take notice. You can achieve this in a variety of ways. For instance, I have noticed by leaving salt, acid (lime, lemon or vinegar) or alcohol out of a hot spicy recipe, or lesser amounts of them, will keep these foods from destroying your taste buds with heat, while retaining the spice.

Salt, acid and alcohol are all conduits to heat and the lack of them keeps the heat from lingering in our mouth. Harissa, a Moroccan condiment made of cumin, cayenne and EVOO is a great example. Drizzled on lamb, your mouth explodes in the spice but a moment later (well maybe a few) the heat dissipates. Assuming you donít drink a beer or glass of wine along with it, your mouth feels cleansed and cool again. But then who ever heard of chili without beer–choice and consequences.

In our chili today, we have used enough salt for flavor, but we cooled the burn down with starch, in this case the beans. As with all our food, we try to mix up the flavors and layer them to make the food enjoyable from beginning to end. I recommend finishing for service with EVOO, ground coriander, sharp white cheddar, onions and a few sprigs of cilantro. Enjoy ñ Ciao Bob!

Chili with Meat
3 cups dried red beans, soaked overnight
5# chuck eye roll, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 onion, diced
1 bulb garlic, sliced
3 jalapeÃ’os, cleaned, left halved
1 TBS cayenne
1 TBS chili powder
1 ‡ TBS garlic powder
1 ‡ TBS onion powder
2 tsp dry mustard
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 TBS oregano
3 TBS cornmeal (if needed for thickening)

Method: Cook beans until tender; remove and chill. (Chilling happens quickly by placing foods in metal container like a stainless steel bowl or casserole, spreading into a shallow layer and chill while uncovered until the temperature drops to 41Æ’F. Then of course, consolidate and cover until needed.)
Sear chuck in a small amount of vegetable oil; sear in batches and remove; place vegetables in pan and sautÈ until aromatic and fond* is removed; add seasoning and cook 3 minutes; add tomatoes and bring to a boil; add seared meat and bring back to a simmer; cover and cook approximately 90 minutes or until tender; add beans and cornmeal to thicken if needed; cook an additional 30 minutes to blend flavors; adjust seasonings.

* Fond is the caramelized pieces from the searing meat on the bottom of the pan.


Planked Fish

Running a cooking school on the coast, it is just a natural expectation that we do a fair amount of seafood. And we do. We look for ways to vary the preparation and accompaniments to get many versions of say “salmon,” for example. Well, here are my thoughts on one popular restaurant version of cooking fish, especially, salmon–“planking.”

The catch from the pacific and in the Northwest waters is unique due to the water temperature and currents. In addition, the fat content of many of the native species lends themselves to more aggressive preparations as well as condiments and even varying wine varietals.

Salmon, for example, go through a migratory cycle. Prior to taking the long journey back to their birthplace to spawn, they eat ravenously to build fat. This will enable them to make the long journey. They get much leaner as they get closer to their destination. The fat creates a unique flavor and lends itself much better to a variety of cooking techniques, including cooking on a plank.

ìPlankingî is a traditional Northwest-style of cooking fish, utilizing a variety of aromatic woods, usually cedar, alder or oak. These are untreated pieces of hard woods, cut into any shape that will support the size of the item to be grilled. We recommend soaking the planks for approximately 30 minutes or longer in water so that the wood absorbs it to inhibit burning while on the grill over direct flames. Water soaked wood will smoke rather than catch fire. We generally brush a little cooking oil such as EVOO on the wood before placing the fish on top and season with sea salt, ground coriander and other aromatics. Place the plank with fish directly on the preheated grill and cover. Check after 10 minutes. The fish should be opaque throughout before removing. As I said, because the wood is water soaked before cooking it generates a small amount of smoke that imparts a subtle but rich flavor, that with the fat from the fish, gives a great mouth feel. You can see why this might create a nice foundation for for introducing other flavors and interesting condiments such as salsaís, chutneyís, not to mention full bodied wines.

We have enjoyed other ìplankedî creations using dark meat chicken or turkey, lamb and pork. Always the key to success is working with foods that have a fatty background to support the smoke-flavor.

Now, when outdoor grilling is not available, we have also used the home oven. There are differences in preparation, but for most tastes there’s no difference in final outcome. For the oven, do not soak the wood. Ovens utilize radiant heat that surrounds the planked food and does not expose the wood to direct flames. Brush the wood as above, and in some cases, to improve handling if the fish, sear it on one side in a sautÈ pan on the stove top before planking. Searing tends keep the fish from sticking to the wood. Sear the side of the fish that you intend to place directly on the wood, which is typically the skin side or the side where the skin was removed. Bake at 500†F for approximately 7- 10 minutes, still looking for that opaque quality. Note doneness will depend on thickness of the cut.

A favorite at EVOO is to serve planked fish with a fresh fruit chutney (see recipe) paired with a good syrah, such as Dimmick-Price Reserve Syrah.

In short, “planking” is a great addition to any culinary repertoire. Because you are using untreated hard wood, you can wash, rinse, dry and reuse them many times. Enjoy ñ Ciao Bob!

Pineapple Chutney‡ cup sugar
º cup cider vinegar
1 orange, seeded, chopped
1 orange, zested
1 lime, seeded, diced
‡ red onion, minced
º cup craisins
1 TB candied ginger
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
4 cups diced pineapple (1 each)

Method: combine sugar and vinegar; simmer 5 minutes; add orange, zest, lime, onion, craisins, candied ginger and garlic; simmer for 30 minutes; add ground ginger and pineapple; simmer for an additional 15 minutes; cool for service.


New Class Offerings

The tasting class that I wrote about last week has inspired a new series of classes we are calling PANTRY TASTINGS! We are often asked our opinion of a variety of ingredients such as chocolate, sea salts, olive oils, herbs and spices, artisan cheese, and even heirloom tomatoes. So we thought we could focus on one ingredient per session. You get an educational look, along with a very light repast. First up is Wine and Tapas tasting that we have done before; we have scheduled two on the weekend of FATHER’S DAY, both Sat and Sun at 11-12.

Another freshly inspired class we are adding in July and August takes the place of our former “Supper Club.” We are calling it Extreme Suppers, denoting the best of the best as well the most popular from our small plate’s repertoire. The idea comes from customers who are already picking their favorite small plate courses, keeping the portion about the same but adding a seasonal appetizer/salad and a small dessert. One glass of carefully paired wine comes with the meal, with additional wines available from our shelf. The class is shorter, starts earlier, and costs $45. Watch for these little gems on WED and THU nights, 5:45 to 7:15pm.


FLAVORING INGREDIENTS

Two very important ingredients at EVOO are EVOO, of course, and SALT. Recently we conducted a very successful tasting of EVOO and sea salt. I initially wanted to conduct a formal tasting, like the pros would do, but for more practical reasons I decided to “taste” these ingredients on preparations you might use at home. In any event it made for a nice class and even a light lunch for those attending.

We tasted Sel Gris, Fleur de Sel, and Cyprus Black Salt. The olive oils tasted were Hacienda 1917, Arbequina and Arbosana from California Olive Ranch. We use olive oil and salt as individual ingredients like herbs and spices of the dish. They are treated with equal importance. So how does one choose from the 100’s available today?

TASTE as many as you can before buying. Many markets do EVOO tastings on Saturdays, and even kitchen shops now offer salt tastings. So take advantage of those opportunities–I do, and always learn something.

Next, go to some of our favorite websites and read about their particular characteristics. You will learn the nuances that make them special and different–and inspire you to use them. For salts, I buy from Saltworks in Washington State and their site is very informative. www.saltworks.us. For oils, our staple oils are California Olive Ranch and their site is http://www.californiaoliveranch.com/

Choosing salts or oils is similar to how I choose wines—go to the wine makers themselves and read what they are saying about their wines–in some cases such info is found on the label.

Considering salts for example, here are a few facts that help me decide which and how to use them. First of all it is all just sodium chloride. So make no mistake the differences are subtle. There are minerals in some salts that contribute to their flavor profiles, but the most distinguishing characteristic may not be taste, but rather the texture of these various salts. Texture in salt is attributed to the way the salt crystallized. The area or region from which it originates determines the crystallization much the same way snow flakes are formed.

Sel Gris and Fleur de Sel are sea salts, both harvested at the mouth of the La Geurande River in the South of France where the saline is thick. A Celtic style method using wooden rakes to stir the salt as it dries in the sun is used. When the pure white, top layer is formed, it is immediately collected. And since it is not always there, it is considered to be the best, and is aptly named, Fleur de Sel, “salt flower.” The bottom is the Sel Gris, “gray salt,” getting the gray color from the mud flats that it dries on–some minerals from the earth are included, giving another flavor dimension. The Cyprus Black salt we use is a Mediterranean style salt that is extracted by boiling, and the lava, “activated charcoal,” is added afterwards. Among other things, activated charcoal is used in Spas for purification. Ingested, it sort of collects the impurities which are then eliminated.

This is allot of information, but at the end of the day, hereís how I use these salts. I use Sel Gris in cooking applications where I need to know immediately if I have achieved the salt-profile required. Like for sauces, soups and general cooking. The Fleur de Sel is a finishing salt where a “burst” of salt – texture is desired. The Black Cyprus adds texture, color and a burst of flavor once the activated charcoal layer melts away. Perfect companion to fish!

Bottom-line advice—enjoy the process of playing with different salts until you find what YOU like! Ciao, Bob


SPRING!

There are many ways to entertain and celebrate, but brunch has to be one of the best. Best I think because menus are pretty simple and usually enjoyed by most. Even people who don’t eat eggs, will often eat them baked into a bread pudding or French toast, and even an egg strata–the universal brunch recipe. I love the fact that when entertaining with brunch, we can have a 4 hour party and still be cleaned up before the evening news. And this is especially important when Brunch is on a Sunday. At least that is true for Bob and me, as we seem to need some time to get ready for the work week.

We served brunch just this morning–celebrating Easter / Passover and Spring. Often we are asked how we decide what to serve. We start the same as we would for any meal–with what is in season. Of course, we mean nature’s season, but right now, Mother Nature’s spring is taking her sweet time to arrive in our little town and I cannot wait. There are certain foods that say spring better than others, and it’s ASPARAGUS for me. If I waited until local farms are harvesting asparagus before I have any–spring would not be the same for me. Bob brought it in for our brunch today from our California neighbors–just for me.

Though asparagus wasnít the centerpiece of our Brunch, the fact it was there made my day. It is not just my spring fetish. I remember a restaurant in WASH DC that would serve every diner a full pound of asparagus for about a week every spring, and people would stand in line for the experience. It is a great vegetable that is often associated with fine dining. Maybe it is because the plant, a member of the lily family, takes three years to mature before the spears are harvested. There is a big debate out there about which are best, the pencil thin or chubby stalks. We think the chubbies are most tender and delicious, but the main thing is whichever you like, consider getting them all about the same size so cooking is consistent.

While I am musing about spring, I cannot help think about my family in Seattle, who are probably all sitting around a decked out-for-spring-table in the living room of my cousinís house, the only room that could hold the table for 28! That is where our family has celebrated many EASTERS, and many memorable meals–mostly pot luck but always someone brings the requisite plate of fresh asparagus for Easter. I miss being there today, but I do enjoy remembering because it adds to my celebration of spring. Here is the menu item that we served with asparagus this Easter Day.

Dressed up Polenta with Asparagus & Oregon Pink Shrimp
1 ‡ cups fine ground organic cornmeal
2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock unsalted, vegetable stock may be substituted
2 oz Mascarpone cheese
4 oz heavy cream
1 TBS roasted garlic (see recipe)
TT sea salt, Pepper, Coriander
2 TBS EVOO or butter as needed to finish

Asparagus:
1lb. washed and cut into 2 inch lengths
EVOO
Seasoning-salt, pepper, coriander

Shrimp:
EVOO for sautÈing
3 oz shrimp per person, peeled, and deveined
1 tsp minced garlic
‡ cup dry vermouth

Sun dried tomato relish, optional
METHOD:
Polenta: In 2 quart saucepan, bring water and stock to boil. Whisk in cornmeal, stirring quickly to prevent lumping. Lower heat and simmer stirring occasionally until the polenta is creamy about 20 min. Add the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream roasted garlic and seasonings. Just before serving add EVOO or butter.

Asparagus: Heat skillet; add EVOO; heat over medium-high. Add asparagus, season with salt, pepper and coriander. Cook about 3-5 minutes or until tender. Set aside off heat.

Shrimp: Heat skillet; add EVOO and heat over medium-high. Add shrimp and sautÈ for 3 minutes or until just pinkóbeing careful not to overcook. Add garlic and sautÈ a few more seconds. Add vermouth. Set aside off heat.

At service, place polenta in bowl, top with asparagus, shrimp, and garnish with tomato relish. Serve.


Noodles

One of the most satisfying experiences is watching someone learn something new, especially when
you are the teacher. Hi, Lenore here, writing in Bob’s stead.

We had “kidís in the kithen” classes this week and they made pasta. The children added water to
little piles of semolina flour right on the worktable that was adjusted for the average height
this day–about 4’2″ The goal: to make sand-pies “It feels just like the wet sand you make
sandcastles with,” I explained. That way they might relate the feelwe needed for the
dough. “Does it hold together when you squeeze it?” I said, and before I could get around the
table, the sand pies became dough. Dough in hand, they then worked in pairs, one feeding the
pasta to the machine, and one cranking the handle. Everyone practiced patience as they waited
their turn to crank the dough on the school’s only two pasta machines. ìLook how long it is
getting!” each called out. And before long, carefully folded layers of well floured flattened
strips of dough were pushed to the center of the table. Next step, cut into the “fettuccini
noodles.” And this is the precise moment the little light bulbs went onóit was the first time the children put together how the sand-pies became noodles. What an accomplishment!

Minutes later the boiling salty water was ready and noodles dropped. When dished up onto the
childrenís plates, some were still not quite sure that these very delicious cooked noodles were
the ones they had made, yet they so wanted to believe.

For the children in your lives, (including your inner child), here is the recipe for HOMEMADE
PASTA NOODLES:
A little more than a cup of Semolina flour
A few pinches of Sea salt
Water, room temp, as needed
All Purpose flour to prevent stickage (Bob’s word, not mine)

Method: Pour semolina onto table (a bowl may be used). Add salt and blend with fingers. Add just a little water at a time until when squeezed, the dough holds itís shape. It is the texture of wet sand for molding into castles. Flatten dough into disk and rest 10 ñ 30 min or longer in the
refrigerator.

When rested, using the #1 on your pasta machine, run dough through. Fold into thirds and run it
through again on #1. Do it three times. This is the kneading process. Now gradually thin the
dough strip by putting it through the machine on #2, then #4, and #6. Make sure all the dough is
the same thickness so the noodles cook evenly. Take the elongated strip and flour it well; fold in half again and flour again. Do this folding and flouring each time until the dough is very small with
multi well-flouered layers.

Cut across the layers º- ‡ inch thick ìnoodles.î Separate the layers and leave floured noodles on a
cookie sheet until ready to drop into boiling salty water. For cooking: Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt to make it very saltyólike sea water might taste. Use about º cup salt per gallon water. You should have 4-5 quarts water for every pound of pasta. Bring to full boil; drop noodles and cook until tender about 3-5 minutes.

Serve with EVOO, a little more sea salt, pepper and coriander.