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