Monday, November 16, 2009

Produce Problem? Let me help!

It seems that every time I go to the farmers' market, I witness someone looking quizzically at a fruit or vegetable as if for the first time. I can almost hear them thinking, 'This is crazy-looking... How am I supposed to eat this!?' While some brave souls toss the sunchokes, quince, parsnips, giant cauliflower mushrooms, burdock, kohlrabi, and celeriac into their market bags, far too many place it back into the pile and run back to their spinach and potatoes. This, my friends, is a shame. Sure, some vegetables are weird looking. Alien, even. But a lot of those 'weird' vegetables are nutritional power-houses, regional specialties, and absolutely delicious.

If you're one of those who has come across an unknown veggie, or simply wants to know how to turn an old stand-by like the Brussels sprout into something you'll actually WANT to eat, I'd love to help.

If you're at all a regular reader of Lemonbasil, you'll remember how the blog sort of... ahem... dwindles during the winter months. Help me out by giving me prompts, questions, and challenges, and I'll help you with that bag of market finds! Don't know what a certain fruit or veggie is? Snap a picture, send it to me, and we can go from there.

Send all of your queries, ideas, challenges, stories, and photos to and let's get cooking!

Eat well!

Monday, November 9, 2009

One Day at the Market

I just wanted to share this amazing time-lapse video of a full day of the Portland Farmers' Market from set-up to take-down, and all of the action in between. It's a truly stunning view of the energy and work it takes to make the market possible.

Wow! I'm really glad I don't have to get there when it's still dark. Farmers rock.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mushroom and Butternut Squash Saffron Risotto

Great news! I've settled down (well, at least for a few weeks) into a gorgeous home with my wonderful friends, and can take a break from apartment hunting and everything else I should probably be doing, and cooking up a storm in our fantastic kitchen (gas stove! good lighting! great knives!). For starters, I made real risotto for the first time last night, and it was glorious. A lot of that had to do with the fact that risotto is unequivocally delicious, but it was mostly that cooking and drinking wine with one of my best friends was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

Started the day at the farmers' market, gathering some beautiful squash, peppers, celeriac, the most perfect snow-white cauliflower I've ever seen, eggplant, carrots, raspberries. Who knew we still had raspberries available!? Thanks, greenhouses!

I then drove out to my favorite apple farm in North Plains, Mason Hill Orchard, only to find that they were sold out. Sad, but worth the trip, which turned into an hour-long drive through Oregon farmland in a constant downpour, which was a lot more enjoyable than it sounds. Quick stop at Ikea for some new pillows and $1 meatball plate (!), then back home to a waiting fireplace, coffee, and biscuits and gravy made from scratch by my roommate. Perfect rainy Portland Saturday, topped off with creamy, cheesy, savory risotto and a glass of wine and good conversation. Seriously, how does it get better than that?

Lesson learned: Risotto is worth the work! We traded off stirring at the stove and the result was insanely delicious. I used some saffron that my mama had given me for a birthday a few years ago, which I'd been a bit intimidated by until I saw that it had an expiration date on it. Long story short, I've got a month to use up a lot of saffron, and this delicious vegetarian risotto was born. I adapted the recipe from an Ina Garten recipe which originally used pancetta and chicken stock. I replaced the stock with some mushroom-heavy homemade broth, and replaced the pancetta with mushrooms, for some savory (dare I say umami...) goodness. A quick tip, make sure to use unsalted butter and don't use too much salt before you add the cheese. Mine was perfectly seasoned until the end, but then I added the cheese and it was a bit salty. I added some red wine, because, you know, it was in my glass, and it worked beautifully. Improvisation, friends. It works when it works.

Here's to finding home. Eat well.

Mushroom and Butternut Squash Saffron Risotto

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

~ Kosher salt

~ Freshly ground black pepper

6 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade

6 Tbsp. (¾ stick) unsalted butter

cup diced crimini or chanterelle mushrooms

½ cup minced shallots

cups (10 ounces) Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 tsp. saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into ¾-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the veggie stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the mushrooms and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the rice seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
  6. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Great Pumpkin Event!

Every year around Halloween, the Portland Farmers' Market throws one hell of a party. Dozens of pumpkins for carving, vendor costume contests, kid's costume parade, really fun kid's music, and two, count them TWO chef demonstrations hosted by yours' truly. I had the pleasure of cooking a green tomato and celery root soup with Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen, and a great arugula and butternut squash panzanella salad with Jenn Louis of Lincoln and Culinary Artistry catering. They were both fantastic, and two more reminders of how much I love the Portland chef community.

When I was walking around with Scott shopping for our demo, he, like most chefs I've had the pleasure to meet at the market, seemed to know just about everyone. Every Portland-area farmer seems to know pretty much every Portland chef, and vice-versa, which makes sense because they have such a mutually beneficial relationship. Also, people who I would normally view as other shoppers like myself were suddenly revealed to be chefs of well-known restaurants, specialty shop owners, food writers, and other notable characters. It's such a treat to glimpse into that close-knit community, like a carrot dangling in front of me luring me into the Portland food scene. I suppose I already have a couple toes in that door, thanks to the market and blogging, but I've got a long way to go.

This year's bash was extra special because the event fell on Halloween proper, which I believe compelled a few more people to dress up and brave the rain for the festivities. Creative (and warm) costumes were everywhere, from an adorable stop light complete with light-up red, yellow, and green circles, to more princesses, butterflies, monkeys, monsters, and zombies than you could keep track of. No one cared too much that the rain speckled our costumes, but it's safe to say that when the sun peaked out around noon, smiles were considerably brighter.

Umm... Could this little thing be any cuter? I think not.

On the home front, I'm moving this week! Which means kitchen stuff might be living in boxes for a few days, and I'll be making a lot of salads. At least I like salads. I'm moving into a friend's house while he and his band go on tour, and then who knows... a world of domestic possibilities. As long as there is a kitchen, it's a home. Why I decided to move (a few times) in the middle of writing my thesis is quite complicated, but it's exciting. It also gives me something to think about other than writing and food. Hmmph. Like I need anything else.

Happy Halloween! Eat well!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fun with Blog Stats...

During one of my occasional perusals of my blog statistics (which tells me, among other rather voyeuristic things, how many people visit the site, what web pages people are coming from, what countries, and what google hits are leading to Lemonbasil...) I came across a rather unexpected connection...

Apparently, if you search for "adopt buy squirrel portland" in Yahoo search from Taiwan, Lemonbasil is the first hit.

Dear Squirrel Lover,

Sorry if you were disappointed, my friend. I can't help you directly, but I hear Craigslist has occasional ads for chipmunks and ground squirrels. That being said, according the the Department of fish and wildlife it is against the law to trap any type of native squirrel and keep in captivity without specific permits through wildlife rehabilitation agencies. Read: let's keep our furry Portland friends out of cages and exercise wheels and in the wild, climbing Douglas Firs and, um, power lines.

They are pretty darn cute, though.

Your friend in Portland,

P.S. Did you know that there are more than 365 species of squirrels in the world? However, upon the occasion of a casual Google search, there is NO SQUIRREL OF THE DAY blog. Come now, people. That's simply an irresponsible use of the internet. Good readers, get on that. Stat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photos from the Week

So, here's a visual tour of food-related events of my past few days, because I have little to no time to verbalize blog-worthy musings this week. I'm writing my Senior thesis, painting murals, apartment hunting (and generally getting ready for a big move), and am finishing up work before leaving for my Fall Break. Next week on the East Coast, next year in Jerusalem. Or something.

Be back to words soon! Eat well!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Butternut Squash Olive Oil Bread

Guess what I've been eating a lot of?

I'm a bit nervous that I'll eat way too much winter squash this month and be sick of it by the time the late summer vegetables are gone and I'm faced with the prospect of eating butternut squash and sweet potatoes for several long, cold months. But I also feel like I've been waiting for winter squash season all year, and I am willing to risk butternut overload for mornings like this.

I woke up this morning and immediately thought BREAD. I haven't made bread in many months of Sundays. What with the summer of living on the road, to starting school and moving into a new, unfamiliar house with an extremely temperamental oven, it's no surprise that bread hasn't been first on the to-do list. But I miss it, and Julia, my sexy stand mixer, keeps making me feel guilty for using her as squash storage. Hey, sorry love, but counter space is precious and you have a really large bowl. 6 quarts to be exact. So I thought I'd make it up to her AND make the squash storage problem a bit less insane in one fell swoop. Butternut squash bread! How cool is that?

• 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
• 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
• 1 1/4 cups mashed, cooked butternut squash
• 1 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/2 cup olive oil, canola oil, or mixture of both
• 1/3 cup honey, maple syrup, or agave
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 7 cups all-purpose flour

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water; let stand for 5 minutes. Add squash, milk, eggs, oils, syrup and salt; mix well. Gradually add 3-1/2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Shape into three loaves; place in greased 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until tops are golden. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Farewell Gourmet Magazine

I know most of my readers in the food blogosphere will have already heard this sad news, but this year marks a monumental loss for the foodie world. After 70 years of publication, Gourmet magazine is closing its glossy covers for good.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of Gourmet's specific brand of food porn. I've spent a good deal of time during my visits to my grandparents' looking through the giant basket where my grandmother keeps her magazines and setting aside Sunset and every Lands' End catalogue every printed, searching for that familiar scrolled title and the delectable solitary shot on the cover. This was my first exposure to food writing, to food photography, to the whole cult of culinary indulgence that has gained near-religious status in my life. Before I knew how to pronounce the title, I was enamored by shiny page after shiny page of colorful, drool-worthy shots of the kind of food I could only dream of. Now, to be fair, I come from food the way some people come from money. I had no shortage of gourmet (with a little g) delights on my very real dining room table. But the magazine (with a big G) took me past my mom's crispy chicken thighs and perfect baked potatoes and my dad's juicy steaks and... baked potatoes... to something wholly other. My parents showed me how to hold a knife, and the education was continued by the fine people on public television and the Food Network, not to mention the food blogosphere, but it was in the magazines that really took me places first. I learned about the restaurant world, the sustainable food movement, the revival of traditional regional flavors, and the influx of exotic tastes that have hit the American palate like a hurricane. My parents will always be the best cooks I've ever met, but because of Gourmet, I can proudly say that I can out-eggplant even them.

It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that it is due to the writers that populate the food journalism universe that I am a cook, that I am a writer, and that I am the kind of eater I am. They have informed my sustainable food ethics, my chopping style, the encyclopedia of food terms and methods in my head, and, surely, my career path. I know, because of the passion I found in their writing, the wonder I found in following a recipe (or, you know, not following it at all), and the immense delight in serving Gourmet-inspired food to my family and friends, that I want to cook, and write about it, for the rest of my life. My first-edition Gourmet Cookbooks hold the most privileged position in my cookbook collection, representing much more than a collection of recipes from mid-century. The Thanksgiving issues have informed the past few years of my November pursuits, and I had the amazing opportunity to meet Ruth Reichl through the Portland Farmers' Market (and, as many of us did, got to know her even more through her phenomenal memoirs). I'll miss her smiling face greeting me as I flip open the magazine each month, though the insane career envy I feel re: her time with the NYT and Gourmet will not fade in the least.

When asked to compile a series of recipes using winter veggies for the PFM, I immediately turned to the folks at Gourmet for inspiration. They have always represented a certain amount of class, at times bordering on the bourgeois, but always, somehow, accessible, even for a college student on a budget. I suppose what was most accessible were the dreams, the fantasy meals spelled out so beautifully in recipes and menus, in the shots so skillfully arranged by the art directors... I've built and rebuilt my imaginary kitchen countless times over the years in accordance to their appliance recommendations, filling the dream-drawers with the latest gadgets and loading the fantasy pantry with the most exotic spices and sauces. Some people have a "happy place" where they go to escape the pressures and mundane reality of real life. Mine has a Viking gas grill with an infrared rotisserie. And a Salamander.

In the hardest of times, when I find myself eating beans and rice for what seemed like weeks on end, I look forward to flipping the pages of the magazine, visually eating my way through the seasons, sampling the best of American and International restaurants, and conjuring up conversations with top chefs, sharing tips and favorite flavors. And in the best of times, when I find myself with hours to spend in the kitchen and a full fridge, Gourmet has taken me around the world, helping me conjure up flavors from Mexico to Thailand, from Italy to Philadelphia, and has opened my eyes to culinary gems here in Portland.

Today, three magazines were waiting for me in my mailbox. Bon Appétit, Cooks Illustrated, and Gourmet. My friends and family can attest to the fact that days like today, when the food mags show up, are like every gift giving holiday wrapped up in one, made even better because they come once a month. I opened this month's Gourmet with gratitude, sadness, and anticipation for the future. Though one great edifice of the food world has fallen, there remains the example of the food writers of the past, and, thanks to their clearing of the path, there is amazing potential for the food writers of the future. Thank you, Gourmet, from all of us, for your role in the culinary revolution, and from me, for your special place in my own humble education.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Ode to Autumn: Hungarian Mushroom Soup with Butternut Squash and Eggplant

Dearest Autumn,

I love the way you make the air smell like apple pie and fireplaces. I love the colors you wear, the orange of pumpkins, the reds of the leaves being pulled down to the ground in swirls by the wind, and the deep gray of storm clouds. I love the way you change how I dress, allowing me to wrap myself with scarves, knit hats, thick tights and big sweaters that still kind of smell like my dad's aftershave.

I love how milky Irish Breakfast tea in the Fassbinder mug my mom gave me years ago tastes so much better when it's raining. I love the way the light has shifted, and has that golden tinge when it peaks out from behind the heavy clouds before it sets, earlier and earlier. I love the way you give farmers the best apples and squash, the way you have everyone planning their disguise for parties and pranks at the end of October. I love the way you keep the tomatoes and peppers and zucchini and eggplants around, but show them up with the hearty fall flavors of sage and rosemary and caramelized pears. I love how you carry pumpkin spice lattes like presents to every coffee shop in the city.

But most of all, above most everything else, I love how you make me feel when I spend a few hours in the kitchen making a pot of Hungarian mushroom soup, warm in my nubby brown socks, anticipating a great meal and a greater season. This soup is the best of you, autumn. Hearty, comforting, rich, and complex while being completely familiar.

Also, I love how everything I cook this years seems to devolve into brownish mush. Well, maybe I don't love that so much. But trust me, I don't hold it against you. Much.

Thank you for everything you do, and love, always,
Allison Jones, the real Oakley Rhodes.

P.S. This is officially Lemonbasil's 100th Post! I figured it was about time I revealed my identity, if only because, someday, I'd like to be able to google my name and have my food writing show up in results. I can't believe I've been doing this for almost a year and a half. Thanks to everyone who spends a minute or two reading my words and checking out my recipes. You make my world go round. Here's to a future of eating well, online and off.

Autumn Hungarian Mushroom Soup with Butternut Squash and Eggplant


  • 1 pound mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 cup onion, chopped (any kind will do)
  • 1 or 2 large shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, diced, and roasted in a 350 degree oven until cooked through and golden
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (any kind works, I used skim)
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon or more Hungarian, or smoked, paprika
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1. Saute onion, shallot, and garlic in 2 tablespoons stock with a pinch of salt until translucent and fragrant.
2. Add mushrooms, eggplant, squash, dill, paprika, 1 cup stock, and soy sauce.
3. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Set aside.
4. In a separate large saucepan, melt butter.
5. Whisk in flour and stir continually until flour beings to darken slightly.
6. Add milk and cook, continuing to whisk, over low heat until mixture thickens.
7. Stir in mushroom and vegetable mixture and remaining 1 cup of stock.
8. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
9. Before serving, add sour cream and salt and pepper to taste.
10. Give thanks for fall.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Risotto-Style Farro with Winter Squash and Aged Goat Cheese

Fall is here in Portland. Nowhere is this more evident than at the farmers market. What with the crisp breeze, the golden sunlight at a slightly new angle, and the smells of roasting peppers, not to mention all of the amazing new fall produce, everyone seemed to be in autumnal spirits. It's getting to be the time of year when scarves come out and hot apple cider seems like a great idea.

This morning I had the pleasure of doing a cooking demonstration with Grace Pae of Artemis Foods, an amazing Portland cafe and catering company that specializes in beautiful local, sustainable, and seasonal gourmet food. They've received a couple of awesome awards for their sustainability practices, and they only use the best local, organic, and whole ingredients, all while making really phenomenal food. Grace was a total sweetheart, and we couldn't have had more fun making a delicious dish of farro with butternut squash, fresh cannellini beans, and Fraga Farms Aged Rio Santiam Goat Cheese in a sort of risotto-style mush, if I'm allowed to call something so tasty and pretty a "mush".

Farro is totally making a comeback. Also known as emmer wheat, it's an ancient grain native to the Mediterranean and Near East, and some nutritional anthropologists think it ranks among the oldest domesticated foods. It fell out of favor after the fall of the Roman empire because new crops, like barley and spelt, were a lot easier to grow and had bigger yields. For thousands of years it's been a relic crop in the Mediterranean, but it's experiencing a bit of a revival thanks to the growing interest in heirloom foods, grains included. One of the healthiest grains around, it's related to wheat and spelt but has its own unique character. It has an amazing nuttiness and holds its shape really well in recipes that can tend to get mushy. A perfect example is this almost-risotto, that features my absolute favorite fall treat, butternut squash. Not to mention really awesome aged goat cheese and a good amount of butter!

We used organic farrow from Bluebird Grains with the hull on, which preserved its nutty flavor and chewy texture. You can find their stuff at Portland-area stores or online. I also got a great tip about peeling butternut squash. You know how it can get kind of sticky or slimy and start rolling around the cutting board? Grace says if you chill your squash it is a good deal easier to peel. I'll have to try that next time! Another great thing about this recipe is that it uses fresh beans, which are popping up all over at the markets these days. You can eat them raw, in salads, but in a hot preparation like this they get deliciously creamy and tender. The dish uses chicken stock, but you could totally replace that with veggie stock to make it veg-friendly.

I love doing chef demonstrations, and if I could make a living talking about delicious sustainable, seasonal food in front of an audience, I would be a very, very happy girl. Keep your ears open for an opening on the Food Network for me, ok?

Here are some shots from the market today. Gorgeous!

Farro with Butternut Squash, Fresh Cannellini Beans, and Aged Goat Cheese

8 oz. Farro, cooked in boiling salted water until tender, drained
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, minced (you can use a food processor)
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons fresh thyme and.or sage, savory, or any combination
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1-2 cups fresh, shelled cannellini or lima beans
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 cup chicken stock (or veggie stock)
4 cups cubed butternut squash, roasted (simply toss the cubed squash in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tender, stirring a few times)
2-3 ounces Aged Goat Cheese

1. Prepare you ingredients first by cooking the farro in enough water that the grain can roll in the pot as it is cooking. For example, 8 ounces of farro will expand by 3 times in volume, so you will need a pot about 3 times bigger than that, or at least a 2.5 quart pot.
2. Have the squash cooked as well as the other listed ingredients.
3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil together and add onions, garlic, herbs, and spices.
4. Sauté ingredients for 3-4 minutes or until onions are translucent and garlic and herbs have become aromatic. Do not let garlic brown.
5. Add the farro and the beans, the wine, and about a cup of stock and let the ingredients simmer together, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the butternut squash and heat through ust until hot. Add more stock as needed to maintain a moist consistency. Add the cheese and mix well.
7. Adjust for salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Garnish with shavings of cheese.

Eat well!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tomato Turn-On!

Yesterday's market was nothing short of summery, despite the premiere of winter squash and turnips at a few select booths. The sun was out with a vengeance, the crowds were back after last week's rainy lull, babies were lounging on blankets in the grass, and there is still more corn than anyone can handle. Ok, maybe I'm the only one who's struggling with my corn, but still, it's everywhere! Another defining feature of summer at the Portland Farmer's Market is the Tomato Turn-On, a really fun event that shows off just how many awesome varieties Portland-area farmers bring to the market.

Farmers graciously donated a couple varieties of tomatoes, both slicers and cherries, and our amazing volunteers spent hours, knife in hand, slicing up HUNDREDS... THOUSANDS... MILLIONS of tomatoes to set on plates along a long stretch of tables. You think I'm exaggerating, and I am. But there were a lot of tomatoes. Market-goers were given score-cards and toothpicks, and sent down the line for a free lunch c/o summer's favorite fruitegetable. At the end of the tables stood big easels with every variety, and voters used little stickers to cast their votes.

It was truly a showdown of summer's best. I couldn't stick around to view the final vote, and I'd be hard-pressed to pick my own favorites, but I certainly enjoyed the feast, and the reminder that it's still summer, despite the cloudy skies, the mounting piles of reading for school, and the winter squash that is roasting away in the oven. Let's call it the liminal space between summer and fall, the best of all worlds.

Eat well!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day Feast

Labor Day is pretty special to my group of friends. It was on Labor Day, two years ago, that a group of us got together for a potluck that would turn into a veritable institution - Family Dinner. Every Friday night dozens of people fill a home, a feast is made, instruments are brought out, music is made, people fall in love, I make cookies on the fly without a recipe, someone covers a Radiohead song, people fall asleep, and in a week's time, it happens all over again.

The cornerstone of "My Portland", Family Dinner has bred our sometimes band, The internationally acclaimed Ivonrose Family Jamboree (as featured in French Glamour and, more often, our front porches), has been the source of the best friendships a girl could ask for, and has required a hell of a lot of cooking. It's also probably the reason I'm single, but hey, that's another story. I really think it is greatly because of this rag-tag bunch of hooligans that I am who I am today. Week after week, when school, work, family, or Portland weather has got me frazzled, it means so much to be able to walk into a kitchen and help cook food for my best friends. Who gets to do that? It's amazing, and it's ours. So, I don't know if any of you read my blog, but I love you, each and every one of you.

Ok, emotional blathering aside, let's get down to the food. Because that's what you are really here for. You know how they say you don't want to watch the sausages being made? Well, they say something like that, and apparently they weren't talking about veggie sausages, because that process is relatively benign.

Full disclosure, all of these recipes were either made up on the fly or were from books at my dear friends' abode. So, I'm not tracking them down unless someone is desperate, in which case I'll do my best, because I'm nice like that. We made homemade veggie sausage, bean burgers, Greek green beans, potato salad, and more grilled vegetables than twenty people could eat, which is a lot.

Many of us are vegetarians, so aside from the occasional (and beyond amazing) roasted bbq chicken from our humble tattooed glickenspiel player, we consume a whole lot of beans, quinoa, and veggies. Which makes it a lot easier to feed about twenty people a week on a budget of, well, not much. But don't think we can't grill a mean Labor Day feast from scratch. Because we can.

I hope you find yourself lucky enough to be able to make food and music with friends as often as I do, because let me tell you, it's an absolute lifesaver. Just don't ask me to do the dishes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Roasted Summer Vegetable Soup

Portland woke up this morning to a VERY rainy Saturday. I was pretty excited, because I adore the rain, and it would mean that the only people at the farmers market would be die-hard foodies and farmers. The down side, of course, is that on rainy days the farmers make very little money, so I tried to do my part, threw on my hooded jacket, put on actual shoes, and headed to the market. And ended up having to make two trips back to the car.

The Rainbow Connection of produce!

If I have learned anything so far from this year of CSA eating, it is that one person does not need a whole share's worth of vegetables. On one hand, I've been attempting to eat a weekly box of vegetables meant for a family of four, and it's been a challenge. And I might be insane. On the other hand, I regularly cook for my friends, who are more than willing to help out with the weekly bounty, and it has given me the opportunity to stash away a lot of food for the winter. Rather like a squirrel, if squirrels ate yellow curries and roasted eggplant, tomato, potato, corn and chile soup. A freezer full of food is not a bad thing to have when facing the looming winter months. It isn't too difficult to remember last winter's long stretch of beets, winter squash, potatoes, and kale, and that at times all I wanted to do was run to a big box store and buy a mango. Or ten. In short, even if I feel absolutely ridiculous carting home a giant box of produce for me, myself, and I, I know I won't be freaking out in a couple months when I'm stuck inside and the city is shut down due to a half an inch of snow. Nope, I'll be eating this soup.

My tried and true summer use-up-the-veggies-from-last-week-so-theres-room-in-the-kitchen trick is a big ol pot of roasted vegetables. I just rough chop everything, throw it onto a grill or into a 400 degree oven, and wait until everything smells amazing. This hasn't happened this summer as much as usual, because I moved, don't have a grill, and haven't wanted to turn on the oven. What with the rain, I didn't feel too bad about warming up the kitchen and sipping on some Irish breakfast tea while the veggies roasted.

I used an eggplant, peeled and quarted, halved tomatoes (I put them cut-side down and the skins will pucker up and come off really easily), a big onion, two heads of garlic, a bunch of little yellow fingerling potatoes, two ears of corn, and some chiles. I also threw in some green beans for snacking on, because, heck, if the oven's on, I might as well throw in everything I can. I'd ususally eat everything just like that, warm or cold, but I want to freeze some for later, so I made some soup. This worked out really well because I was able to throw the scraps, peels, and my overflowing garden herbs into a pot and made stock while the veggies roasted. I felt like a superhero, using every little scrap of garlic skin, onion tops, and one sad squash that was a couple days past its prime. I kept the seasonings of this soup really simple, just salt and peper and the herbs in the broth, but you could jazz it up a couple ways. Curry powder would be great, or more italian herbs. Experiment! Roasted veggies are very forgiving.

My new kitchen, still stuck with an electric stove. Ah, renting.

When everything was done, I threw the veggies into another stock pot, added the hot broth, and pureed the hell out of it with my immersion blender. I topped off one bowl with some yogurt, and let the rest come to room temperature and froze it in leftover containers from the deli-counter. It had a perfect amount of spice because of the chiles, and was super creamy because of the potatoes. If you don't have an immersion blender, get one. If that's not going to happen, this would be just as delicious as a chunky soup, you'd just need to chop everything up a bit more first.

It's been a hell of a summer, one full of twenty-something adventures and catastrophes that I'll be talking about for the rest of my life. Long story short, blogging wasn't priority #1. It was great, but it also feels wonderful to have made it to September. School has started, and the rain is still pouring down, so it really feels like fall is around the corner. I'm ready, soup in hand.

Eat well!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Farm Breakfast

Hi everyone! I'm finally back in Portland, though not without a few mishaps along the way. My car is currently stuck down in Grants Pass, at the Nissan dealership, due to what has been so delicately termed as 'CATASTROPHIC ENGINE FAILURE'. Yep. Plus, my family is in town, for my mom's outrageously short summer vacation (she teaches special education, and between summer school and the regular year she gets too-little time off. But she's amazing, so she's totally ok with it), and we've been spending all of our time on the phone with various customer service representatives. Not a lot of fun. I have so many amazing things to share with you, but it's been tough to steal away to the computer to talk about veggies while I'm dealing with a minor vehicular emergency.

But hey, this is a food blog, not a complaints form, so, how about some shots of a gorgeous breakfast made from ingredients from my family's farm, Camp Joy, in Boulder Creek, California!

A simple bowl of oats, fruit, nuts, yogurt, and honey, enjoyed on the porch of the old house on the hill above the farm. There is really no way to express how amazing this place is. It's more than a farm, its a place of family, education, children, love, good food, good music, community, continuity, generations, activism, sustainability, appreciation, and perfect California sunlight. Coming here is coming home, and I am so grateful that, in this special place, the journey from farm to fork is a matter of feet, not thousands of miles. What's more, the beauty of the people that take care of this land really shows in the quality of the food, the health of the plants, and the happiness of the animals. It is so inspiring to be connected to something so fundamentally part of the solution to our world's problems. Starting with breakfast.

The apples and berries came from the orchard and blackberry patch. The yogurt was made the day before from fresh goats milk, from the happy, silly goats on the farm. Check out this goofball, on the roof of the goat house...

The honey is from bees, constantly buzzing around the lavender and every other plant. Once, I was digging up potatoes and got stung by a bee, right in the middle of my forehead. I got a big, swollen red bump, right on my third eye. Since then, the Camp Joy bees and I have been polite, but wary. That being said, I am extremely grateful for what they do for the garden and the world. A pollinator researcher, E.O. Wilson, famously stated in 1996 that we should, every third bite of food we take, thank a bee. And that number goes way up on a small, organic farm. So, thanks bees.

It just feels better to know where my food comes from, not to mention to have a small hand in picking it, raising it, fermenting it, and loving the land it comes from. It's how I eat well, and hope to for many years to come.