Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pastanxiety, or how I learned to stop worrying and make homemade noodles.

Thanks to the miracle that is instant social networking, all of Twitter now knows that making my own pasta was quite possibly one of the most stressful experiences of the year. I thought I'd share the melodramatic pre-pasta breakdown, the
live tweeting of the main event, and the (almost) edible results. Consider it confessional pastanxiety therapy, so I can move on from tonight and never have to think about it again.

allisonejones: We're attempting to make our own pasta tonight, and I'm really nervous. Like, really nervous. #pastanxiety
RadioConelrad: Unless you're making the pasta with nitroglycerin, what's the worst that could happen? (fettuccine al qaeda?)

pdxlilly: When I have made pasta, I used regular flour, one egg, and some water! Really simple. Can even roll it out with a rolling pin.
allisonejones: I don't have any semolina! Help! Do I need semolina? I don't even really know what semolina IS! #pastanxiety
billgalusha: wait, what.. a food question from @allisonejones ?!!? it's a kind of flour, and yes, I believe it's pretty crucial.

hedinthecloudz: When Jen makes pasta the way her Italian boyfriend's Italian mama taught her, she just mixes regular flour and an egg.

hedinthecloudz Also, Jen and I (when I help) always mess up and have to add water because we didn't mix the egg+flour quite right. Also fine
allisonejones: Recipe says mix pasta ingredients as if mixing cement. Who do they think I am? Maybe we should just give up + go to @pastaworks
amigadehelado: are you making pasta by hand or by machine? Don't be afraid. You don't need semolina. I like egg and flour best anyway
allisonejones: Making it by hand, worried that I've got people coming over and it'll take too long and/or be a total gummy disaster...
amigadehelado I use the Babbo basic recipe. Once you get going, pasta rolling goes fast. Stuffed pastas harder. + you have panna cotta
allisonejones: I was just informed that pasta has been found to reduce stress and anxiety. Nice try, internets. I've still got the #pastanxiety real bad.
amigadehelado: I say go for it. Effort means more to me than perfection when someone is actually cooking for ME
allisonejones: Stay tuned for live tweeting of Pasta Fiasco 2k10, starting @ 6! Keyboard will be covered w/ flour+eggs, but I'll need support. #pastanxiety

allisonejones I've heard of using guitar strings to cut pasta. I wonder if Sam Cooper would mind me using the guitar he left in my apartment. #pastanxiety
foxtotally: this #pastanxiety endeavor of yours sounds like a Haruki Murakami nightmare. Are you the only participant?
allisonejones: @foxtotally Nope, I've got a fellow pasta neophyte tackling the endeavor conmigo. It was her dammed idea. Luckily she's not on Twitter. [after-the-fact edit: Alix, don't buy all my twitternonsense. It was fun! I don't think it was a bad idea, and we had a great night. But my fears were TOTALLY warranted, admit it...]
foxtotally: Throw a couple wet ones against the wall and Twitpic what it spells! #pastanxiety

foxtotally: My guess is that it forms the likeness of a minotaur #pastanxiety
allisonejones: I don't even know if homemade pasta sticks to walls! How do I know when it's done!?! It cooks too quickly to have time to check!

allisonejones: If the homemade pasta fails tonight, I've a free delivery coupon from @pdxpedpow as Plan B. Man the phones dudes, who knows what'll happen.

allisonejones: My horoscope says to take "reasonable risks" today. "If you can consult with an expert you should do well." Help! I need a pasta expert!

allisonejones: I'm so ready. Homemade pasta, here we come. Checkout my bowl, BOWL:

allisonejones: OK guys, here we go. Dumping cups of flour on my dining room table, which is making my OCD itch uncomfortably. #pastanxiety

allisonejones: Cracking eggs into said flour and preparing to "mix as if mixing cement" whatever that means. Bright yolks make me a lil less anxious.

allisonejones: Mixmixmixmixmix... hey it's kind of working and isn't chasing me like a raptor. But the eggs are spilling everywhereohgodtheeggsareEVERYWHEREohgod...

allisonejones: Doesn't seem very elastic... adding more water... more oil? Ugh. Don't want a #pastafail
amigadehelado: After you mix/knead it's gonna need to rest before it becomes elastic.
allisonejones: Letting it rest... do I knead more afterwards? #pastanxiety
amigadehelado: Nah, you don't want to work the gluten too much esp. since you still need to roll it.
allisonejones: Ok, rolling it out... it's not getting very thin. Not worrying too much about it as I'm frying up bacon, onions, mushrooms and fresh peas.

allisonejones: Ok, water's boiling, here we go! 2 minutes... oh wait, it stopped boiling. BLAH. #pastanxiety

allisonejones: So, it's totally, ridiculously, chewy. Think it was too thick but it TASTES like pasta...

allisonejones: OK: Pasta is pretty chewy, but the sauce is phenomenal (because it's cream and bacon and peas, duh.) so it's not a total #pastafail

So that happened and now I never ever have to do it again. It's like canning and real gardening - I'll leave that stuff to people who really love it, and I'll keep eating my salads and waxing poetic about vegetables and how much I love to cook when the fact is, when it comes down to it, I really just love chopping and mixing flavors and eating good, simple foods. Homemade pasta still totally scares me. Maybe if I had one of those attachments for my KitchenAid that rolls and flattens the pasta, but, honestly, I can get such good, fresh pasta at the farmers' market and not have days like today where I stress about kneading flour and eggs for hours before I actually do it. I just don't get the appeal.

Actually, I think the real answer is going to Italy and having some Nonna teach me how to do it correctly. Yep, that's a good plan. Until then, I'm gonna let my jaw rest and get over the chewy semi-disaster that was Pastagate 2010. Thanks for not unfollowing me, everyone. You're real troopers.

Also, let the record state that, once again, bacon makes everything better and good friends make culinary failures kind of fun. Plus, there's always dessert.

The Great Panna Cotta Mystery

Panna Cotta should not be as delicious as it is. Something that takes less than five minutes to prepare--then sits in the fridge for a few hours--simply should not be the best thing ever...but somehow it is. Granted, it's typically made with heavy cream and sugar, so I understand that it's never going to be inedible. But can someone please explain to me why this dish, which is essentially nothing more than cream Jell-o, makes everyone's eyelashes flutter and their spoons keep digging in for more? It baffles the mind, but I'm not complaining.

I fell in love with Panna Cotta a few years ago in New York City, in a little (now closed, I believe) restaurant called Borgo Antico in the West Village. The full story of that unlikely meal can be found here, but suffice it to say that ever since then I've ordered Panna Cotta whenever it's on a dessert menu. We've got some great ones in the city - from Kir's over at the Sugar Cube dessert cart on Mississippi to the yuzu-infused vegan coconut version at Bamboo Sushi, but it's so easy to make at home that I know I shouldn't rely on professional pastry chefs to do what I can so easily do myself. But, really, like THAT mentality has ever stopped me from ordering anything...

My friend Alix, a true-blue Portland foodie, came over to make dinner (we tackled pasta, dramatically, over here), so I took the opportunity to please a fellow discerning palate with my favorite dessert. I bought some cream from City Market (one of my new favorite places in Portland) and rushed home to get dessert mixed and in the fridge with enough time to set. As I stirred the pot of cream, sugar, honey, vanilla, gelatin, and thick yogurt, I couldn't help but grin at the fact that I have the kind of job that allows me to be barefoot at home cooking panna cotta in the late morning. It's a rough life, really. I ended up making my Panna Cotta in a glass bread pan, because I don't have room in my kitchen for silly things like ramekins. I figured I could pop the whole thing onto a plate and cut slices. It worked, but was kind of ugly, so maybe those fussy kitchen dishes have a place after all... I didn't really have any energy left to stage a better picture, so I just kind of randomly clicked my camera in the general direction of the dessert plates and then sat down with a spoon. We were so wiped from the pasta misadventure that we couldn't really care less that the panna cotta was a lump covered in fruit, because it was a damn tasty lump covered in damn tasty fruit.

I picked up some gorgeous apricots from the farmers' market last Saturday, almost jumping up and down (well, ok, actually jumping up and down) with excitement that the first wave of stone-fruits is upon us. I can't believe we're mere weeks from peaches (!), and it seems that every other blog post on the internet is spotlighting the piles of cherries filling the markets. These apricots were perfectly ripe from a few day's vacation in a brown paper bag, but still had an edge of tartness so I added a bit of honey. Needless to say, Greek yogurt + honey = yum. YUM.

This was the dessert that saved the day. A bit homely, a bit slapdash, but all in all, a winner. It's really good for breakfast, too...

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
adapted from Nancy over at Good Food Matters
1 package Gelatin
2 T. Water
1 cup Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Honey
1 t. Vanilla
2 cups Whole Milk Greek Yogurt

Sprinkle gelatin into a bowl, and stir in the water. The gelatin will soften and clump, but don’t worry, it will smooth out in the brief cooking that’s to follow.

Gently heat the cream in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, honey, vanilla, and the gelatin. Stir steadily with a wooden spoon until sugar and gelatin has completely dissolved throughout the mixture. Do not let this boil.

When all is incorporated, remove from heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt.

Pour into a glass container of any shape, up to and including an old glass bread pan. Or break out your fancy cordial glasses or ramekins... Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Most Revealing Meal

As I was cooking dinner tonight, I realized that the dish I was preparing was very revealing, though I don't mean to say that the little french lentils were scandalously rubenesque or that the spices were showing too much cleavage. I mean that a simple meal of a lentil salad says a lot about the way I eat, the way I shop for food, and the cooking habits and stories I've developed over the years. I thought it'd be fun to break down the elements of the meal to give you a glimpse, a tease, a revealing peep into my little world.

The lentils: I can't believe I've never talked about lentils. I just ran a search of the Lemonbasil archives, and I've typed the word "lentil" into these posts a grand total of ZERO times. Not once. Considering how often I eat lentils, I'm actually a little embarrassed. My parents could tell you about the countless times I've informed them over the phone that I'd eaten lentils and rice for lunch (or dinner, or breakfast, or all three...). Although there were indeed times when I ate them because my fridge was empty and I was left to rummage through my non-perishables for sustenance, the majority of the meals of lentils have been made because I simply love them. I love how humble and filling they are. I love the way they perform differently depending on how you cook them. Al dente, they're perfect for salads; cook them longer and they turn into the creamiest soups and daal. Alright, I also love how cheap they are. I bought these gorgeous french Puy lentils for $1.29 a pound at the International Food Supply on SE Stark and 80th, and they'll last forever. They will take on any flavor, adding their own peppery earthiness to anything I cook them in, and they look like river stones, smoothed and tumbled... what is not to love about these gorgeous little guys? I cook them in broth (usually 1.5 cups of lentils to 3.5 cups of broth) with a bit of cumin, coriander, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a diced onion for about 25 minutes. Oh, the broth, you ask? Well...

The broth: Even though I can't really compost up here on the ninth floor (even though I'm sure my two patio tomato plants would love it if I bought one of those fancy indoor composters) I do keep a big, sturdy snap-lidded plastic container in my freezer to throw in anything and everything that can go into a broth. Onion skins, Parmesan rinds, herb stems, lemon peels, chicken bones, celery bottoms... it all goes into the bin. Once it fills up, I throw the whole thing into my huge stock pot fitted with a smaller strainer pot (elegant phrasing, I know... what are those called?), cover it all with water, add some fresh garlic, and boil the hell out of it. After a few hours, I've got a decent broth that I use for everything from deglazing a pan to, yes, cooking rice or lentils. It's always a little different, and I end up making a lot of it, so I store it in the big glass jugs my olive oil comes in. Which brings us to...

The olive oil: When my parents are in town, we eat out. Yes, we're all major cooks, and in our separate lives we're in our own kitchens preparing 9 meals out of 10. But put us together, especially in Portland, and we turn into restaurant FIENDS. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacks, dinner... I show them the places I've been writing about and shooting, they take me to their favorites, and by the end of a long weekend we're over-sodiumed and empty-walleted, but very, very happy. During one of those filling visits, my dad and I went to Ya Hala, my favorite Lebanese restaurant, and ordered up the mezza platter and some fattoush. One bite of the hummus and we just had to ask the server where the restaurant bought their olive oil. Turns out the owners also operated the little international food supply place right next door, called, quite logically, International Food Supply. The olive oil brand was Saifan, and it came in big 1.5 liter glass jugs. This was January, and I've already gone through three jugs. It's that good. And because I started going up there to get my olive oil, I found that they have a great spice collection, the cheapest cured olives, the best yogurt, and a good assortment of nuts, dried fruit, and lentils. Outside of the farmers markets, I shop here more than anywhere else in the city. It's a tiny place, but they have what I need, and I get to chat with the owner about what size bulghur to buy and our shared love for the little vacuum-packed bags of peeled chestnuts.

The method:
I call this my kitchen-sink tabouli, and I probably make it a few times a month. My friends know that my favorite foods are tabouli and toast, in that order. Depending on the season, what's in my fridge, what's growing in my garden, and who I'm cooking for, it has endless variations, grounded mostly by the parsley. Sometimes, like tonight, it gets cashews, cherries, carrots, celery, and these amazing "diva" cucumbers from the farmers' market that I've been hoarding every week. They are a local variant on those Persian cucumbers that you don't have to peel or seed, and they are killer. I eat so many of these, they're like my version of potato chips. Anyway, it all goes into a bowl with lots of parsley, lemon juice, garlic, some mint, more garlic, cumin, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic. Other times it will get some feta, or rice, or chickpeas, or currants, or grape tomatoes, or little pieces of pita. It's the kind of food I could eat for every meal, and sometimes I do. It's briny, crunchy, and satisfying. Plus, it keeps in the fridge for days.

According to my friend Matt, writing a food blog is 80% about the food and 20% about stroking my ego. Fair enough, but I also know it's about realizing that life is good when you take the time to notice that every ingredient has a story. I may live alone, but when I cook a meal full of habits and stories, I'm there with my dad, and my friends at the market, and the farmers, and the cows, and the olive trees... And you. So thanks for that.

Eat well.

(Also, the beautiful blue bowl above and and the earthy one below were both made by my insanely talented friend Karah Bruce-Larkin)

Josh Ritter at the Wonder Ballroom 6/25/10

What an amazing show. More photos here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Improvisational Dilemma

Every once in a while, I'll pull down a few of my favorite cookbooks and spend an hour (or three) paging through them and compiling lists of recipes I'd once wanted to make but had let slip through the cracks. It usually leads to an epic shopping list, filling the holes in my pantry with specialized ingredients that I don't think to buy on a regular basis. I have a great time flipping through the pages, and it feels like having a conversation about food with a close friend who is also a great cook, but there's a problem - I never really go through with making the recipes. Unless I'm cooking for a special dinner or baking, these cookbook perusals are more entertainment than actual planning.

While, in theory, I love the idea of following a set of directions, measuring spices and using things I wouldn't normally use in such large amounts--like heavy whipping cream and pancetta, because "it's in the recipe, so I have to use it..."--my cooking habits are pretty much determined by the amount and variety of produce I get at the farmers' market each week, and they border on the boring. Every once in a while I'll glance at my "Epic Shopping List," but for the most part I know I need to use up all of that lettuce, or make something with the kohlrabi, or make the most of those gorgeous eggs that should really be eaten soon after I buy them, or oh my goodness what am I going to do with all of this zucchini... And you don't know how many times I'll be thinking about going shopping when a little voice inside my head says "No! You've got lentils and rice! What else do you need?"

So I end up improvising, essentially creating a mash-up of all the amazing vegetables I have around, making a bit of something tasty when I'm hungry, usually a salad or a saute... and totally forgetting all of my plans to make that detailed recipe I'd swooned over a few days prior.

I know I can probably do a mix of both - mix in the produce I have with the recipes I'm in love with, but, I don't know... I know how to punch out a solid meal without thinking too much about it, and it's really the process of chopping and bumbling around a kitchen throwing in random things into pans that makes me really love to cook. It might not be measured, and it certainly doesn't usually lead to photogenic plates of food worthy of most food blogs (my little sister teases that I make a lot of mush), but it's my own way of interpreting all of those hours of cookbook reading, blog surfing, and food magazine scouring. While I admit I'm a bit jealous of those bloggers that are able to make super complicated layer cakes and boeuf bourguignon and the perfect garam masala, all of those taste combinations have been seared into my mind, and the voices of the cooks and chefs I've read are silently working whenever I open my fridge or wander the aisles of the farmers' market. Plus, I don't need a recipe to know what to do with a fresh summer tomato.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

101 Cheeses at Ten 01

What: 101 Cheeses, or, “The Cheese Bar Spectacular: Moldy, Stinky, Cheesy"

Where: Ten 01, 1001 NW Couch, Portland, Oregon

Who: Adam Berger of Ten 01 and Steve Jones of Cheese Bar

Why: An opportunity to taste 101 of Steve’s favorite artisan cheeses, wine selections from Ten 01’s (absolutely amazing) Sommelier Jeff Groh, craft cocktails by spirits guru Kelley Swenson, and local beers on draft.

Enjoy the pretty, my dears.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Video Tour of the Pioneer Square Market

If you missed today's fantastic market opening at Pioneer Courthouse Square, have no fear. Take a stroll through the market through the magic of digital video! (I'm working on getting the smells of Tastebud Bagels and fresh strawberries to come through your screen, but progress on the smell-o-vision is rather slow.)

Though the sun taunted the early-risers this morning, prompting a flurry of PDX sun-break tweets in the Twitterverse, the official first day of summer was ultimately yet another chilly gray example of Portland's trademark Junuary. You couldn't tell the sun's been shy by looking at the array of produce that filled the Square, however. Zucchinis, tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, and basil were flaunting their colors and aromas, putting on quite the show. Maybe if we all take a hint from the fruits and vegetables by dressing in our brightest clothes the sun will hang around a bit more. It's worth a shot!

I want to hear from you! What did you buy today? Any great bargains or early season surprises? I was so excited to see blueberries at The Berry Patch, and had a very hard time refraining from eating them all on the walk home. Share your own stories in the comments!

(Photos and video by Me, music by Sam Cooper)

Market Monday: Grand Opening of PFM at Pioneer

Today marks the first day of the Pioneer Courthouse Square Farmers’ Market, which will fill “Portland’s Living Room” with fresh fruits, vegetables, and artisan foods every Monday from 10 am to 2 pm throughout the season. If you work downtown, skip the food carts and come over for Monday lunch, or pick up some carrots and bread for dinner on your coffee break. Even though I'll likely stick to Wednesday's Shemanski market for my primary PFM outpost, I'm so excited that the market staff was willing to give up one of their only "days off" to start up yet another star of a market. Where would we be without those superstars? I don't even want to think about it.

This addition to the Portland Farmers’ Market line-up means that Portlanders can shop for local, fresh, and organic foods five days a week at six different locations throughout the city, from Southeast off of 20th and Hawthorne, to NW 23rd, to NE at King Elementary (for a list of all locations, times, vendors, and more, check out the PFM website). That means that wherever you live in Portland, you have easy access to the best food in the Northwest. Every quadrant has an opportunity to experience the “best of the country in the heart of the city.”

Pioneer Square Market Dates: June 21 through October 25

Times: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Location: The Monday Market at Pioneer Courthouse Square is located between SW Broadway & SW 6th and SW Morrison & SW Yamhill.

Check out these photos from this morning's opening, and look for a full market tour video later today (...ok, well, probably tomorrow. What am I, a professional blogger or something?)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kids Cooking Classes at the Portland Farmers' Market

Last weekend, in the middle of the Portland farmers' market at PSU, a cheerful group of youngsters enjoyed a personal, hands-on cooking class from James Beard award-winning chef, author, and local food systems expert Cory Schreiber. Strawberries were cut, cream was whipped, caramel and chocolate sauces were in abundance, and crepes were successfully flipped! Well, most of them were...

It was all part of the Portland Farmers' Market's ongoing Kids Cook program, where kids learn about the seasonality of food, meet local farmers and chefs, and gain first-hand experience preparing ingredients purchased fresh at the market. Classes include a guided market tour, hands-on instruction and recipes to take home so students can share what they learn with family and friends. What better way to teach kids the benefits of fresh, local food than by giving them a chance to cook (and eat) it themselves?

Sign up today for a chance to see your kids truly excited about new cooking skills and our local food system. For cost, class descriptions, and registration information, download the Registration Form. Advance registration is required, so grab a spot before they're gone.

Check out the fun that awaits your kids every Saturday!

Season Schedule and Class Topics:

June 26
Smashed-Fruit Yogurt Parfait

July 10
Grated Carrot Salad with Peaches, Dried Cherries & Basil

July 24
Summer Vegetable Sushi

August 7
Stone Fruit Gazpacho

August 21
Super Summer Salsas

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lynne's Farmers' Market Tips

Hi guys! Here are some tips for shopping at farmers' markets from one of my idols, Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table:

The biggest challenge here is always how not to overbuy. Of course, the whole idea of shopping at your local farmers' market is to build what you'll eat for the week around what's in season and looks good. This turns the idea of having a list and sticking to it into not such a good thing. So hold back wherever possible.

Keeping Everything Fresh
• Keep an inexpensive cooler in the car, complete with bags of ice cubes or those frozen blocks.
• Have a big bucket half filled with water in the car to keep flowers fresh.
• Bring your own tote bags to the market. Recycle individual plastic bags by bringing them with you and asking dealers to use them instead of theirs.

Enjoying the Market
• Don't buy until you've walked the entire market to see what's there. This is the time to stroll leisurely, enjoy the light, the sights, and seeing friends. Talk to the farmers. Find out who they are and what exactly they grow. Build relationships; everyone benefits from them.

• Look for organic growers and support them if at all possible. Their work helps the environment, besides often giving us safer and better-tasting food. If you're curious about what it takes to raise organic foods, these are the people who are usually delighted to answer your questions.

• Try new foods. Every week buy one thing you've never had before. Ask the farmer the best way to enjoy it. This way you may find you love the burgers from the dairy woman, or the fresh kohlrabi in mustardy dressing.

Finding the Best
• Taste. Always ask for a taste and offer to pay for it. Buying one tomato may save you from putting up a bushel of tasteless ones. Don't assume that because the food is fresh and local, it's going to be wonderful.

• Know when it was picked. With foods such as corn and peas that can lose their appealing sugars quickly, always ask when they were picked and always taste them raw before purchasing. Store in the refrigerator.

• Look. Know that often the prettiest peach or apple may not be the tastiest, but if anything is bruised, wilted, or tired-looking, don't buy it.

• With peaches and apricots, once the area around the stem is no longer green, the fruit is ready for picking. A few days at room temperature will soften them slightly and bring them to good flavor. The darker the yellow portion of a peach, usually the sweeter it is.

• Size isn't everything. Often the smaller ear of corn, zucchini, or green bean is sweeter. Remember, pickling cucumbers can be delicious eaten raw. They often have a distinctive, especially appealing character.

• Compare prices. The best buy might be down the next row.

Once You Get Home
• Store everything green in plastic bags in the refrigerator.

• Always keep tomatoes, garlic, onions, peaches, nectarines, and apricots at room temperature.
• If you have completely lost your head and bought far more than you need, get on the phone with friends and invite them to a cook-it-yourself farmers' market party. Have everyone bring an apron and a knife, and make it an evening of cooking together. Just keep the dishes simple - with the gorgeous flavors of just-harvested foods, you don't need to do much. Make sure to have some good bread, iced tea, and maybe wine. These are usually the best parties.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Market Photos: Wednesday PFM at Shemanski Park

Full disclosure: the Wednesday installment of the Portland Farmers Market at Shemanski Park is less than a block from my apartment. Nine flights of stairs and half of a Park Block are all that separate me from fresh Pearl Bakery baguettes, Gathering Together greens, Willamette Valley Havarti and Springwater Farms shrooms. I'm so spoiled.

It was POURING on Wednesday morning, so I put on a sweater and a hat (a full blown winter hat, on June 2nd... come on Portland, seriously?) and skipped up to the smiling and/or tired faces of the market staff and farmers. I picked up some garlic scapes, crazy delicious strawberries, breakfast radishes (which I'm enjoying right not on the aforementioned baguette with butter, salt, and pepper), new potatoes, and my first market tomato of the season. Then I suffered the long and tortuous trek back to my apartment, cradling that yellow tomato like a baby chicken, shielding it from the rough and tumble world of my market basket to keep it from bruising.

Less than five minutes later, I'm back in my kitchen, slicing her up for the first taste of Portland "summer", glancing out my window at the rainslick streets of downtown. You can't beat that first bite of a good tomato, especially when it was picked hours before by the smiling from man who sold it.

It's a rough life, this Portland living.