Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hawthorne Bridge Lighting and Lift 100: PDX Bridge Festival 2010

"The centerpiece of this years festival is the Hawthorne Bridge, which celebrates its hundredth anniversary in 2010. In honor of the centennial of the nation’s oldest working vertical lift bridge, we’ve designed an installation that will transform this bridge into a large-scale work of kinetic art. The lighting display makes use of programmable and environmentally aware lighting technology to interact with the nightly vehicle and bike traffic on the bridge. The lights accentuate 48 panels of colored fabric installed in three spans of the bridge trusses, turning the structure into a wash of color and moving light, and marking the rhythm of commuter traffic as it moves across the bridge. The installation will be visible for the 15 days of the festival and can be viewed from neighboring bridges, both esplanades of the Willamette River and downtown buildings."

For more information about the Portland Bridge Festival, the Hawthorne Bridge's 100 year anniversary, the bridge lighting and lift, and the Multi-Media Hawthorne Bridge Show on July 31st, check out the PDX Bridge Festival website here.

All photos © Allison Jones 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pescado Al Pastor with Cilantro and Pineapple Sauces

This month's Bon Appetite was filled with recipes that actually stuck me as novel - a rare event, indeed. Usually food magazines are filled with retreads of whatever seasonal classics are timely. I don't really need another recipe for peach cobbler, instructions on how to make a deli sandwich, or tips for zucchini bread (I've already got the recipe for the best zucchini bread ever). But this month, from Corn and Dulce De Leche Panna Cotta to sweet Tomato Tarte Tatin to this recipe for Pescado Al Pastor from a restaurant in Mexico City, I've been cooking directly from recipes and have been floored by the results.

Here's the sad thing, though. I ripped out the page for the Fish al Pastor, and now I have no idea where it is. PLUS it's not on the Bon Appetite website. So really, there is no way I or anyone else in the world will be able to cook this ever again. Unless you, dear reader, also have a copy of this month's BA and would scan the page for me. (ahem, it's

Anyway, for this recipe, which is now lost to the ages, I needed a few ingredients I knew I could get at any mexican supermarket. Unlike my hometown in Southern California, however, we don't have many awesome supermercados within Portland city limits. Now, I'm the kind of person that hates to wait for the elevator so much that I walk down nine flights of stairs a few times of day, and I brought a book to my college graduation because I didn't want to waste time, but I will gladly take an hour and a half to drive out to Cornelius, Oregon to go to Grande Foods for achiote seeds and guajillo chiles. And THEN take a few more hours preparing my own achiote paste, a caramelized pineapple sauce, pico de gallo, and cilantro pepper sauce from scratch to make a "simple" dinner for two of my friends. I'm weird like that.

Food exists in this alternate reality for me. On one hand, there's life obligations - like work, errands, and most human interactions - that can really make me angry if they require a bit more time than I had allotted for them in my meta life schedule. But with food... I don't know, I can get lost in it, spend an entire afternoon making SAUCE, and be completely happy.

Sorry I don't have a recipe for the amazingly delicious pescado al pastor. It was seriously one of the best fish dishes I've ever made. As a consolation prize, here is the recipe I used to make my achiote (aka annato) paste. It's really, REALLY worth it to make your own and not buy the paste you get in stores. The taste of fresh achiote paste is incomparably better - trust me, you'll want to put that on everything.

Which recipes would you miss the most if they ended up lost? What foods are you willing to drive more than an hour to find?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Lemonbasil!

Today marks two years since I opened up my laptop and decided to start a food blog with a silly name. Thanks to everyone who reads these words; it's been an absolute joy to share my meals, adventures, and emotions with you through the seasons. Two years ago I was a student with a new camera, a penchant for fruity desserts, and the goal of getting a few people out there to comment on some blog posts. Now, as a graduate, a photographer, a (small) voice in the Portland food media, and an experienced navigator of the harvest year, I still find the greatest pleasure reminiscing about last night's meal, last weekend's party, or this morning's news. I've cooked in so many different kitchens in the many places that I've called home, and all the while Lemonbasil has been my virtual dinner party through the changes. I'm recently come to figure out that I don't necessarily love food - I love sharing food with people I love, even if it's through the blog the morning after. I can only hope to spend many more years taking in the farmers' markets, typing away at these keys, snapping photos around Portland, and meeting friends around the world. I can't wait to see what comes next, and I truly hope you'll join me for the ride.

Here's to another year of eating well!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Photo Credits and Market Props

Hey guys... The lovely Mona from the Portland Farmers' Market just let me know that a photo of mine was featured on's America's Best Farmers' Markets! I love it when PFM gets the credit it so very much deserves (even if they just talk about our mushrooms...) and it doesn't hurt to see my name along the side of a photo on CNN: the fine print on the right side there says "Courtesy Allison Jones/Portland Farmers' Market"... The article focuses on the appeal of farmers' markets for travelers, and I certainly agree with some of their picks. The Portland Farmers' Market (presumably the PSU incarnation) joins the Columbia City Farmers Market in Seattle, Santa Monica Farmers' Market, Alemany Farmers' Market and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Fransisco, Green City Market in Chicago, the The Union Square Greenmarket in NYC, Santa Fe Farmers Market (with its ungodly variety of chili peppers for sale), Dupont Circle Freshfarm Market in D.C., and the Flint Farmers' Market in Flint, Michigan.

Someday I hope to travel and take pictures (and tastes) of all of the markets on the list, but until then, I'm happy with my hometown favorite. The farmers' market at Portland State University on Saturdays is far and away one of the best things to do in Portland, whether you're a visitor or a long-time resident. When you're only in town for a weekend, it's like a little microcosm of the region, because you get a glimpse of the local food scene, the seasonal changes, the popular music and fashion, the attitude... and when you live in Portland, the farmers' market can become a social hub, a grocery store, and, at least for me, a home away from home and a launching pad for a career. Check out the full article here: America's Best Farmers' Markets, and be sure to check out the farmers' market next time you're in Portland. I'll show you around!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Seared Buffalo Liver with Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Pilaf

While strolling through the market snapping photos on Saturday, I wandered up to the Pine Mountain Ranch booth to buy some eggs when I noticed they had chicken livers and hearts. I'd been wanting to make my own chopped liver for a while, so I inquired about the chicken parts. In what is quickly becoming a trend in my life, I was told that someone had just snapped up the last of the chicken bits but they had a package of buffalo livers available. As with the lamb tongues, I rolled with the punches, bought the liver, and set home to do some research. On the walk home, I called my sister Casey and told her I'd scored some buffalo liver, to which she responded, "Is this going to be your new thing? Eating weird parts?" I guess so, Casey. I guess so.

After some straightforward Googling of "buffalo liver," "bison liver," and even "beef liver" to round out the information hunt, I found out that soaking liver is pretty much suggested across the board. Some people recommend soaking in milk, others lemon or tomato juice, and a few prefer wine or another alcohol. This is really doing two things: The acids in the milk/juice/booze help tenderize the meat, and they tone down the strong flavor that liver can carry with it, especially if the liver comes from an older animal. I knew the livers I bought were probably the best money could buy, so I wasn't really worried about masking any off flavors, but I chose to marinate in red wine to be on the safe side (also, wine is rarely a bad idea). On another note, liver can be difficult to slice, but my friendly ranchers packaged the buffalo pre-sliced so I didn't have to worry about it. Perfect slices of even width made my job pretty easy.

A few hours of marinating later, I turned my cast iron pan up to smokin' hot, and seared the livers without letting them overcook, and served them up with flash roasted (really, broiled) veggies and some quinoa pilaf (which is just quinoa cooked in water with oregano, garlic powder, thyme, salt and pepper, and a skosh of tomato paste). I was pleasantly surprised! Yes, it tastes like liver, but the first taste on the tip of my tongue was of a really good steak - likely due to the caramelization of the searing...
(SCIENTIST SISTER EDIT: If you are talking about caramelization, it can't be caramelization of the meat. You might be able to get away with caramelizing the residual sugars of the wine in your marinade but you will never caramelize liver because caramelization refers exclusively to the decomposition of sugar with applied heat. In the case of a fatty meat, the browning and goodness that comes with searing is a complex mixture of reactions known collectively as the Maillard reaction which requires sugars, amino acids, and heat. And specifically, the reaction most likely occurring in your lean liver is decomposition of myoglobin, the protein that makes up muscle. Right! Thanks, Casey!)
I topped off the liver and veggies with a balsamic vinegar reduction, which basically entails boiling some balsamic vinegar until it reduces to a thick, delicious sauce that perfectly complemented the meat. Livers are really good for you, super lean with all of the good vitamins and nutrients, but when you're eating organ meats you really want to make sure you're getting the best quality, organic animal possible. Hormones and anitbiotics can concentrate in places like the liver, giving you a concentrated shot of all the nasty stuff. Luckily, they're about the cheapest meat sold at the farmers' market, so treat yourself to the best organic, pasture-raised liver you can buy from someone you trust. It won't put you out more than a couple of bucks.

Pine Mountain Ranch raises some might fine bison, all grass-fed and loved. My friend Nate asked me if I felt odd about eating buffalo, given that less than a century ago they were all but extinct. The truth of the matter is that most of the bison rehabilitation efforts have been due to the increased demand for buffalo/bison meat. In his book, Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods, conservation scientist Gary Paul Nabhan argues that by creating a culinary market for many of the endangered species of North America, the buffalo included, actions may be taken by private and public organizations to increase the population and establish safe havens for them. The owner of Pine Mountain Ranch, Alan Rousseau, has said of the buffalo: "Because of their majesty, and their place in history as a symbol of America, I have set a personal goal to return Buffalo to the wild, by way of a state or national park. This way, more of the public can be educated on the Buffalo, and hopefully be as inspired as I am by these magnificent creatures, which are as much a part of this great country as the Bald Eagle."

Perhaps more than most ranchers, Pine Mountain makes a point of using the whole animal - which is why I could find livers, hearts, feet, and tongues at the Portland farmers' market. Reducing waste, valuing the whole animal, and respecting the integrity of the species are reasons to feel good about eating those "weird parts" of the animals, while supporting local ranchers and their goals of rehabilitating and respecting the land and its sensitive ecology.

Plus, it's really tasty.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chef in the Market with David Anderson of Genoa

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a demonstration at the PSU Portland Farmers' Market with Chef David Anderson of the newly-reopened Genoa and its sister restaurant Accanto, and we had a really great time. This weekend's weather has been a bit confusing, starting off cool and cloudy and slowly burning off to a gorgeous sunny day, so our audience started a bit on the small side. Once people around the market started smelling frying pancetta and caramelizing apricots, however, we had quite the crowd. David was great, sharing stories from Genoa's past and present and explaining how the menu has been "traveling through Italy" as the seasons change in Portland.

Every month, the restaurant features a five-course prix fixe menu highlighting the specialties of a single region in Italy, and David selects the region based on the pairing of authentic ingredients with what's available in the markets in Portland. This month the menu features Chef David's interpretation of dishes from Abruzzo and Molise, a region nestled at the border of Northern and Southern Italy in the highland foothills of the Apennine mountains. The mouthwatering offerings include:
  • Scamorze allo spiedo: Creamy scamorza cheese (a stretched cow's milk cheese similar to mozzarella) skewered on rosemary stems, pan seared and served with marinated baby artichokes and pickled asparagus.
  • Farfalline con pisselli e fave: small hand-made pasta butterflies tossed in a savory San Marzano tomato sauce with Viridian Farms peas, fava beans, lemon zest and fresh sheeps milk ricotta.
  • Pasta alla chitarra con ragu d’agnello: fresh egg and semolina pasta cut on a traditional chitarra or “guitar” tossed with a ragu of Cattail Creek lamb and sweet peppers.
  • Scapece di salmone alla vastese: salad of wild Oregon Sockeye salmon marinated in champagne vinegar, white verjus (a very acidic juice made from pressing unripe grapes), saffron and aromatic vegetables served over baby spinach, sweet basil and Yukon gold potatoes.
  • Dentice e calamari in purgatorio: Line caught pacific rockfish and calamari sautéed in a spicy sauce of onions, white wine, tomatoes and dried chiles.
  • Coniglio alla grigliata misti: Mixed grill of rabbit; tender loin skewered with house made rabbit sausage and kidney served with airy potato croquettes and caramelized baby fennel.
  • Lombatine pepate e fiamma: Grilled Pepper and herb crusted strip loin steak flamed with strega liquor and served with a saffron risotto stuffed pepper and a raw zucchini and mint salad.
David told us that he loves featuring regional cuisines because it gives him a chance to learn about the ingredients, culture, and history of a region, as well as pick up new techniques and traditional combinations. It's great to know that even Portland's top chefs continue to learn about food and regional cuisine long after they've established themselves as knowledgeable and skilled in the kitchen. There's so much rich food tradition out there that it'd be impossible to know everything before you begin - so get out there and start some hands-on learning. You're in good company.

Start your culinary tour of Italy via Oregon's farm-fresh bounty with what may be the perfect summer salad: Crispy pancetta cubes, sweet and tart apricots with a perfect sear in butter and honey, peppery arugula and fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkling of the Oregon favorite, Marionberries, and fresh, creamy ricotta cheese. Chef David provides a step-by-step guide for making this delicious dish, which would make a great summer meal on its own, or serve as the starter for your next five-course supper party extravaganza. Eat well, or perhaps more appropriately, buon appetito!

Caramelized Apricot Salad with Arugula, Basil, Pancetta, Marionberries, and Fresh Ricotta
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Anderson of Genoa and Accanto, 2010
Serves six as a starter or four as a light meal

For the vinaigrette:
1 pound pancetta, cut into lardoons (bite sized chunks)
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar, preferably 12 year
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. Place the pancetta and the olive oil in a small sauté pan and slowly bring up the heat to render out the fat. Leave over a low flame until the pancetta starts to color.
2. Drain the pancetta reserving the fat into a separate bowl. Keep the pancetta lardoons warm or at room temperature.
3. Put the pan back over the heat and add the shallots. Sweat for a few minutes until soft then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar.
4. Whisk in the reserved fat and taste for seasoning.

For the apricots:
6 apricots, ripe but firm, cut in half vertically and pitted
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat butter slowly in a wide sauté pan. As soon as butter foam subsides add the aprictos cut side down.
2. Raise the heat and lightly caramelize the apricots. Add the honey and toss well. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. Cut into wedges and taste for seasoning.

For the salad:
3 bunches of fresh arugula, washed and stemmed
1 bunch of basil, stemmed, leaves roughly torn
1/4 pound fresh ricotta, crumbled
Reserved pancetta cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl toss the apricots, arugula, and basil with enough of the vinaigrette to coat. Taste for seasoning and garnish with pancetta, berries, and ricotta.

Market Photo Report: Bacon Pickles and the Perfect Corn

Yes, you read that correctly. Bacon pickles. Unbound Pickling is satisfying that seemingly insatiable Portland pork hunger with a hickory-smoked dill pickle that would be happy on any burger, though there isn't actually any bacon in the brine. Sneaky pandering marketing? Brilliant idea? Either way they are damn tasty.

The PSU market was intimidatingly busy, as per usual, but it was worth braving the crowds for the first corn, colorful cauliflower as big as my head, great walla walla sweet onions, and the piles and piles of carrots reigning over the rest of the early summer bounty. Check it out for yourself next weekend, at the South Park Blocks on the PSU Campus, 8:30 to 2 pm. See you there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In Which I Do Something to My Hair

I'm kind of notorious for doing drastic things to my hair. I've had almost every hair color, from my natural blonde and lighter to bright reds and dark browns, as well as pretty much every length and style. My dad was pretty insistent regarding the haircuts allowed to my sisters and I as kids. After a childhood of towhead bowl cuts and almost-mullets (see below), and early teen years of long, straight one-length hair or shoulder-length cuts, I was itching to break out of the mold. As soon as I realized my dad was a lot cooler than I gave him credit for and that I could get away with a lot of things, I became the hair rebel. I was 17 with a box of bright red dye, and as soon as I glanced up at the mirror after my sister Casey finished rinsing my hair in the bathroom sink, there was no looking back.

I just get bored easily, and my hair becomes the vehicle for my need for change. My friends are pretty used to me showing up for a party or dinner with a completely different hairstyle or color, yet still feign enthusiastic surprise and support of my new look, for which I adore them all. The latest plunge was a bit more drastic: I got a perm. Yeah. After thinking about it for years, I decided to go for it, and after a brief Google search for "best perm in Portland," I had an appointment at Salon Capelli the next day. My rationale was that I had been thinking of chopping it all off, so why not have a bit of fun with it before then? Besides, it's really just hair, and I'm blessed with a great head of it, so I know it will grow back if I someday actually do something TOO ridiculous and need to buzz it off and start over. Even though I was still a little nervous to tell my parents about it, as soon as they saw a photo my dad declared that "it was the best thing I've ever done." While I worry a little bit that chemically altering my hair structure ranks above being valedictorian or, you know, getting a job, I appreciate his support.

As for the hair, I really love it. It's crazy and fun and pretty much perfect for summer. Besides, like my dad's always said, if you think a mop full of curls is wacky, you should see the hair on the inside of my head.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crispy Fried Lamb Tongues

Though I’ve long been interested in the lesser-utilized animal parts schlepped in blue and white coolers to the Portland Farmer’s Market, I hadn’t intended on having lamb tongues in my freezer.

I had ordered a cow tongue from one of the market’s ranchers on a rainy Saturday morning, and had been fine with waiting the two weeks for the special request. I couldn’t expect them to bring every bit of offal, eyeball, and taste bud to the market every week. I thought I’d try my hand at some lengua sliders or lengua tacos and had been excited to finally buy some meat from the market. I can’t typically afford a whole chicken or prime steaks, and I figured that if I could find an affordable and delicious piece of meat from the best ranchers in the country, I could handle a slight stretch of my imagination and a little extra work.

On the agreed-upon day, I walked up and, no doubt with a goofy grin plastered on my face, greeted Dick Sexton and reminded him I’d ordered the tongue. He proceeded to pull out four tiny vacuum-packed frozen bits of… something.

I must have looked mighty confused because he said, “You did want lamb tongues, right? I didn’t think anyone would want just one, so I brought four of them.” After a very brief moment of consideration, I responded, “Nope! I wanted a beef tongue, but these will do just fine.” A little embarrassed about the confusion, he eagerly wrapped up my tongues in a brown paper bag, charged me less than three dollars, and asked me what I planned on doing with them. Smiling, I told him I had absolutely no idea.

For the rest of the market day I had a lot of fun showing off my purchases to the market staff, reveling in the combination of gross-out powers and foodie adventurism afforded by these next-to-free tongue popsicles. After cradling my prize back to my apartment, I threw the tongues in the freezer where they sat for a few weeks while I summoned the inspiration for a recipe and the courage to actually go through with it. Cooking tongues requires a strong stomach and a delicate touch, but with the right treatment they turn into tender morsels that taste like the platonic form of whatever animal they came from.

I settled on a recipe from Vitaly Paley from Paley’s Place that had been featured in Edible Portland a while back. It had far too many steps for my typical repertoire, but I was completely in the dark about what to do with my lambsicles and was willing to yield to a master.

The recipe wanted me to brine the tongues overnight in a spiced brine of kosher salt, sugar, a cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and bay leaves. I ended up throwing in a few tablespoons of mulling spices because I didn’t have a cinnamon stick, and I really like the flavor my brine gave the meat. After brining, the tongues got a low and slow poach in court bouillon (I used my standard broth method and added wine) for two hours before peeling.

And then it got intense.

Up until the peeling, you don’t really have to confront the fact that these are tongues, fully intact, with taste buds and connective tendons and saliva glands and a thick outer skin that feels, well, a lot like a tongue. When Vitaly asks you to “Trim and clean the tongues of gristle, fat and bone while the meat is still warm“ and use a paring knife to peel the outer skin from the inner meat, you do it, and you don’t look back. I won’t get all hackneyed and fall over myself about how I had a moment of connection with an animal that had a good life not far from town, and how for a tiny amount of cash money I was able to prepare some of the tastiest, most tender lamb I’ve ever made. Nope, none of that. It was actually pretty harrowing. Of course, as with any dramatic moment in my life, my camera, fitted with a macro lens, was near at hand.

After a rather tedious peeling session, which left me with a small pile of tongue sheddings, I dredged the tongues in spiced flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs I’d made by throwing a handful of rye crackers into the food processor. I’d pre-heated a cast iron pan with a half-inch of canola oil, and after that it was pretty smooth sailing. The tongues were fully cooked so it was just a matter of getting the breading golden and heated through. I’m not one to waste dredgings or oil, so I also battered some kale and fried up some greens and polenta (yum!).

I served these now-unrecognizable “lamb fingers” with a parsley aioli, and, if I may say so, felt pretty darn happy with myself. I braved my first battle with offal, and it was wonderfully tasty. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous and you don’t live with anyone who would disown you for storing a bucket of tongues in the fridge overnight, go talk to your local rancher and find out what little odd bits you can buy for a song. If you’re lucky, you’ll be given the wrong thing and have to get a little creative, and maybe a little freaked out, but it will be worth it.

Look! I did the whole post without a single tongue/offal/lamb pun! Now THAT’S an accomplishment.

From Vitaly Paley, Chef/Owner, Paley's Place

1 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar
4 qt cold water
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
5 bay leaves
1/4 cup black peppercorns
6 whole lamb tongues

Court Bouillon
1/2 bottle dry white wine

1 qt cold water
1 large carrot, chopped coarsely
1 whole onion, peeled
1 whole clove
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup black peppercorns

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp smoky Spanish paprika
Pinch of cayenne
1 tsp sea salt
12 grindings black pepper
3 whole eggs
1 cup fine bread crumbs
2 cup grapeseed oil

To make the brine, select a large pot, add all the ingredients, and bring the liquid to a rolling boil. Shut the heat off and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Transfer the tongues to the container in which they will refrigerate, pour the brine over the meat, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day, prepare the court bouillon for poaching the tongues. Add equal parts water and wine to a 3-quart pot, add carrot, onion, clove, salt and pepper, and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes to develop flavor. Slip the brined tongues into the poaching liquid and simmer gently for two hours. Discard the brining liquid. When a knife inserts easily into the meat, remove the tongues to a cutting board. To reuse the poaching liquid, strain and refrigerate; it will hold for about a week.

Trim and clean the tongues of gristle, fat and bone while the meat is still warm. Use a small paring knife to separate the outer membrane to reveal the inner meat. Set them aside.

To bread the tongues, arrange three small bowls side by side on the work surface. In the first bowl, sift together the flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Crack the eggs into the second bowl and beat them with a fork until frothy. Place the crumbs in the third bowl.

Pick up a tongue and dredge it evenly in the flour, then shake off the excess. Drop it into the egg bowl. Use the other hand to transfer it from the egg bowl to the crumb bowl. Once covered in crumbs, place the tongue on a wire rack. Repeat the breading process with the remaining pieces. To keep the flour and crumbs from clumping, use one hand for dry ingredients, the other for wet.

A 9-inch skillet should be large enough to hold all the tongues without crowding. Add 1/2 inch of oil and place the pan on high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Lower the heat to medium-high, place the breaded tongues in the oil, and fry until they are uniformly golden, about 45 seconds to a minute. Turn the tongues, making sure the crumbs don't burn. When the desired color is achieved, transfer the tongues to a plate lined with a paper towel and immediately season with a light sprinkling of sea salt.

Place one tongue on a cutting board and slice it on the diagonal into finger-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a plate, and serve immediately.

Monday, July 12, 2010

To Friends, Over the River

Some people, well-meaning as they may be, simply require a lot of energy to be around. These kinds of friends can be exciting, adventurous, or challenging in ways that make you better, but after a few hours can leave you drained and in need of a good, long nap. On the other side of the friend spectrum are those people who seem to pour energy and confidence into your heart, recharging your batteries and leaving you refreshed, able to take on the world.

My friend Susan is of the latter flavor.

She and I can spend hours together cooking, laughing, chatting about potential and Scotland and careers and love and frustration and black-tailed deer. With Susan, I stumble across the best ideas, the most revealing bits of my psyche, the funniest stories... Whenever I'm with her, I step a bit closer to the person I want to be, or, the way she'd likely put it, the person I really am.

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending time on her new plot of land in Sandy, Oregon, a stone's throw from the city but a world away in terms of country atmosphere, politics, and the ability to see a sky full of stars at night. Susan recently relocated from Southeast Portland to a few acres near the Sandy River (with a large house full of light and breezes and room for her horse to nibble on clover) after graduating from Reed, where we were in the same class though her birth certificate looks a great deal like my mother's. Age, however, has not separated us from becoming incredibly close. I like to think of Susan as myself in the future, still dancing through the same life quandaries but with the wisdom of gifts and scars well-earned. She's full of stories, both delightful and heart-wrenching, and she has a gift for starting over - a lesson we could all learn a bit better, and one of the reasons she's so lively and young. Susan is a poet of life, weaving life's colors, songs, and tastes together with the philosophies and lessons of less tangible invisible worlds. She is truly awe-some.

Between snacks of amazing cheese that I'd brought from Cheese Bar in Portland and a great dinner of homemade pad thai and gin and tonics watching the sun set, we spent some quality time with her 30-year-old horse, Sir, who is just about the sweetest living creature I've ever met. He's got the best plot of land, rich with clover and tasty grasses, a beautiful red barn and friends in the local elk and deer that come to graze with him at night. Susan and Sir likely have some secret stash of the elixir of youth, or have figured out how to photosynthesize their own cell-renewal from the sunlight. Goodness knows they have ample access to plenty of sun, with that country sky that somehow seems bigger and deeper than the light outside my downtown apartment.

It takes just a few hours away from the city to remember how much I need open sky, tall trees, and dirt to make me feel alive, and I'm so lucky that I have someone in my life who lets me drive up the gravel path to her country home whenever I'm in need of a strong drink, a stronger hug, a frolic in the grass, and a good story over a great meal.

Here's to finding the people that recharge our batteries.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Market Photo Report: Peaches, Peppers, Pops, and a Birthday Pose

Today brought the first (early) peaches of the year to the market.
The first bell peppers rang in July, and Sol Pops had a very good day with the weather the way it's been.
Jamie, one of our fabulous market coordinators and the organization behind the Chef in the Market, celebrated a birthday in style.
In other news, my apartment is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hot.
In fact, it's too hot for writing full paragraphs. Enjoy the pretty.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chioggia Beet Salad with Cucumbers, Chevre, Red Onion, and Mint

Hey Portland, thanks for being absolutely gorgeous this time of year. They say you can't count on sun in this town until after the 4th, and so far we've proved the adage true - It's supposed to be in the 90's all week! While I'm nursing my poor sunburned knees and my poor over-frisbee'd-and-beach-trekking body in front of a brand new tower fan (it was quite the intense camping adventure, despite the tranquility you see in my photos!) I've been avoiding turning to oven on, which means lots and lots of salads. Seeing as most of my body is pretty darn red, I thought eating beets seemed appropriate.

Check out these gorgeous Chioggia beets from Spring Hill Farms - a perfect summer pairing with Oregon chevre, diva cucumbers from Groundworks Organics, and mint from my patio garden (where, incidentally, a little cherry tomato is almost ripe!) I like Chioggia Beets best because they don't stain my hands (and the cutting board, and the bowls, and the knife...) so I steamed them cut in half, peeled them, and cut them up with other tasty things in my fridge. I dressed it all with balsamic and olive oil, just a simple summer salad.

Now where did I put that aloe...