Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday Night - Salmon Ceviche

I've never had salmon ceviche before, and I wasn't entirely sold on it until I came across this recipe. It just sounded so refreshing and light and tasty. Ceviche is a great summertime dish, there's no cooking involved! Just chopping and slicing. It's perfect when you just don't want to turn on the stove or the grill. I've always had ceviche with white fish, but this was so so so good. I'm not a huge fan of salmon sushi, but somehow with all the flavors involved it worked for me. Plus, Trey got a great deal on fresh-caught Columbia river Chinook at Gartner's this week (only $11/lb.!) so we had two huge fillets in the fridge. Let's talk about this fish for a moment - I don't know if we got really lucky or if Gartner's just has a great fish source, but it was flawless. There was zero fishy smell, it was pink (but not too pink!) and there was not a trace of sliminess. It was nice and fatty, too. Really just the perfect salmon. 

Salmon Ceviche:
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeño pepper (with or without seeds, depending on how hot you want it)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, on its skin and in one piece approximately 8-inches long and 8-inches wide
 In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients, except the salmon.
Assemble the dish at least 2 1/2 hours before serving and as much as 12 hours: With a very sharp, long-bladed knife, slice the salmon as thin as possible, working at a sharp diagonal and cutting in the same direction as the grain of the fish—in other words, the way smoked salmon is usually sliced. Discard the skin.

Arrange half the salmon slices in one layer (they may be very slightly overlapping) in a large, shallow serving dish or 9- by 12-inch glass (or stainless steel) baking (or roasting) pan.

Drizzle on half the sauce.

Cover with the rest of the salmon slices and spread with the remaining sauce.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Serve with wedges of lime, if desired, and thinly sliced white toast or black bread. We used flax and sesame seed chips. It was really good.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thursday Dinner - Gartner's Marinated Short Ribs and Frisee aux Lardons

Gartner's is an institution in Portland. It's a big meat market off of 82nd in NE. It's been around for 50 years, and it's easy to see why. They have everything - everything. My favorite is the marinated pork short ribs. My brother-in-law introduced me to them a few years ago, and my mouth still waters every time I think of them. They come in a plastic bag, covered in their marinade. All you have to do is throw them on the grill for about 7 minutes and you've got crispy, slightly sweet, easy to eat short ribs. They are thinly sliced, some have bones in & some don't. You eat them with your fingers; straight off the grill if you are so inclined. I don't know what they put in the marinade, and I don't even want to speculate. All I know is they are amazing. You will be back for more.

We made a frisee aux lardons salad to go with them - inspired by our recent trip to Cafe Castagna. Frisee aux lardons is a classic French bistro salad - basically it's just frisee (that pretty, spiky leaf lettuce in salad mixes), a poached egg and cooked thick slab bacon bits. Yummmm...I found a recipe here, but Serious Eats has one that looks good, too. I also did a quick goat cheese spread which I spread on mini toast (pre-toasted, from Fred Meyer). They were a nice little addition to the meal.

We are super lucky to have a wonderful pal who has chickens. We "chicken-sat" this weekend and were able to collect several fresh eggs from them. In case you are wondering, their names are Pronto, Jack and Lucy. Pronto produces the lovely blue eggs, Jack the darker brown ones and Lucy lays the light brown eggs. No matter their color, though, they are all delicious. I'll never eat store bought eggs again! The farm fresh ones are just so good. So good.

I have never poached an egg before, weird, I know. There is a wealth of information on the internet as to the best way to do it - so I tried two different methods. The first method I used was the Saran wrap method. Basically you just take a small ramekin or bowl, cover it with about a square foot of plastic wrap, spray it with cooking oil and break the egg into the bowl. Then take the wrap and make a little packet. Tie it with string or a twist tie and drop (gently!) into simmering water for 3-4 minutes. Easy! The other method involves pricking the egg with a pin, par-boiling it for about 15 seconds, shelling it and then dropping it in the simmering water while creating a vortex with a spoon. The egg should spiral itself into a nice little ball, and you cook it for, again, 3-4 minutes. The first time I used this method, it worked like a charm. Except par-boiling it didn't work very well. I wasn't able to shell it because it wasn't hard at all. No matter, I just poured the egg into a small bowl and then dropped it into the water. Stirring gently, it spiraled up into a little ball and I was able to remove it from the water easily. You can compare the two methods here (the first pic is the one I "vortexed", the second is the one I cooked in plastic wrap):

The second time I tried the vortex method I failed miserably. The egg fell apart immediately after I poured it back into the water. Blech. I had to throw it out and start over with the plastic wrap method. The lesson? The plastic wrap method is easy, almost foolproof. The other way is maybe a tad more fun. Either way, poaching a good egg gives you a nice sense of satisfaction. I recommend giving it a try.

Gartner's Marinated Short Ribs:
1/2 lb, - 1 lb. Gartner's marinated short ribs

Heat grill to medium-high. Clean and oil it before putting the ribs on. Place ribs on the grill. Grill for about 3-4 minutes per side or until you get a nice char. They'll curl up a little, and that's fine. Serve immediately.

Frisee Aux Lardons or Salad Lyonnaise (from Cook Almost Anything):
frisée, leaves separated, washed and dried
bacon lardons (substitute pancetta or speck)
poached eggs
Seeded Mustard Dressing:
4 parts olive oil
1 part sherry vinegar
seeded mustard, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
toasted Panko bread crumbs *I added this component, it made it look pretty but didn't add much else

Place the olive oil, sherry vinegar, seeded mustard and a good grinding of salt and black pepper into a bowl - whisk until emulsified.

Lardons are just thick strips of bacon - I buy bacon in whole pieces and just cut them to size. You can buy them pre-made or use pancetta or speck if you prefer.

Dry-fry the bacon in a non-stick pan until crisp - they will release any excess fat as they cook. When done, dry them on kitchen paper to remove any excess fat.

Toast the Panko bread crumbs with butter. They toast quickly, about 2 minutes. Roll the poached egg in the toasted Panko.

Place the frisée leaves into a bowl and drizzle over the dressing - toss them well to just coat them.

Put the dressed leaves onto a plate and then scatter over with the cooked lardons. Top with Panko coated poached egg.

Toast with Chive Goat Cheese Spread:
Small toast (buy pre-toasted or toast baguette slices in the oven)
Goat cheese, room temperature
Lemon juice to taste
Chives, snipped

In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, chives lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread on toast.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Breakfast Quickie - Fresh Berries and Homemade Yogurt

This was so pretty this morning I had to post it. Our neighbor (who is awesome, by the way) just started making his own yogurt using a yogurt-maker. He offered to give me some last night and I wouldn't turn it down. I've recently become very interested in making yogurt and cheese from scratch. In fact, I think I'll try to make some mozzarella next week...keep posted!

The yogurt is very good - it's a little on the thin side, but it was his first foray into yogurt making so that's to be forgiven. Next time, he said he's going to try to keep it in the yogurt maker for 10 hours instead of 7 in the hopes that it will thicken up a bit. Besides the consistency, the yogurt is great. It tastes just like store-bought plain yogurt, but just a little better because you know it's homemade. This morning I topped it with the fresh berries we got from Kruger's farm on Saturday - strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I had hoped to put a little granola in there, but the granola we had on hand had gone bad. No matter, it was a fresh, delicious and beautiful little breakfast.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday Dinner - Porque No? Carnitas Tacos

I will start with a caveat - I have no aspirations to be a restaurant (heck, I even have trouble spelling the word restaurant) critic. Please take my words with a grain of salt and try it for yourself. Also, a word on Porque No? - I've listed it as one of my favorite restaurants right over there ---> That's not to say it's amazing or delicious or a must-try. It's super convenient for me and the ONLY thing I ever eat there is the guacamole, chips, salsa and the carnitas tacos. If you don't like carnitas tacos, you're out of luck today. Okay, here I go:

Porque No? opened up on Hawthorne right when we were moving in to our house two years ago. Here's what I'll say about it (just kidding, I'll say a lot more) - my neighbor recommended the Bryan's bowl when I was raving about the Whole Bowl down the street. He said it was even better than the Whole Bowl. And that settled it, I went the next day to get my Bryan's bowl. I was sick for a day afterwards. Not a fan. In fact, I refused to go back to Porque No? for almost a year until Trey convinced me to try the carnitas tacos. And now I eat them every week. Sometimes twice a week.

Porque No?, as you will read on or any other review site, has a great atmosphere if you're dining in. It's fun, funky, colorful and they make a mean (read: strong) margarita. Truly, besides the carnitas tacos, that's all its got going for it. Oh, and the guacamole is fantastic. Really the best guac I've had since Austin. A lot of the times the food is very touch-and-go. I think it depends on who is cooking that night. One of these times I may do some stalking to find out who the best cook is...Anyway, sometimes the guac is too salty, sometimes the chips aren't fully cooked, and sometimes the carnitas are greasy. My advice is to go back another night if you have a bad experience with the carnitas - because when you get a good one you, too, will be hooked.

Here's another thing about Porque No? it's ALWAYS crowded. Always. I kind of don't get it. It's a great spot to catch a drink on a hot day - sit outside with your dog and take it easy. Don't worry - you won't wait long. You have to order first and then sit down, you'll get a table. They have a ton. If you do eat there, relax and enjoy it. I try not to eat there physically unless I have a real hankering for a strong margarita or I want to sit outside with Zane (my dog). It's right around the corner so I usually get it to-go and eat it at home. Normally it's pretty quick - you call in your order and they'll have it ready for you at the second counter when they say it'll be ready. Last night, however, I had to wait a few extra (okay, 15 extra) minutes. It was worth it at first to watch the chefs in action. There's the guy rolling fresh tortillas by hand, the sous chef prepping and taking care of pretty much everything else, the grill guys grilling up the meats and doling out ceviche and salsas, putting together the plates and handing them to the servers. After 10 minutes of observing, though, I was just hungry and tired of spying. Plus, it's gotta be hot. That's pretty much what I decided - I don't think I can work in a restaurant, it's hot, the grill is going, you're sweaty and people are hungry. Too much pressure! I'll just take my food and go home, thank you very much.

To speak to the carnitas for a moment, they are simply delicious. The pork is (usually) cooked to perfection, they (usually) give you the right amount of pork, onion and cilantro. I wish they'd give you one slice of lime per taco - but when you order two tacos they only give you one. But, if you squirt the lime on top of the taco and devour it makes it oh so much better. I sometimes order one or both of my tacos with the crema - a light sour cream-like sauce and it is also good - as long as they don't overdo it. I think when they are busy they just kind of throw everything together without much thought to the diner...however! don't let my critique deter you from the carnitas tacos. I want to make it clear that I love the carnitas tacos, I do have some complaints about the place overall but like I said, once you get that one perfect carnita taco you will be back to roll the dice for another one.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bites - What I've Been Eating

A busy holiday weekend means I don't go all gourmet every night. I did manage to make some banana bread (Better Homes and Gardens recipe). We also got the chance to pick berries at Kruger's Farm on Saturday for Trey's cousin's daughter's 5th birthday (SO FUN!). Then we've been eating out - Lucca's with family Saturday night, friend's BBQ for the 4th and family beach fun Monday. Last night was kickball, so we ate at Sapphire Hotel for a late night snack.

First off, banana bread. Apparently, my Mom ate a lot of banana bread when she was pregnant with me and therefore that is why I also love banana bread. Trey also loves banana bread (I wonder if his Mom ate a lot of it when she was pregnant with him?) and he's been surreptitiously buying bananas and purposefully not eating them so I will make it.  He got his wish on Friday night, though I made him do most of the work.

I'm not a very adventurous baker, I usually stick to the Better Homes and Gardens recipes for cookies and breads. It's easy, good and exactly what I expect when I want to eat banana bread.

Banana Bread (from Better Homes and Gardens):
2  cups all-purpose flour 
1-1/2  teaspoons baking powder 
1/2  teaspoon baking soda 
1/4  teaspoon salt 
1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg2  eggs, beaten 
1-1/2  cups mashed banana (5 medium) 
1  cup sugar 
1/2  cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine
1/4  cup chopped walnuts 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3-inch or two 7-1/2x3-1/2x2-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, banana, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes for 9x5x3-inch pan or 40 to 45 minutes for 7-1/2x3-1/2x2-inch pans or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean (if necessary, cover loosely with foil the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning). Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

I LOVE strawberries. I love them fresh off the vine, on my cereal, for a snack or with yogurt. Picking them fresh off the farm takes it to a whole level. I highly recommed Kruger's farm for berry picking. Right now, they have U-pick strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. They also have a great little indoor market where you can pick up any fresh produce your heart desires. Also, there are piglets. Sold yet?

I haven't done anything with the strawberries, yet, except just eat them straight up. If you have a great recipe that calls for fresh strawberries, please post it in the comments. I need ideas!

Sapphire Hotel is one of those places (much like Por Que No?) that is SO close to our house that even though it's not amazing food, it's good enough and they do a good job with our to-go orders so we keep going back. There are at least two things that I get every single time. The bacon-wrapped dates and the artichoke and arugula dip. The dates are like butter. Delish. The arugula dip has a nice layer of browned cheddar on top that is amazing. Usually I also get the Antipasti platter (cured meats, cheeses, pickled veggies, bread), but we weren't that hungry last night so we tried something new - the panzanella salad. Yum! It's basically just a nice salad (with balsamic dressing in this case) with focaccia slices and fresh mozzarella. In fact, last night we decided that maybe the mozzarella was even house-made it tasted so fresh. It kinda makes me want to try making mozzarella. Maybe soon.

I'm sure I'll make something delicious tonight for Girls' Night - so keep posted. In the meantime, bon appetit!