Just now, as I’m editing the photos you’ll see here in a second, my dear friend Josh gmail chatted me and asked what I was doing.  When I told him I was working on a blog, he said, “THE blog?  Stuff must be up.”  Yeah yeah yeah, I seldom post here anymore, I know.  I’m grateful you all take an interest in my whereabouts.  But he’s right, there’s a lot going on.  It’s summer afterall!  But moreso than that….

God is rushing in to still my fears and reverse the lies.  I’m still trying to grasp it all and believe it all.
I’ve been sad that I’m single and haven’t found that kind of love.  But I am so very loved by many. 
I’ve been sad that I don’t make a lot of money and don’t have the luxury to go out to nice meals with friends and buy the clothes I want at Anthropologie or the furniture & housewares I want at West Elm.  But I live in a farmhouse on a vineyard in the country and eat healthy delicious food and have clothes on my back and a bed to sleep in and a car to get me from A to B.  I have more than I need.
And the beautiful combination of these two realizations is manifest in this little group of new friends who are all like-minded in our love for community, beauty, tilth, simple luxuries, and FUN!  We’ve been making the most of our Mondays together lately and it has been a delight to all of us.
My life might look like Pinterest and Kinfolk, and in many ways it is.  So I’ll raise a glass to the up days and be grateful that they sustain me through the down ones.
Monday Candlelight
Monday Cheers Monday DinnerPhoto Cred: Rachel Getsinger Monday Getsingers Monday glass Monday Golden Hour Monday Golden Monday Green VIew Monday Luke Galette Monday Luke Saber Monday Luminous GirlfriendsPhoto Cred: Rachel Getsinger Monday merry Rachel Monday PorchPhoto Cred: Rachel Getsinger Monday Red Barn Golden Monday Roommates Monday Spread Monday Sundown Monday Table Monday Tree Monday Twilight

Let me see a raise of hands from those of you who watched Food, Inc. and decided to NEVER EVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS eat any meat that came from Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina or basically anywhere but here.  Two hands are going up for this girl.  I was traumatized by the images of dark, dirty, densely populated chicken coops, bovines walking around in their own fecal matter….  I’ll stop.  I want this blog to make your mouth water, not leave a bitter taste.

I joined some of my Portland food blogger friends, new and old, and the gals from Little Green Pickle last week for a kitchen tour, butchery lesson, and family style meal at Urban Farmer in The Nine’s Hotel (did you know it’s Portland only 5-star restaurant?).  Executive Chef Matt Christianson is the MAN when it comes to sourcing and butchering local beef.  Grab a glass of bubbles or pinot and enjoy a little photo tour…

Not a bad way to be greeted: 2009 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs. And lots of it.

The lovely Lindsay of Rosemarried enjoying some bubbles. If you can see past her beauty, notice all the canned goods in the background. Urban Farmer cans and pickles all of their seasonal goodies to enjoy throughout the year.

UF Shrimp Salad with Avocado and Hama Hama Oyster to enjoy with our bubbly and hold us over until we get to to dinner portion of the evening.

 

Matt gave us a tour of some of the restaurants walk-in fridges. This one had literally a whole 100% Wagyu cow in there! See that big old rib rack? We ate that for dinner in the form of a New York steak and Rib Eye.

Did you know that just like cheese and wine, steaks are even better when they're aged?

Any guesses on what he's slicing there? Yup, cow tongue. Charcuteried cow tongue. Matt doesn't waste a thing! If you can get past the appearance of it, you'd be surprised at how a slice of that tongue melted in my mouth.

How many butchers does it take to disassemble a whole wagyu cow? The whole thing weighs upwards of 900lbs!

 

That big block of white--fat from the cow rendered down into soap and candle wax that they use at Urban Farmer! Smells like bergamot. Mmmmmmmmmm good.

Time to eat! Dungeness Crab Cake wrapped in a tarragon scallop mousse with Pear, Butternut Squash and Mustard Aioli. So perfect with the 2011 Soter North Valley Chardonnay.

In the front: French Curry Cauliflower with Apple and Tarragon. In the back: New York Steak from Dry-Aged Laney Classic Beef and Ribeye Steak from La de Route Farm's 100% Pure-Blood Wagyu Beef. All that meat from the previous photos--butchered and cooked to perfection!

Matt giving us a run-down of the veggies. Stinging Nettles (hence the gloves) and Miner's Lettuce are the first things to pop up in spring. Did you know that this year was not good for Oregon Truffles? It was a great year for chanterelles though!

 

After we had stuffed ourselves to the max, of course we headed up to Departure to have a night cap. Tasho Macho: amazeballs. Thai chili vodka, thai basil, fresh citrus, and ginger beer. Thankyouverymuch! We had some seriously good laughs up there.

And the finale: elevator party! Clockwise from top: Lindsay of Rosemarried, Michelle of Hummingbird High, yours truly, Kusuma (Kumi) from Ruchikala, Fabiola from Not Just Baked, Carrie from Little Green Pickle, Brooke from Little Green Pickle, and Karen from CitySearch. Not pictured: Jenni from A Well Crafted Party.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what the entire menu for the evening included.  Well, eat your heart out readers:

  • UF Shrimp Salad with Avocado and Hama Hama Oyster
  • Dungeness Crab Cake with Pear, Butternut Squash and Mustard Aioli
  • Roasted West Coast Duck with Beets, Wild Rice and Amaranth
  • An Amuse-Bouche of Celery Sorbet with Truffle Honey, House Coppa, and Tangerine
  • New York Steak from Dry-Aged Laney Classic Beef
  • Ribeye Steak from La de Route Farms’s 100% Pure-Blood Wagyu Beef (what we butchered!)
  • Brussels Sprouts with Molasses Pecan Butter and Quince
  • French Curry Cauliflower with Apple and Tarragon
  • Twice-Baked Fingerling Potato Tarts
  • White Cheddar Grits with Stinging Nettle Butter
  • A Dessert of Spiced Chocolate Panna Cotta and Mascarpone Ice Cream

I have to say, as much fun as this dinner was, I missed the Taylor Swift sing-along with Carrie’s wife Jannie.  She was sorely missed.

I’m inspired by these woman.  What an honor it is to be in the midst of some of the best bloggers in Portland.  And now I get to call them friends as well.  Y’all should read what these ladies are putting on their blogs–AMAZING!

Thanks again to Little Green Pickle and Urban Farmer for such a fun night!  Cheers.

Who doesn’t love a good cliché?  Ok, here I go with mine:

2013 is the year where my dreams become realities.

Maybe not all of them, but some of the big ones.  2012 is when I got a dream job: Hospitality Coordinator at Soter Vineyards.  And January of this year is when I got my dream house: a turn-of-the-century farmhouse on a vineyard.  I get to live with a dear & kindred friend Jackie.  We’ll hopefully be getting a dog soon.  And since I’m holding onto hope for my dreams this year, I’ll just go ahead and announce that I’ll meet my dream man sometime in the next 9 months (with an air of skepticism).

I may not post as many recipes on this blog in the upcoming year, but you’re all invited to come to the farmhouse and live life with me.  To start, here are a couple photos of the new digs for you.  This house inspires me–the bones, the floors, the light, the surroundings, the people, everything.  And it’s only just begun.  I’ll be raising many glasses to this upcoming season.  Hope you can come over and sit on the porch with me soon.

Isn't she lovely? Photo cred goes to Jackie.

 

Scored the end table at Goodwill for $12.99!

Crazy for this Kilim rug. I'm obsessed with finding fun ideas on Pinterest. I'd love to be featured on the Apartment Therapy blog soon. New sofa coming soon, too!

OBSESSED with Kilim.

Love this old green frame. I strung twine behind it and put up postcards, photos, fun prints, and any momento I've collected along the way--old hymns, brother's save-the-date for his wedding, watercolors my grandpa painted, etc.

Beautiful birthday cards, a coaster from my visit to New Belgium Brewery in Ft. Collins, CO, the sunset from my parents house a photo of Toni Morrison taken by Annie Liebowitz, ...

Another Pinterest inspired design idea: using pant hangers for prints. Love the old map of Manhattan on the right.

Old trunk, new lamp, bold prints.

Crafty housewarming love from my friend and old roommate Tayler from www.awkwardolive.com

Apartment Therapy recommends jazzing up a rental by replacing the switch plates. I got these beauties from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I have them all over the house and I absolutlely love them! They remind me of that magical city.

Your room! AKA the guest room. I snagged some wood pallets from work for the bedframe. So fun, SUPER easy, and cheap (of free:) ). Please come stay!

This is what you'll wake up too in the guest room.

The front porch...*sigh*. It came with the American flag and the heart cut-outs. The red rocking chair is mine and fits perfectly. I'll be drinking a lot of coffee & wine, and reading & writing out here on the daily when the weather gets good.

I loooove bathrooms with natural light....like this one.

Now onto the kitchen. The switch plate should look familiar. These watercolor plates are my color inspriation for the kitchen island and stools (which aren't finished so you won't see them today).

The patron saint of the kitchen. All the ladies in my family have him proudly displayed in their kitchens. He can only be found in San Miguel de Allende as well.

Glass bottles & vases, sunlight, and a jade.

My friend Liesl sent me the perfect housewarming card: The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

Another mantra for the farmhouse: Love people. Cook them tasty food.

Morning glow in the kitchen.

This is definitely NOT our kitchen, but this is Jackie. And our nut butters. Homemade baby!

 

 

 

 

Cheers to cyber friendships and Twit-pals!  2011 marked the year of becoming great friends with intangible people all across the country (and perhaps world!).  Although my blog sometimes falls by the wayside and lacks some visual interest (forgive me, but I’m not very good at html or formatting. oh well!) I’ve been more than affirmed and encouraged by some wonderful ladies with some serious blog caliber.  (thankyouthankyouthankyou!)

It all started when I joined the Vintage Recipe Swap with Christianna from Burwell General Store and my bona fide friend Lindsay from Rosemarried.  From there, I was introduced to dozens of amazing bloggers and straight-up awesome people that I would fly across the country to have a meal and a glass or 3 of wine with.  Oh how glorious it will be one day when we get to enjoy each other’s company.

A couple of my favorite blogger ladies have revealed themselves a bit on their blogs recently and have invited their wannabe dinner guests to do the same.  So, I guess it’s my turn to spill the beans about me, and invite my favorites to gather around the virtual dinner table and do the same.

What or who inspired you to start your blog?
This blog actually started as an outlet for the lessons I was learning in life after my dear friend Anthony died in a mountain climbing accident on Mt. Hood just over two years ago.  Losing him was unexpected, but in the grief, sadness, tears, and pain, it was like there was this rapid growth in my heart and my faith that needed to be harvested and written down.  Grief is a lost art but I was determined to walk through it and do it well and share it with others.  Slowly but surely (still not really sure how), I started posting recipes and The Unexpected Harvest turned into a food blog.

Who is your foodie inspiration?
Truth be told, Mrs. Rosemarried herself, Lindsay Strannigan.  It might seem cliche since we’re practically besties in real life, but this woman is amazing.  She has a full time job, a full time husband, is on the board of her local farmers market, contributes to several different blogs, volunteers her time to do local PR and wedding planning, keeps up with our boys; the Portland Trail Blazers, AND has time to come up with and make delicious seasonal recipes.  She’s the queen of balancing everything in her life and producing really good products.

Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?
Cookbook?  Who uses those archaic brick-like things anymore?  Food blogs FTW!  Juuuuust kidding.  Ironically, my “greasiest, most batter-splattered” cook book is Farmers John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables. He runs a CSA in Illinois and his cookbook is chock-full of seasonal recipes with every vegetable you can imagine.  Not much grease or batter in his recipes.  The second most dog-eared cookbook I have is the Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipe.

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?
It’s truly nothing fancy.  When I was in Germany in 2010, I hopped on a train and took a solo day trip up to the town of Trier.  This historic town is nestled into the Mosel wine region of western Germany and has a glorious fruit stand in the center square of town.  I bought a couple pieces of fruit while I was there, but the best by far was a simple peach.  It was August and this peach was perfectly ripe, juicy, and tasted exactly like a peachie-o gummy candy.  I’ve never tasted anything so perfect in my life.

Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?
So many!  For food alone, I would pick Coco from Roost.  Her recipes are mostly grain, dairy, and sugar free but so creative, DELICIOUS, and beautifully photographed.  For conversation and food, just you wait…

What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (if money were no object)
I want a set of Le Crueset dishes: dutch over, skillet, morter and pestle, you name it.  I want it all.

Who taught you how to cook?
My love of cooking started with my old roommate, Amy Boles.  She’s brilliant in the kitchen.  When I lived with her, she would always come up with something amazing to make for dinner and we would always host dinner parties.  She taught me that I actually could cook.  Then I just started following recipes and food blogs and teaching myself.

I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?
Id’ say that my signature isn’t actually a dish, it’s a bottle–of Oregon Pinot Noir!

What is your guilty food pleasure?
Truth be told, the only thing I need for dessert is a spoonful of nut butter topped with dark chocolate chips.  That’s the most decedent and satisfying end of any meal. And lately, chocolate almond milk.

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I ate my fair share of Lil’ Debbie snack cakes growing up.  Not saying I was a chubby kid, because I wasn’t.  I’m just saying that times have changed and I would never dream of eating one of those now or letting my future kids eat them.

My ideal dinner party (please ladies, let’s all rendezvous in real life soon!):

Toni Dash of the Boulder Locavore: Toni is the cocktail queen.  I met her through the vintage recipe swap and have the biggest blog crush on her.  She’s so classy, creative, NICE, and always makes me drool over her cocktail creations.  The party would get started way before the meal if this woman was shaking up some drinks.

Jacqueline Raposo of The Dusty Baker: Another recipe swapper.  My crush on Jacqueline started when she commented on my about me section and said she wanted to jump through the computer and give me a hug.  She’s another gluten free gal who has mastered the art of baking just 6 cookies, as to not go overboard and eat all the cookie dough.  She’ll be the dessert queen at our dinner party.

Sabrina Modelle of The Tomato Tart: Oh Sabrina.  Where do I start?  Although not entirely vegan, she whips up meat-free recipes that would make me forget that I wasn’t even eating meat.  She’s the queen of the SF Bay area and we were thiiiiiis close to meeting up for a cocktail when I was down there in October, but to our dismays, I didn’t plan the trip very well and we missed each other.  Someday, Sabrina!

Christianna Reinhardt of Burwell General Store: Safe to say, I owe many of my cyber-friendship to CM.  She started the recipe swap which essentially gave birth to all these connections.  She’s our small-town girl turned LA foodie queen and is always on some new adventure.  I’m hoping to take her wine tasting in Oregon one of these days.

And last but certainly not least: Lindsay Strannigan of Rosemarried: Although we’re not cyber-friends, but real-life friends, I don’t ever want to be at a dinner party without Linds.  She’ll never buy a piece of produce from Mexico or Chile, or a chicken breast from Iowa.  I just love this lady to pieces.  We can eat eggs in a nest and drink bubbles while watching a Blazers game, or take 4 hours to eat a 5 course meal with some of our closest friends.


 

I guess I owe you all a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been some what of a nomad since the end of November.  Being the homebody that I am, I did surprisingly well bouncing from couch to couch and guest bed to guest bed.  I got some much needed time in Portland, got a slice of what it would be like to live waaay down in McMinnville (crashed at the historic mansion of a fancy wine maker for a couple nights with my friend Tracy), and discovered that it’s actually quite nice to simplify and only use what can fit into my car.  My wardrobe decreased from a closet full and an eight drawer dresser, to a duffel bag and a laundry basket.  Honestly, I can’t even remember what all I have in storage.

It’s been just over a week since I temporarily moved into a big ol’ B&B in the Dundee Hills.  I feel like a needle in a haystack being a single girl in a huuuuge house.  I’ve hunkered down in the tree-house like room dubbed the “North American Room”.  It’s the most calm room in the house with neutral fabrics, lots of windows, and a cozy bed tucked into the corner.

The rest of the rooms are heavily decorated with bold floral drapes, patterned wall paper, and Persian area rugs.  If you like that style, come on over and take your pick of any room you want!  For me, I’ll stay in my tree house.

For my readers who aren’t in the Pacific NW, you may have heard that we got a dusting of snow last week.  I awoke to find a winter wonderland outside my window and decided to use that as my excuse to sleep in a little bit and mosey into work a little late and blame it on the snow.

Later that night, my friend Tayler texted me to ask what my plans were for the evening.  I was in the mood for something warm, comforting, and coconutty so I offered to make dinner and she offered to bring wine.  It’s nice to go vegan every once in a while, so I pulled this recipe from my Pinterest board and started salivating.

Tayler brought over the most perfect wine for this dish: Pistoleta from Quady North Vineyards in Jacksonville, Oregon.  There are some DELICIOUS wines coming out of Southern Oregon and this one is no exception.  It’s a Marsanne/Rousanne/Viognier blend (a Southern Rhone Blend) that was perfectly tropically and acidic to enjoy with a slightly spicy, slightly citrusy, slightly nutty dish.  An off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer will pair nice as well.

Enjoy!

Coconut Braised Spinach with Chickpeas
Serves 4-6
(Adapted from The Kitchn)

Ingredients:
2 tsp coconut oil or ghee
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
dash of red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how much spice you like)
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lb spinach leaves
1 15-oz can coconut milk
1 tsp ground ginger
salt/pepper to taste

To serve:
Baked sweet potatoes
Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
Cilantro

Heat the oil or ghee in a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and red pepper, if using. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes or until the chickpeas are beginning to turn golden and they are coated with the onion and garlic mixture.

Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time. This will take about 5 minutes; stir in a handful or two and wait for it to wilt down and make room in the pot before adding the next handful. When all the spinach has been stirred in, pour in the coconut milk and stir in the salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes or until the chickpeas are warm through. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if necessary.

Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes, with cilantro leaves and toasted unsweetened coconut to garnish.

 

My mom and I started drooling over the pictures from Outstanding in the Field last year and have been so excited to be part of one this year.  OITF is a traveling farm dinner that goes around the country (and to Europe this year!) and sets up the most beautiful tables in the most beautiful places.  They sources all their meat, produce, and wine from local farms, chefs, and vintners and it’s not uncommon to be sitting next to the farmer who raised the pig that you’re eating.  Might seem weird, but it’s awesome if you think about it!  The pig had a name and lived in a green pasture instead of being crammed in pens and walking around in its own…well, you know.  You never know, I just may pick up my life for a season and travel with OITF next season.  It’s seriously in the works ;)

It was so much fun to enjoy this event in Oregon with my parents, but also with Clare Carver and Brian Marcy of Big Table Farm.  The are salt of the earth people and know how to savor life on a farm and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Give me a pink farm house in the middle of canyon over a chic downtown loft anyday.

Ok people, drool on.  But keep in mind that my camera ran out of batteries before the food even came.  At least I got to enjoy the meal without distraction.

And because this here bloggy has a foodie theme, here’s the menu for y’all:

Ayres Creek chickpeas, crudité, parsley purée
Square Peg pork terrine, toast, mustard seed
Bay shrimp, basil, green garlic aioli
2009 Riesling, Big Table Farm, Brooks Estate Vineyard

Amy’s greens & veggies, Clare’s eggs, Brian’s Vinaigrette
2009 Pinot Noir, Big Table Farm, Cattrall Brothers Vineyard

Ayres Creek Frumento, Big Table Farm spiced hen, grilled squash and chilies
2009 Pinot Noir, Big Table Farm, Willamette Valley

Square Peg Farm while hog; hams in hay, buoy smoked sausage & belly, roasted herbed loins, liver mousse.
Ayres Creek zolfino beans & wild greens
2009 Pinot Noir, Big Table Farm, Resonance Vineyard

Brown butter shortbread, Viridian Farms strawberries, raspberries, and cream.
2008 Syrah, Big Table Farm, White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara

CSA (community supported agriculture) season is here people!  Hopefully the sun will shine a little more in Oregon so I can have fresh veggies and herbs every week.  Nadine from the Dundee Dirtbox CSA has become a dear friend and is delighting me with the fruits of her labor/Oregon bounty all summer long.  I’m sure I’m gonna be cookin’ up some good eats this summer.

This week’s CSA ingredients: rhubarb, spring onions, spring garlic, and fresh herbs.

I had no desire to make a rhubarb pie, or a rhubarb jam, or a rhubarb compote, or anything sweet and rhubarb.  I was bound and determined to make a savory rhubarb dish that was a little out of the box for most people.  Good ol’ Tastespotting lead me the in direction of these bad boys:

Cilantro-Lime Fish Tacos with Rhubarb Salsa
(adapted from Kitchen Konfidence)

Ingredients:

Marinade:
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup lime juice
zest from 1 lime
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp tequila
2 tbsp olive oil
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp cumin
salt/pepper

Rhubarb Salsa:
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, diced (2-3 stalks)
1/3 cup spring onions, diced
1/4 cup green onions (plus a sprinkle or two for topping)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped (plus sprinkle of two for topping)
1/2 or 1 jalepeño, seeded and minced (depending on how spicy you like it.  I used 1/2 and didn’t feel much spice)
1/3 cup pickled cocktail onions (diced)
salt
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
splash of lime juice

Tacos:
1 lbs fresh white fish (I used wild cod, but halibut or tilapia will do)
8 corn tortillas
remaining marinade
1 ripe avocado (optional, but oh so good)

Method:

2-8 hours before you plan on eating these tacos, mix together all the marinade ingredients, put in a big zip-loc bag with the fish, and stick in your fridge until you’re ready to cook.

When you’re ready for dinner, make the salsa.  Here’s how: chop up the rhubarb, boil some water, and blanch the pieces in the boiling water for 20 seconds, then transfer to an ice water bath.  Pat them dry, transfer to medium bowl and add jalepeño, spring onions, cocktail onions, green onions, and cilantro.  Whisk together honey, vinegar, and lime juice and pour over rhubarb mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Now it’s fish time: heat skillet over medium heat and add fish, then pour remaining marinade in the pan.  Poach fish covered, flipping once or twice until cooked all the way through, 10 minutes or so. In the meantime, heat small skillet over medium-low heat, add a splash of oil and fry small corn tortillas until crispy.  6 or so should do it.

When fish is cooked, tortillas are fried, and salsa is ready, assemble the tacos in this order: tortillas, fish, salsa, then top with avocado, and more cilantro and green onion.  Devour and behold the delight of savory rhubarb dishes.  yuuummm…

I made this dish for my mom and dad and here are the accolates:
Dad: “Have the boys you know realized that you can cook?” and “I love what you cook because it’s so healthy.”  Well, yes, I have cooked for plenty of boys and it doesn’t really seem to the be the way to their heart.  But thanks Dad!
Mom: “This isn’t just ‘pretty good’, this is like ‘Mar…this is SO good.”  Glad you liked it mom!  And I’ll cook for you anytime since you love cleaning up the kitchen :)

Wine pairing for the evening was provided by: Mark Ryan Winery, Vincent Rosé, WA 2010.  Other pairing suggestions: A dry or off dry Riesling, Processco (Bubbles will never be wrong), a Rosé of Zinfandel (not to be confused with a White Zin.  C’mon people.)  or a Muller-Thugau (Anne Amie Vineyards makes one of my favorites).

 

I almost had a Portobello protest on my hands last week.  See, I was having my lovely vegan friends over for dinner again on Friday night and was having a hard time nailing down what I was going to make.  I gave them a list of ingredients and had them pick:

Hazelnuts
Sriracha
Asparagus
Peanuts
Polenta
Portobello Mushrooms
Risotto

Mushrooms were the only one they didn’t pick.  Two of them were fervently against the notion of eating fungi until they realized that I have yet to let them down in the kitchen.  I assured them that I too have lived my life as a mushroom hater, but have started to open up my mind and heart to these little (or big) guys and that Portobellos are a good place to start.   I’m glad they gave me the go-ahead because I had these hearty meat-less patties on the mind.

So I did a little Twitter ask-around for good recipes, and of course Lindsay came up with a GREAT suggestion from a friends blog.   All it needed was some good fungi and I was set.

So here you go.  Eat your little vegan hearts out people:

Vegan Asparagus and Portobello Risotto
Adapted from Wild Javelina

Serves 4-6

1 yellow onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced, fonds reserved
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup wild rice
4 cups veggie stock
1 cup dry white wine*, remainder reserved for imbibing
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 portobello mushrooms, cut into thin strips
1 bunch fresh asparagus
a food good drizzles of balsamic vinegar
a few good drizzles of olive oil
2 tbsp Earth Balance or a couple more drizzles of olive oil
S/P to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 425°

In a medium sauce pan, heat up veggie broth and keep it warm until it’s ready to go into the rice.

In a large dutch oven or large skillet with lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, fennel, and garlic and saute until soft.  Add rice and saute for additional minute.

Lower heat and and start adding in the liquids.  Wine first: stir into rice until it is all absorbed, then start ladling in broth, one cup at a time, stirring occasionally.  Keep covered in between stirring and adding more.  When broth is all absorbed, test rice for texture.  Feel free to add more wine, stock, or water until rice reaches desired consistency.

While waiting for rice to cook, roast the asparagus and saute the mushrooms.  Trim the ends of the asparagus and arrange on cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, then bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool, then cut into 1-2 inch pieces.

In a heavy saucepan, melt Earth Balance or heat olive oil (or butter if you’re not going vegan) over medium high heat**.  These bad boys will soak up whatever oil you give them, so if more is needed, bring it.  Saute down a bit, then add a few generous splashes of good balsamic vinegar.  Continue to cook until mushrooms are limp and caramelized.  Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Back to the risotto.  When the rice is cooked to the desired consistency, stir in coconut milk and nutritional yeast.  Nutritional yeast might be one of my new favorite ingredients.  Mixed with the coconut milk, it gives a nice, rich, cheesy flavor and texture without the dairy.  Next, add in the asparagus, mushrooms, and fennel fronds.  Give it a good mix and a taste, then add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve immediately, and don’t forget to pour yourself another glass of wine.

*I used a 2009 Anne Amie Oregon Pinot Gris for the risotto.  Delish!

**Last summer, I bought some mushrooms from a stand at the Hollywood Farmers Market and the cute boy working there told me when sauteing mushrooms, start with high heat to lock in the flavor, then lower it as they cook.  Good tip!

What a week!  The day after I got back from Mexico, I committed to house/dog sitting in Sellwood for 10 days.  Being back in Portland gave me a chance to catch up with some great friends and connect with some new ones.

My new-ish friend Lisa and I decided to meet for Happy Hour at Soluna Grill on NE 44th and Fremont before our Home Community on Wednesday.  We were NOT disappointed.

Of course, we had some cocktails to start.  I can’t exactly remember what was in mine, something pink, maybe raspberry?  The best and obviously most memorable part was the sage (I LOVE herbaceous cocktails) and whipped egg whites on top.  It was like the latte of cocktails.

 

We had an array of items for the happy hour menu but these two stood out the most: chickpea crusted green beans with tomato-ginger ketsup (above)
maple smoke pork belly with a tempura poached egg, sweet onion, frisee, mustard vin. A deep friend poached egg??  Yes PUH-LEASE!  This was amazing.

Our pocketbooks were happy and our bellies were sat-is-fied with Soluna Grill.

The next morning, my old roommates from the Thompson House, or Team Thomp, Tiffani, Crystal, and Rachel met for breakfast at Helser’s on NE Alberta and 16th.  It kinda feels like Miranda, Carrie, Charlotte, and Samantha are getting together at their usual breakfast spot, save for the topic of conversation.  We’re not quite as, cough cough, “city” as those ladies.  Breakfast with these girls is easily one of my favorite times of the month.   Helser’s has a FABULOUS $4.95 early bird menu from 7-9am everyday which is not something to miss out on.  I had the grilled polenta and black bean cakes with 2 poached eggs in creole sauce. The portion size was just right and tied me over well into the lunch hour.

Then came the meal that I had been waiting on for over a month: Gruner.  (Well, we had originally planned on going to Little Bird, but we couldn’t get a reservation for 3 until 8:30 and since we all had to work on Friday and usually spend 3+ hours talking, eating, and drinking together, we decided to reschedule LB for May and try Gruner.  Both are newish to Portland and have chefs who are nominated for the James Beard Award).   One of the only perks of having type 1 diabetes is that the 2 ladies who work locally for the company who makes my insulin pump have a nice expense account and are encouraged to “entertain” their patients.  It’s a major bonus that I happen to click with both of them very well and we have a ball together.  They are the reason I have been to several of Portland’s best restaurants.  Having diabetes is almost worth it.

Take a moment to look at Gruner’s menu.  It’s very German/Swiss inspired which I was a little shy about at first.  But once our first “snacks” came out, I knew we wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Round one:   Beet-pickled hard boiled eggs. Perfection in a deviled egg.  (Julie and Shannon had the crisp polenta croquettes stuffed with  bleu cheese but I had to pass unfortunately.)

 

 

Round two: Belgian endive, gala apples, fourme d’ambert, toasted hazelnuts, with a hazelnut oil vinaigrette. Too bad I had to 86 the bleu cheese.  Still a mouthful of delight though.

Round 3: Sauteed calves livers, sauteed onions, house cured bacon, cider reduction, “himmel und erde–potato and apple puree. I stepped out of my culinary comfort zone for this, but OH MY it was good.  Good, as in, “God saw what He had made and said it was good.”  Like, godly perfection on a plate.

We asked our Christian Bale look-a-like server, Jeff for a wine recommendation for our meal.  The menu is heavy with Germany and European wines that I am completely unfamiliar with.  There are a few Oregon wines on the menu, which I will lean towards 95% of the time, but even those were unfamiliar to me.  He suggested the ’09 Schöne Schlucht Oregon Pinot Meunier, which is an Alsatian red varietal is that seldom seen in Oregon (Adelsheim makes one).  I wish Oregon produced more of this varietal because it was wonderful!  Bright cherry and black pepper.  Perfect with our meal.

Dessert is always fun for us whenever we go out.  We usually get a chocolate dessert and a non-chocolate dessert and dessert wines to match.  Unfortunately, none of the desserts we ordered impressed us enough to take note of or even take a picture of.  But here’s our array of dessert wines (from the back): An Auslese Riesling from the Mosel region in Germany where I visited this summer, an Italian Vino Santo, and a Tawny Port.

Now, it’s back to home cooked meals and leftovers for lunch.  I had a fun culinary week out, but I’m ready to use my new red dutch oven and start cooking my own food again.

Mi amiga Rachel and I spent a week with my grandmother in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  To give you an idea of location, it’s about 2 hours north of Mexico City.  Don’t worry, it’s very safe there :)   Here are some photos from the trip.  Mouse over them for a little description or click to see full size.

Here’s what we did all week:
Woke up when the sun was in our faces,
Walked all over town,
Made silver jewelry
Ate our body weight in guacamole
Drank our body weight in Margaritas and Mexican beer
Played Farkle with Grandma
Went to sleep when we were tired
Sat out in the sun for hours a day
Read
Slept
Didn’t worry about anything (except for Japan)
Got a tan (well, I’m a redhead, so I got some red)
Loved life.

I highly suggest everyone take a vacation in March to someplace sunny.  GO NOW!

 

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