Saturday, April 6, 2013
Maybe I'm biased for being a spring baby. I celebrated number 28 a few days after spring began. It was very low-key birthday this year, but that was alright by me. The day before my dad and Vicki came down to Portland to visit me. I made us a chili verde for dinner. I had the pork braising for hours, but we talked, and snacked on chips and salsa while it was cooking. It was the first time I made it, but it turned out pretty great for a gringa. Dave worked that night, but joined us just in time for dinner to be ready when he got off. We noshed on a spread of chili verde, corn tortillas, guacamole and rice. After we ate we played spades which was a lot of fun. My dad and Vicki killed us, but that is because we kept overbidding by one, and going further and further into a hole. Next time we know to take our bid down by one. ;) It was their first time meeting Dave too, and that all went over well. We had a blast.
I worked the lunch shift on my birthday. My co-workers spoiled me rotten with a cake and flowers. My boss also opened a bottle of Champagne to celebrate the three year anniversary of Dorio. I cannot believe the restaurant is already three years old! I was blessed by regulars and brand-new customers alike once word got out it was my birthday. After work Nitiya and I went out for a cocktail at a new restraunt called The Fireside just down the street from Dorio. I had a delicious gin, kumquat cocktail, and Nitiya had a variation of a sazerac. I would definitely go back there for another cocktail, and the menu looks pretty tasty too.
After Fireside, I met up with Sass for a ride to Tigard, and Dave made us a scrumptious dinner. We had Manhattan clam chowder to start. He used his mom's recipe and it is perfect with plenty of of bacon. For our entrees we had beef shanks, roasted cauliflower, which he knows I love, AND these amazing brussel sprouts. He had made me the brussel sprouts once before about a year ago, and I've been thinking about them ever since. They are first roasted, and then tossed in a bacon mushroom sherry cream sauce and they are incredible. We drank wine, watched lots of Cheers and a movie, and I could not have been happier.
The weather was beautiful the following weekend, and I got to spend plenty of time outside. Seventy degrees in March?!? Dave and I both had Saturday morning off, so we played in the garden. We first walked to the nursery and bought kale, chard, broccoli, catnip, thyme, mint, lavender and oregano starters. We also bought zucchini and sunflower seeds. I had previously purchased cauliflower and beet seeds. We planted all of the starters straight into the earth that day as well as many of the seeds. Some of the seeds we began in separate starter boxes so we can move them inside just in case it gets to cold again. I was so excited to work in the garden with my honey. I realized this could be the first of many of "our gardens", and I think we'll make a good team. He needs me to remind him to plant just a few flowers (I really wanted the lavender and sunflowers), and I need him for his gardening knowledge which is a bit more advanced than my own. I can definitely see us getting obsessed with it in our older days... For the record, Misery had destroyed the catnip by the following morning. She just cannot resist it. At least we tried?
Easter was the next day and it was perhaps even warmer than Saturday. I woke up pretty early and went on a short run before I decided I did not want to. Then I came home and began some food and drink prep while Dave got ready for work. We had brined a picnic shoulder for about a week and half to make a ham for Easter Dinner. I brined it in rosemary, thyme, sugar, clove, garlic and bay leaves. On Easter morning I dried it off and stuffed it with garlic, onions, fresh rosemary from the garden and a few Calabrian Chilies. I stuck some toothpicks in it to hold it together, and put it on the smoker with applewood and hickory chips around 9:30 after Dave left for work. It ended up being on the smoker for over eleven hours.
While the ham smoked all day, Sass, Thai, and I relaxed and partied in the sun. We started with delicious, spicy, bourbon bloody marys, with a mix I made that morning. We also did some mimosas and white wine. We threw out a blanket on the lawn, and sat out there chit-chatting and laughing until the sun went down. I had to make some irish nachos for lunch once I realized we probably should not wait until the ham to eat. I was wearing sunblock but I got tan lines. That is pretty incredible for March in Portland! We all had Easter baskets too. I had put together some for Dave, Thai and Sass which I had a blast doing. Thai surprised me with one loaded with chocolate (plus flowers, aw!)
Dave ended up getting off around 8PM that night and Sass was nice enough to pick him up. Our ham was looking pretty good by the time he got there. I ended up glazing it in a pineapple, Sriracha, brown sugar sauce. We ate it with garlicky potato au gratin, and drank a delightful sparkling wine and Amarone.
It was certainly the best Easter I've had in a long while. It was the first one I've had off in years, the company was delightful, and I was pretty impressed with our ham. It was perhaps a bit unconventional, but it was delicious, loaded with smoky flavor and a little heat sweet heat from the glaze.
I finally got to eat at Little Bird last week. One of my regulars treated me with a birthday dinner. It was amazing. I forgot my camera and my phone is not working while it is not plugged into the wall right now, so I could not take any pictures, but all the dishes were so very beautiful. We shared a butter leaf salad with an artichoke dressing and fried capers. Then I had sweetbreads and veal blanquette potpie and a foie gras torchon. For dessert we had a lemon creme brulee. It was so delcious and I cannot believe I never thought of that before. I might have to try to recreate that one. The whole meal was incredible. I would definitely go back there. I feel so lucky to have so many people value my birth!
Next on the agenda: Getting ready to move! I will miss my apartment. I'm trying to enjoy it while I have it. I think I will make a point of staying downtown a few extra nights per week up until the move. If nothing else, I have to be here to pack so I'm sure I'll get some time in with this place. After nearly three years of living here, I have lived in this apartment longer than anywhere since leaving my parent's house after high school. I would like one more sunny day of drinking wine on the balcony, but for now Dave and I are committed to a sober April, so it will have to be an extraordinarily beautiful night we have both have off in order to break that pledge. Or maybe we can just whip up some horchata and tacos... I also have to get ready for my next half marathon on Cinco de Mayo, and get into a set running routine for the marathon. This spring and summer will be even better than the last. I'm looking forward to getting to enjoy it even more this year since I'm working so much less. After nearly six months I can say having only one job is wonderful!
Monday, March 18, 2013
I just realized looking at this photo now that I only put in 3/4 cups Irish whiskey, which is probably why it was so thick, but I assure you it was still super tasty, and we had Jameson on the side for adding to our coffees with the irish cream. I made homemade chocolate syrup by just warming 8T or so of whipping cream and and chocolate chips to make a viscous ganache. Just eyeball it. I also did not use instant coffee, but just a couple ounces of my remaining french press pot of coffee. Finally, I added a smidge of fresh ground nutmeg, just for a little something extra. Maybe next time I will try to make it with the 1 and 3/4 cup whiskey!
|Poured over homemade Guinness chocolate ice cream which Dave made :)|
I hope everybody had a happy St. Patrick's Day. I did my third Shamrock Run, took care of my honey, and ended it on a high note with a corned beef dinner party with close friends. It was an exhausting weekend, but it ended happy.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Our anniversary is technically leap day, but since this is not a leap year, we celebrated on February 28th. He surprised me first thing in the morning at work by delivering me a box, yes an entire box, of pastries from Saint Honore. Yum! I thought it was especially sweet since he was off that morning, and came all the way downtown just to bring me goodies for my morning.
In the evening after work, I got ready at my apartment. I found myself having butterflies all over again. I wore a new navy lacy dress, black tights and heels. I even dolled up and put on make-up which I don't do so frequently these days. He picked me up sporting a mustache. He wears one every March, and as March approached us this year, I think I was more excited than he was. He asked me once why I was so excited, and I explained to him that it reminded me of when we first started dating. He waiting until after our first date to trim his beard away into a mustache last year, but showing up this year wearing one definitely made me smile. We exchanged gifts and cards in the car. I felt spoiled and loved all over again. His card was the best. :) We headed to Teardrop Lounge to kick off the evening. It is easily my favorite bar in town for cocktail perfection.
After drinks we went to Paley's Place for dinner. It was Dave's first time there, and I'm so happy I finally got to check that off our couple to-do list. We started with beef tartar, and their delectable escargot with bone marrow and bordelaise. For our entrees we shared sweetbreads and ham, sides of beets and brussel sprouts. Everything was amazing, and it was very nice to just relax with my honey. I love, love, love, that we are a couple that can cook wonderful meals for ourselves at home, and I'm proud of us for using our skills and going out so little, but I really savored the glamorous evening out at Paley's.
Speaking of meals in, Dave has been cooking for me as much these days as I cook for him. He has been taking full advantage of having a smoker. His smoked chickens are quite the treat. He's made smoked brussel sprouts a couple of times too, which tossed in a little olive oil, are such a delicious finger food snack. :) He recently made pizza from scratch, even hand making the dough. I always cheat and use my kitchen-aid, but he did it all on his own. His crust was super good and flaky too, allegedly from the everclear he sneaked in there.
I try to still do my part, but I don't think I can compete with the level of amazing that is smoked chicken! A couple of weeks ago we had eggplant tomato soup that was a healthy, warm, delicious treat. The best part was the eggplants were free! I will definitely be repeating that recipe next winter, maybe summer
On Sunday evening I made a clam tomato sauce. Dave helped me make pasta, and we whipped out quite the feast. I had not eaten clams since Southpark.
On another note, I cut my hair! I love it so far.
I am so excited for the years to come. There is so much to look forward to with Dave. I'm moving into Dave and Sass's place near the end of April. It will be great to have all my things where I spend most of my time.:) We also have a trip to Mexico to look forward to and save for right before our second anniversary. Hopefully there will also be another trip to the east coast within the year as well. Dave still has half of my family to meet too. Plus there are so many dishes to cook, and restaurants to try together. We do get to check off one ”first” this weekend, our first race together. The Shamrock Run and St. Patrick's Day are both Sunday. I'm not as prepared for the run as I would like to be, but I know I can get it done. I'm proud and thankful Dave is attempting it with me. I'm excited for the after party with some of my favorite people. Corned beef brisket, anyone?
Saturday, February 16, 2013
I have always been a sucker for Valentine's Day. The first one I remember was in Kindergarten. My mama gave me the Trouble game, which afterwards we would play and laugh for hours. She made me heart shaped cream cheese and jam sandwiches to take to school. Some of the other children questioned my culinary choice. "It's good!" I defended the cute tiny sandwiches until most of them tried them and agreed. Ever since I have had a soft-spot for heart shaped goodies, Valentine's Day cards, and reminding everybody I love I love them. Single or taken, I have never been a V-Day hater.
I shamefully used to get swooped up in the commercialism of the holiday, but I've become a bit older, and wiser, and thriftier, and as Valentine's Day approached I laid out my thoughts for Dave. I didn't need gifts. Don't go crazy. I just want to make a nice meal in. We can cook at my place for a little privacy, eat, drink, and be merry. Dave could make dessert. (He has been making glorious ice creams lately. A tart key lime was the last batch. Delicious.) I really just wanted to enjoy the man I love.
In general I've been eating a lot healthier, and we started running together. Dave hurt his knee and hasn't been out with me in awhile, but nonetheless, I was pretty excited to indulge with a Valentine's Day feast.
We are a restaurant couple and I had no idea when we would be celebrating until the weekend before. We normally have at least one night off together a week, but Valentine's Day gave us a whole lotta nada to work with. I eventually reasoned that since I was off Thursday, the fourteenth, I could cook while he was at work, and we could celebrate the real night. It would be a late dinner, but you know, YOLO, and that would kind of make it all the more special.
I worked my lunch shift, and left work around 4:30. After a bit of last-minute shopping, I headed home to begin prepping, and making the place feel a bit special. I didn't know exactly what time Dave would be off, but I knew it wouldn't be early. I had butterflies all evening in anticipation. I was excited for a romantic, elegant, dinner for two. I couldn't wait to just be with him, and share all the dishes I had created.
I gave Dave his gift, a brick-red shirt with a heart made drawn out of bacon slices that says, "You had me at bacon." I had discovered it Christmas shopping, and but wanted to save it for Valentine's Day. I made him a bacon and eggs card that said, "You make my heart sizzle," in the inside. Something only my man would appreciate.
We began our dinner with Kushi oysters and duck liver pate with brandy-soaked cherry chutney. I was so happy with how the pate turned out. I only had one liver to work with, and a little duck scrap, so it was the perfect amount for two people, and it went so well with the cherries.
Our second course was a simple radicchio salad with a garlicky pecorino romano dressing and marinated fennel. I love radicchio salads with creamy dressings. They are so beautiful and full of flavor. Dave isn't super-crazy about fennel, but marinating it softened the flavors a bit, and it is a good match for the bite of the radicchio. I didn't take a picture, but you can imagine.
Dessert was in theory the cookie Dave made me. I had a bite, and it was delicious, but I could not do anymore than that, and Dave was definitely done. We were both pretty exhausted and full, and even passed on our dessert bottle of moscato. Luckily the cookie made a pretty tasty breakfast.
I'm so lucky my valentine enjoys food as much as I do. Isn't love great?
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Dave and I started running in preparation for the 15k Shamrock Run. He is a beginner to the running game so it's been fun and inspiring for me to play coach. I'm so out of shape myself, but I am a more experienced runner than my boyfriend. First I took him to get fitted for proper running shoes. I can't have him getting hurt. Our schedules require us to run alone half the time, but when we do run together I get to be the one encouraging him along. He doubted his ability to run three miles last week, but he did it. I'm so excited we have something healthy to do together now.
Meanwhile I have been fighting a cough for two weeks. It's not as bad as it was the first few nights. I feel almost normal throughout the days. There is just random painful coughing that seems to come from nowhere... The rest of me feels great. My cough was part of the reason I made last night's dinner. I also knew it would be healthy, inexpensive and delicious. (I'm trying to get that extra weight off after all.) The soup is high in vitamins A and C, low in fat and vegan. Bonus, I made a giant pot for under ten bucks. We'll both get four or five meals out of it. (It could be more, but Dave and I have both been known to put away some soup!)
Curried Sweet Potato Soup (yields about 2 gallons)
About 6 pounds red garnet yams
4 small carrots
1 large onion
2 heads of garlic
3 T fresh grated ginger
Curry powder to taste
Chili to taste (I used dried arbol chilis and some chilli flake
One can light coconut milk
Juice of one lime
Black pepper and salt
Peel and thinly slice all your vegetables. Start by sweating the onions and garlic in olive oil. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and spices and sweat a bit more. Cover with water. Being to a boil and reduce to a simmer, tasting occasionally to adjust seasoning. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add the coconut milk. Puree with an immersion blender. Simmer for about five more minutes. Finish with the lime juice.
We ate ours with quinoa, garnished with green onion and basil and extra sriracha for me. So delicious and beautiful.
Friday, November 30, 2012
I remember attempting to make gumbo in college. It was an Emeril shortcut recipe that didn't take too long that I thought was pretty easy. I don't think it even included a roux. It included file powder which was a new-to-me ingredient and got me excited about what I was doing. It wasn't bad, but I later learned the brothy soup I came up with wasn't what gumbo should be.
The important and most time consuming part of making gumbo is the roux, a mixture of fat and flour. Butter is the fat most commonly used in roux, but in the case of gumbo, chicken fat our duck fat can add a little more depth of flavor. The greatest gumbo thus takes time. Mine was a three hour process last night and Dave helped immensely with the mise.
Since I'm on a one job budget, I've been attempting to make frugal meals. Having a stocked freezer helps! Early in the month I buy a few chickens, break them down and make stock with the carcasses. I vacuum seal the meat, separating them into airline breasts and legs and thighs. Dave and I can get several meals out of the chicken, even sharing with friends. My love for hospitality and sharing food doesn't go away now that I'm watching my pennies. The last time I made chicken stock I also trimmed the fat from the birds and vacuum sealed that.
Now back to the roux (and gumbo). First I rendered the chicken fat I had, also adding in the skin of the chicken I would be including in the gumbo (an entire bird's worth). To render the fat, I put it in a pan with a little water, bring the heat up enough for most of the water to evaporate, but low enough that I wasn't burning my fat. While my fat was rendering, I diced and cooked off my sausage, and Dave chopped the vegetables. The traditional sausage for gumbo would be andouille, but Dave brought some delicious kielbasa back from the east coast and that worked beautifully. After that was browned my fat was fine. The result wad iquid fat I could include in my roux. I skimmed out the remaining chunks of skin, and added enough flour to make a wet sandy paste. My roux was initially to tight, thick and not nearly viscous enough, so incorporated a little butter.
Then over low heat, stir, stir,stir. I prefer rubber spatulas for roux making. They're the best for scraping all the bits. Having company close and a glass of wine helps. After I cooked my roux for awhile, I had my assistant Dave, throw the chicken for the gumbo into the oven. So it would be ready to throw in the soup when my roux was finished. You want the roux to develop color, but not scorch. Keep stirring! It takes awhile. For gumbo, take the roux to a chocolate color. It will smell like popcorn on the verge of burning. Taking the roux that far adds a, depth of flavor to the gumbo that a blonde roux would just not provide.
Once you are there. You are ready to make your gumbo. First, add trinity (onions, bell peppers and celery), and garlic. Sweat them lightly and add your stock of choice. I happened to have prawn stock on hand so I used primarily that with a little chicken stock, but all chicken would be outstanding too. The love that goes into the stock shines through the soup. Homemade is better!
There are many possible gumbo variations depending in what you have to work with, and how much money you what to spend. I added the whole, cooked chicken legs and thighs and my kielbasa, and cayenne, paprika, dried thyme, Crystal hot sauce and worcestershire and brought the gumbo to a simmer. I eventually added the zest of one lemon too which I though would be nice with the prawn stock. I let the breasts cool long enough for handling, and diced them up and added them too. I let it simmer for roughly an hour and a half before adding one chopped bunch of green onions. Shortly after I added an entire chopped bunch of parsley. I also pulled out the legs and thighs, and let them cool enough to shred the meat to add back in. In all the gumbo should simmer a couple hours.
I wanted shrimp in my gumbo too. I added them just before serving so they wouldn't overcook. I also added the juice of one lemon to go with the rich shrimp flavor.
Four very happy people filled our bellies warm with gumbo, crusty bread for sopping and a little white rice. Yum! I should have taken more pictures. Such a fun night of cooking with Dave and good company.
On another note, I did so well with working out for 13 days, but I've been working more, and spending every free moment with Dave this week. I missed him while he was in NJ over Thanksgiving week! Need to get back to it tonight. I'm also going
to stick to a healthier diet until Christmas. Needless to say that means giving away my gumbo leftovers.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
|March for my birthday celebration|
He taught me how to play bocce ball. We cooked every Monday, my only night off. There was zombie prom, and a dinner party for Faby's birthday.
Summer came quickly. It was absolutely glorious, the most beautiful summer Portland has had in years. We grilled tons, managed to go camping and to the coast, played outside, ate, drank and were merry. I got pleasantly plump with my little free time going to him and not to exercise. (Now ready to kick that to the curb! He still looks amazing.) I met his ma. We went wine tasting in Hood River and stuffed ourselves with pizza at Double Mountain. The only think that put a damper on the summer was how much I worked. Sixty-five to seventy hour work weeks are no fun when all you want to do is be with someone new.
So far it has been great. We took a trip to New Jersey and New York. I am loving the breaks in between shifts, and getting home earlier. Weird to think that two weeks ago at this time I would have been headed towards work. I've already had a lovely morning, and I still have the rest of the day to do as I please. :)
Other than spending extra time with Dave, I have big plans with my new schedule. There is more time for Sunday dinner parties with either friends or family. I am going to train for next year's Portland Marathon. I'm betting a twenty-eight year old stubborn, driven, focused me can way outperform the uneasy, flighty twenty-two year old I was. I have multiple half-marathons under my belt now, and I want to get rid of this comfort weight or at least prevent further weight gain. I also want to do a lot of writing... This blog will not be so neglected.
|In Jersey at White Castle|