Friday, August 31, 2007

Thai Weekend Part I: Thai BBQ Chicken with Red Curry Sauce and Jasmine Rice

This weekend, I've decided, is to be all about thai food. And for this first installment of "Thai Weekend," I tried my hand at a red curry. Now, it should be noted, I have no experience with red curry, other than eating it from the many take out shops in my neighborhood. Not that that should stop me from having a go at it, of course... but I invite any advice and/or criticism from those of you who might actually know something about thai cuisine. My lack of knowledge in this area notwithstanding, here's what I did:

First, I made the red chili paste. I based this on a recipe I found on the Epicureous website, with a few adjustments of my own, of course.

The Ingredients:

15 dried hot red chiles, halved and seeds discarded
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, 1 layer of outer leaves discarded, finely chopped
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 tsp peeled and finely chopped galangal
Zest and juice of one lime
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro stems
3 large shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, miced
20 small thai chiles (or 10 serrano chiles), finely chopped
2 tsp shrimp paste
I Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp palm sugar
1/2 tsp salt

The Process:

Chop the dried chiles into 1/4 inch pieces and reconstitute them in some warm water for about 30 minutes.

While the chiles are soaking, toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Grind the coriander, cumin and peppercorns with a large mortar and pestle into a fine powder. Add the lemongrass, galangal, lime zest, cilantro, shallots, garlic, palm sugar, fresh chiles, and soaked dried chiles. Grind all of this in the mortar until a loose paste is formed. Add shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice and salt. Continue to mash to a relatively smooth consistency. The final outcome will look something like this:

With the curry paste done, you can turn your attention to the chicken. You're going to want to butterfly the chicken, which is done thusly:

With your chicken placed backside up on the cutting board, cut through the ribs along either side of the backbone with a good (or bad) pair of kitchen shears:

Pull out the backbone, turn the chicken over, and spread it out on the cutting board. Cut along each side of the keel bone and remove:

With the keel bone removed, turn the chicken back over and, using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast and thigh meat:

Evenly distribute some of the red curry paste under the skin of each breast and thigh (about one teaspoon per breast, and one teaspoon per thigh). Now you're ready to grill this bad girl. Place your bird on the grill, skin side down, over medium direct heat. Some of the fat underneath the skin will drip down onto the heating elements (or coals), causing an occasional flare-up. Adjust the heat accordingly (you don't want your chicken to catch on fire...). Leave the bird in this position just until it has some nice grill marks. When you flip the bird over it will look like this:

Continue to cook the bird, underside down. Your chicken will be done once a temperature of 150F is achieved at the breast (check the temperature of the thigh opposite the breast you checked as well; it should be a bit higher). Now it should be noted that the USDA recommends cooking chicken to 170F. However, breast meat begins to toughen at 155F. So as long as the juices are running clear, well, to Hell with the USDA. Live dangerously, my friends!

Now is the time to bring the bird inside and carve it up. First, remove each thigh and leg:

With the keel bone removed, separating the breasts is a snap:

Once your chicken is fully deconstructed, place the parts on a sheet pan, cover them with foil, and place into an oven at low heat to keep them warm. Put 1 cup of Jasmine rice and 1-1/4 cup of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, and cook the rice for 30 minutes. While this is happening, preapre your sauce: Saute one shallot, finely diced, over medium heat in a bit of butter for several minutes, until it just turns translucent. Add one clove of garlic, minced, and continue to saute for one minute. Add one cup of coconut milk and two teaspoons of curry paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook this down until it begins to thicken up.

Plate chicken quarters, add rice and drizzle with the sauce, as per the photo up top.

I should warn you: The end result of this will be hot. STUPID hot. FECKLESS IDIOT hot. If you're not accustomed to spicy food, scrap this whole endeavor and make yourself some Mac & Cheese. But if you're down with serious thai food, this is a recipe I think you'll be happy with. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eastside Eggs Gets Its First Restaurant Account!

The cooperative egg farming operation I've been working with lately, the Eastside Egg Co-op (sorry, no website, but you can read occasional updates and news here), will be supplying eggs to the Oregonian's choice as 2007's restaurant of the year, Pok Pok. They'll be using our eggs in two dishes to begin with, Yam Khai Dao, a fried egg salad, and Kai Krapao Khai Dao, a chicken and bean stir fry served with jasmine rice and a fried egg. Next time you're in the mood for some Northern Thai street food inspired grub, swing by and try some of our eggs!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Grilled Sea Scallops with Mango Lime Beurre Blanc and Deep Fried Plantains

This evening I found myself inspired (okay, perhaps "possessed" is a better word...) to try my hand at cooking up a little something carribean. My initial intent was to use Pacific red snapper here, but after visiting three grocery stores and coming up with none of said fish, I settled on scallops. So with no further nonsense, here's my ham-fisted attempt at a carribean take on the migratory bivalve...

The Ingredients:

One plantain
One mango, diced (reserve several thin slices for garnish)
One small shallot, minced
One habañero pepper, seeded and minced
Four oz. (8 Tbsp) butter
Two Tbsp lime juice (reserve two thin slices of the lime for garnish)
Four Tbsp dry white wine
One Tbsp white wine vinegar
Sea scallops (8-10 should work for two people)
Peanut or Canola oil (enough to fill a 2 qt saucepan to 3 or 4 inches)

The Process:

First, the sauce. Saute 2 Tbsp of the diced mango in 1 Tbsp of butter over medium heat until it just begins to caramelize. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender (or use a regular blender or food processor). Clean out the pan and saute the minced shallot in 1 Tbsp of butter over medium heat until just translucent. Add the lime juice, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce it by not quite half and add the mango puree. Bring to a boil again, and take it off the heat. Whisk in the remaining butter a little at a time, placing it back over the heat as necessary. Once all of the butter is incorporated, add the habañero. Go easy here. Habañero can be punishing if you're not used to heat (I once chomped down on a large green olive stuffed with a whole habañero in one bite, and it took me the better part of the afternoon to recover). You can now set the sauce aside. It's worth noting that beurre blanc can be tricky, and doesn't like to be left alone; it tends to separate easily due to the fact that it's made up of water and fat based liquids in the absence of an emulsifying agent. But I found here that the mango puree acted as a stabilizer, and this sauce was a bit more forgiving than a traditional beurre blanc. But proceed with caution nonetheless.

Next, the plantain. This is a starchier cousin of the banana, and as prepared here will be a sort of carribean answer to french fries. Slice your plantain lengthwise, then cut it in half. Slice the quarters into french fry shaped sticks, then carefully remove the peel from each slice. Bring your oil to 320F, and drop the plantain sticks in. Fry them for about ten minutes, until they're just beginning to brown. Remove them from the oil and drain them on paper towels. Increase the temperature of the oil to 380F, and drop them back in for about three minutes, or until they turn a dark golden brown color. Drain them once again on paper towels and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Finally, the scallops. At this point, you might want to place the plantain sticks in the oven at the lowest temperature, and put your beurre blanc back on the burner over low heat (have your date/significant other keep an eye on them both). Now comes the fun part: fire up your grill. While the grill is heating up, brush the scallops on each side with extra virgin olive oil. Season them on each side with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then place them on the grill over direct medium-high heat for four to five minutes on each side. When they're done, they'll have just a bit of color and will have firmed up noticeably (If you don't have a grill, you can pan sear them over high heat for three to four minutes on each side). I threw the mango slices on the grill along with the scallops to caramelize, but this one's up to you. Be careful not to overcook the scallops, by the way. As long as the scallops are really fresh, it's better to err on the side of undercooked than overcooked.

Once the scallops are done, all that remains is to plate, garnish with mango and lime slices... and enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy National Waffle Day!

Yes, that's right, today is National Waffle Day. And in celebration of this most obscure of holidays, I made the waffle tour of Portland. It should be said that it wasn't really much of a tour. I only visited two waffle establishments, but as far as I know, they're the only two places in town that are specifically devoted to this batter cake.

The first was my friend Jon's cart Flavourspot in North Portland, which I wrote up a few months ago. This time I opted for the Ham and Gouda waffle:

You can get this with cheddar as well, but I recommend the gouda. You'll notice that Flavourspot's waffles are served up in a convenient portable form, perfect for breakfast on the go (Jon is slipping me a sawbuck as I write this)... I don't get up to North Portland that often, so I took the opportunity to swing by St. John's. This area has seen a number of new cafes and coffee shops open up since the last time I visited, one of them being the second location of the perennial NW 21st st. favorite Anna Bannana's:

There's also the newish James John Cafe, in the old Xeno's space, which is well worth a look. Of course, I couldn't leave the hood without getting the obligatory shot of the St. John's bridge:

Later in the day, Jenni and I headed to a recent addition to Belmont street called Jacé Gacé. The shop is apparently named for a french hang glider whose love of waffles was legendary. While Flavourspot is a solidly no nonsense operation that caters to waffleholics on the go, Jacé Gacé takes a decidedly more haute approach to the waffle, with both sweet and savory offerings. They have a number of wines and beers on hand, and have a fairly sizeable gallery space as well (this building used to house the Portland Art Center before they moved into their current Pearl District digs). The beer selection's focus is on brews from Belgium, appropriate given the "Brussels style" waffles they serve. They've done a good job with the place:

It's a pretty intimate space, with tables along one wall near the gallery, a couple of get-cozy couches across from the counter, lots of candles and a patio facing the street. I ordered the "three sides," a waffle cut into six squares, drizzled with honey and walnuts, and served with brie, apple slices and prosciutto:

The salty prosciutto and the tart apple played well together, and the savory umami of the brie served as a foil to the honey's sweetness. Jenni ordered the Curry Asparagus savory waffle, a cornmeal waffle with steamed asparagus and curry cranberry sauce:

This was a pretty mild curry, subtle and sweet, dotted throughout with cranberries. And the asparagus was steamed to perfection.

So... how did you spend National Waffle Day?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Note to Patrick Leahy: George wants his swingers back.

Wait a minute... Isn't Vietnam the war that he skipped out on? This little feller has no shame. I think he needs to go to "re-education camp." I will say this for him, though: he has impeccable fashion sense; the blue and gold silk get-up very nicely complements his complexion. You'll notice the curious void in the fabric where his testicles should be...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dude Cookin' at its Finest...

...that is, dude cookin' that doesn't involve big chunks of red meat. I was in the mood to do some grilling this evening, and it's been a while since I've made some good baja-inspired fish tacos. So I consulted "Weber's Big Book of Grilling," which is currently on sale for $9.98 at Powell's (in the interest of disclosure, I am receiving compensation from neither Weber nor Powell's) and managed to merge two recipes, Tequila Shrimp* and Red Snapper Fajitas, with an adjustment or two of my own, into the preparation I now present to you: Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Acocado Black Bean Salsa!

We'll start with about a pound of raw shrimp. Peel and devein said crustaceans by running a paring knife up the back of each shrimp, just under the shell. Peel away the shell and tail, and pull out the vein with the tip of the knife (the "vein" by the way, is actually not a vein at all, but rather the shrimp's digestive tract). Once all of your shrimp are peeled and deveined, place them in a plastic bag with the marinade:

3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
Zest of one lime
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kosher salt
A few twists of fresh ground pepper

Let the shrimp marinate for 45 minutes. While this is happening, assemble the following ingredients into a salsa:

1 large tomato, cored and diced
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1 cup cooked black beans
1 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro*
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Zest of one lime
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
A few twists of fresh ground pepper

Once the shrimp are done marinating, thread them onto bamboo skewers which have been soaked in water for an hour, and place them on the grill:

Cook the shrimp over high direct heat for four minutes, flipping and rotating 180 degrees each skewer halfway through. Remove from heat. Place four flour (or corn, if you like) tortillas on the grill over the same high direct heat for one minute. In order to keep the tortillas from becoming too brittle, spritz each one before and after grilling with a little water (I didn't do this, as you can tell from the photo).

Put about seven shrimp on each tortilla, cover with a mound of the salsa, and fold over into a taco (for those of you back east who are used to those rigid corn taco shells from Old El Paso, this is what we know as tacos here on the west coast).

Serve with some fine Mexican beer and enjoy!

* I opted to make this without tequila or cilantro, as I don't much care for either. If they suit your taste, then go for it. Replace about half of the lime juice in the marinade with tequila. What to do with the rest of that bottle of Reposado is up to you...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cloud Cult and Pela at the Doug Fir

So what does anything you're about to read have to do with food? Nothing at all, but it's my damn birthday so deal with it!

Jenni and I headed out on this 36th birthday evening of mine to see Minneapolis' Cloud Cult at the Doug Fir. I'd heard these guys before, a few months ago (okay, I'm a bit behind the curve here, as these guys have been around since '98, but do I live in Minneapolis? No, I DON'T live in Minneapolis! I can't be on top of everything, people...), and I was keen to see what they could do in person.

I got to the Fir a bit ahead of Jenni, and was lucky enough to catch the last three songs of the opening band, Brooklyn's Pela:

Pela were simply astounding. Just total full on rock. Exactly what a rock band is supposed to be, to my taste anyway. They took ownership of the stage in a way I haven't witnessed since I saw The Sleepy Jackson open for The Polyphonic Spree at the Alladin back in 2002 (I'm no fan of SJ's recorded output, but in person they tear up a room like no band you've ever seen; best opening band since Pearl Jam toured with the Chili Peppers in '92... but enough with the name checking, already). They were very much in their element, and really appeared to be enjoying themselves to the fullest. I can tell when a band is phoning it in. Pela were NOT phoning it in! Great showing from these guys, if the last three songs of their set can be taken as a reliable indicator, anyway. Jenni showed up in time to catch the last 30 seconds of their last song. I wish she'd seen more.

Cloud Cult, on the other hand, were a bit disappointing. Perhaps a little backstory is required before I go any further: Cloud Cult are one of these bands who've latched onto the trend of having a painter working onstage while they play (to be fair, given how long they've been around, they may actually have started the trend). Now I've seen this done before, and to good effect. But Cloud Cult didn't have just one painter. They had two, both very talented, I should add. And they had a cellist, which in the context of a rock band, for me tends to throw a wrench into the works to begin with. And they had very elaborate, digitally projected, psychedelic graphics. Taken together, this was all just too much to take in. The music being itself, a pretty good brand of indie folk/pop, ultimately got lost in all of this. They were trying to be too many things at once, I think. They'd be a good band without the painters. They'd be good painters without the band. The psychedelic graphics would be appropriate at an Allman Brothers show. But put all together, it just didn't work for me.

The paintings, done by Scott West (in the black hat) and Connie Minowa (far right), were auctioned off at the end of the evening. West's painting, an expressionistic rendering of a laughing face oddly reminiscent of Maggie Gyllenhaal, was my favorite of the two. His use of color was violent and dynamic, and pefectly suited his sense of form. Minowa's painting of what appeared to be two sisters lamenting... something was more subtle and haunting, the paint applied in a more patient and layered manner. The fact that these two improvised such works in just about an hour is pretty damn impressive. I just wish I'd had my camera on hand to capture what they'd created. They'd do well to jettison the rest of the band...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What do Frederick Douglass and Donald Rumsfeld have in common?

I'm getting a little off topic here, but I ran across this while looking back through the old blog the other day, and I just felt like reposting it over here.

Reconstituted (hacked to bits, actually) from Tha Angry Liberal, Sunday, September 17th, 2006:

Today I saw Amy Goodman and her brother David Goodman speak at the Bagdad Theater (insert Amy Goodman in Baghdad joke here... and by the way, yes the theater's name is spelled without the "h"). The two of them have just written another book, called Static, and are on tour promoting it. They read some excerpts from the book and spoke about the process of gathering information and turning it into a cohesive and marketable product, typical book tour stuff. They also related a number of stories culled from their respective experiences as investigative journalists. At one point, David offered a particularly interesting historical anecdote, which goes roughly as follows:

Back in the days of slavery, there was a fellow in Eastern Maryland named Edward Covey, who was well known throughout the South as a "slave breaker." Plantation owners would send their particularly rebellious or troublesome slaves to Mr. Covey's property, dubbed "Mount Misery," where said slaves would be "broken." What that means, exactly, I'll leave to your imagination... One of the slaves sent to Mount Misery was "The Lion of Anacostia," abolitionist, orator, author and statesman Frederick Douglass. Covey tried to break Douglass, but Douglass fought back, and wasn't beaten again. After being returned to his master, he managed to escape by posing as a sailor, made his way to Massachusetts via the Underground Railroad, and proceeded to change the course of history.

That's interesting to be sure, but it's not the end of the story. What's even more interesting is that this particular property, Mount Misery, was purchased in 2003 as a vacation retreat by a Washington powerbroker, name of Donald Rumsfeld.

Does this say anything about Rumsfeld's character? Of course not. But does it seem somehow fitting given our current political landscape? I'll leave that to you all to decide...

Rest in peace, Donn Adams, you will be missed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

French Fries with Herb Infused Aioli

I tried my hand at making french fries this past Sunday after getting home from the Bite with these potatoes my roommate got at the farmers' market:

I'm not sure exactly what varieties they are, but I do know that they came from Rainbow Farm, which I think is in Haines, OR. They made for some visually striking fries, and they came out pretty well near perfect (fries aren't that difficult, really...). Some folks like to leave the skins on their potatoes before cooking them, but I've never really been down with that, so I peeled mine and cut them into fairly thick and stubby fry shapes:

Working in batches, I gave them a "par-fry" at about 350F for five minutes in a combination of peanut and canola oil. This cooks the fries through without crisping them up. For that, I gave them a second fry at 380F for another three minutes. A spider (strainer with a long handle) and a candy or deep fry thermometer come in handy here, by the way. This process will pretty much give you perfect fries every time. Like I said, not particularly difficult.

The aioli was less than an unqualified success, however. Aioli is basically garlic flavored mayonnaise, and I made this by adding some pureed garlic to the Alton Brown recipe I used for mayo a couple months back. I added an extra egg yolk for a little extra emulsification insurance, but this didn't seem to help, as the aioli separated pretty quickly. I guess I'll have to work on my mayo/aioli. Of course, you could just eat your fries with ketchup. Personally, I feel that ketchup is best kept on burgers and hot dogs, and as far away from fries as possible, but it seems I'm in the minority on this.

So there you have it. Go make some fries!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tasty Vittles... Soundtracked by Patti Smith!

I headed out this evening to catch the last night of Portland's current festival, the Bite of Oregon. The Bite used to feature a number of local chefs and restauranteurs, but these days it mostly serves as a showcase of what's going on in Oregon's outside-of-Portland food scene. Here's a shot of the judges announcing this year's winners of the Junior Iron Chef competition, from Bend High School:

And here we see a rather blurry shot of the winning team...

...proudly displaying their prizes... Paring knives??? Am I just crazy, or does it seem like chef knives might have made more appropriate prizes for these girls? Sure, they're demure and dainty and all, but I'd imagine that by now each of these young bad-ass food chicks can handle a real knife... At any rate, I next headed off to find some food, but was distracted by Dr. Theopolis on the second stage:

Riveting as Dr. T's unique brand of white boy funk-hop was, I managed to tear myself away from the spectacle to find me some meat on a stick:

This was unusually good meat on a stick, huckleberry marinated lamb, provided by the fine folks of La Grande's Foley Station:

After finding some napkins to wipe the huckleberry-meat juices from my person, I visited Foley's neighbors, Tamastslikt Cultural Institute's Kinship cafe, of Pendleton, for some Huckleberry smothered frybread (huckleberries are a big deal here in Oregon):

Not having much experience with American Indian culture, I really don't know from frybread, but damn, that was tasty! Next, I tried a crab cake with lemon aioli from Cannon Beach's Newman's at 988:

I've had a crab cake or two in my time, and I can tell you that this was better than most. I was tempted by the many other culinary options, but by this time, I could hear that the headliner, punk rock's poet laureate, Patti Smith, was taking her place on the main stage. I pulled my camera out of my bag, jockeyed my way to the front of the crowd, and bumped into a guy who insisted that he knew me... Did you ever live in Atlanta? No... But you look just like a guy I used to know in Atlanta that carried a camera around all the time! No, sorry, man, I don't know what you're talking about... After spending a few minutes shooting Patti and her band, I began to realize that this guy next to me did look a little familiar... I eventually figured out that he was Justin, a barista from one of my old coffee hangouts. We had a good laugh over that. And for all of my efforts at shooting Patti and her band, only one shot turned out:

Actually, that's not true. I did manage to get the obligatory backstage shot as well:

Patti, along with her longtime collaborator Lenny Kaye and the rest of her band, were clearly not as excited about this show as they might have been in some other, larger, more important city (she struggled with the pronunciation of "Oregon"). But they cranked out a pretty good set of old material mixed with a few covers from their recent Twelve, notably "Are You Experienced" and "Gimme Shelter" (a favorite of mine regardless of who's performing it). And hey, it's freakin' Patti Smith... I don't care if she was phoning it in, it was worth the seven bucks!

Friday, August 10, 2007

NPR hits one out of the park, for once...

There was an interesting discussion concerning the Farm Bill today on Talk of the Nation (Science Friday with Ira Flatow). Guests included the great Michael Pollan, the even greater Marion Nestle and virtual unknown Sandor Katz. It's worth a listen, if only because it's one of those rare occasions when National Pentagon Radio covers something that actually matters (do I sound bitter? I was going for bitter). Check it out here.

As always, since I have no photo for this post (like you wanted to see a photo of Ira Flatow...), here's a mugshot of Portland's, or more accurately Vancouver's, favorite native daughter, Tanya Harding (Update: the image of Tanya Harding was beginning to creep me out, so I've replaced it with a "Barney Gone Wild" shot). Enjoy, my good friends, enjoy!

What the hell do I do with all these tomatoes?

I've been trying to cultivate some weeds in the garden this summer, but so far all I've come up with is this nasty tomato infestation:

Well, like they say, when life hands you tomatoes, make tomatoade, right? So I gathered up a number of the more ripe specimens in my garden, 19 to be exact, and set about preserving them. It's really pretty easy. First, grow some tomatoes. Or pick them up at the farmers' market. Or, all else failing, buy them at your local grocery store. Then get yourself some jars:

Now, blanch the tomatoes for one minute in boiling water, then shock them in ice water. This makes the tomatoes much easier to peel. Once you've got them all peeled, pack them into the jars, fill the jars to a half inch from the top with near-boiling water, and add some bottled lemon juice (2 Tbsp per quart, 1 Tbsp per pint; I used pint jars, and added an additional tsp of lemon juice to each jar just to be on the safe side). This is very important, the reason being that ripe tomatoes are not by themselves acidic enough to stave off botulism. And trust me, you don't want to be eating botulistic tomatoes six months from now. Or ever. The added lemon juice will create a sufficiently acidic environment. And yes, you DO need to add acid even if you're using a pressure canner. Just make sure it's not lysergic acid. Save that for your next "lost weekend."

Of course, you'll want to place the lids back on the jars and screw on the rings, but you knew that... Next, place the jars into a bath of boiling water. For pints, boil the jars for at least 40 minutes, for quarts, at least 45 minutes. If you live more than 1,000 feet above sea level, add five minutes. If you live more than 3,000 feet above sea level, add ten minutes. If you live more than 6,000 feet above sea level, invest in an oxygen tank. It should be noted that when you put your jars into the boiling water, the temperature will go down a bit, so start timing once the temperature of the water is back up to 212F, or when the water comes to a rolling boil.

After the speicified amount of time, remove the jars from the water bath. A jar lifter (available at your local hardware store for about $10) will come in very handy here. Let the jars cool, then store them in a cool dry place outside of direct sunlight. What you end up with will look something like this:

Of course, I'm not a food scientist, and you could be forgiven for being skeptical of my instructions. Check out the University of Missouri Ag Extension's guidelines (basically the same ones I used) here for your own peace of mind. Then can yourself some tomatoes!

Monday, August 6, 2007

PDX Pop Now! Part II

I headed off to AudioCinema this evening to catch the last act of the last night of the (FREE!) PDX Pop Now! festival, the experimental alt-country six piece Blitzen Trapper. I'd seen these guys once before, at the Fez last September. They were playing MusicFestNW, and were one of the acts on that festival's bill that I was most looking forward to seeing, having just previously stumbled across their MySpace page and a few random MP3s out there in Interwebland. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by that show. The sound was weird, and the band just seemed to be... not quite off, but really not hitting their stride either, just not communicating well. A little sloppy. Which, considering the quality of their recorded output, what I'd heard of it anyway, was a little surprising.

Clearly a lot has changed in the last year for these guys. They've refined and yet moved beyond their country rock schtick. They've self-released a third album, Wild Mountain Nation, which is being hailed in certain quarters as a breakthrough (8.5 on Pitchfork!). They've opened a secret Modest Mouse show. They've been signed by SubPop. And I have to say, they've tightened up their live act quite a bit, if that last show I saw can be considered a reliable indicator. They very nearly tore the roof off the place tonight. Not quite, but nearly... They were still a bit all over the map musically at times, referencing Dylan, Skynyrd, even the Butthole Surfers. But in their better moments they exhibited a pop sensibility somewhere between Wilco and the Replacements, while maintaining a weird manic energy all their own. Those were the moments that made me wish I'd paid a cover to get in! This, my friends, is a band to keep an eye on.

Have a look at their video for Devil's A-Go-Go here. Unless you're prone to epileptic seizures, in which case you might want to dim your screen and just listen. Trust me on that.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

I'm as corny as Oregon in August...

This being the month of my birth, sweet corn is starting to show up in the local farmers' markets here in Portland. I picked up a few ears today at the Hillsdale market and upon arriving home, set about searching the internet for a good preparation involving the grill. Here's a breakdown of what I came up with:

Start by peeling the ears of all but their innermost layers of husk and removing as much of the silk as you can, then soak them in cold water for at least 15 minutes:

Shake the ears dry, peel back the remaining layers of husk, remove any remaining silk, and brush the kernels with olive oil. If you're feeling adventurous, add some chopped herbs to the oil. I went with basil and thyme (gathered from my backyard herb garden, of course):

Wrap the ears back up in their husks, secure with string, and place them on the grill over a medium flame:

Turn the ears regularly until they're lightly and evenly charred on all sides. Then set the flame to low, close the lid, and let them roast for another 20 minutes. When they're done, peel them (be careful; they'll be hot). Then take a step back and behold their magnificence:

Now slather them with butter (if you live in Oregon, I recommend locally produced Rogue Creamery butter; best I've tasted yet) and dig in. If you don't end up with herbs, butter and corn juice all over yourself, you've done something wrong, and you'll have to start again from the beginning...

PS: to those of you to whom this might mean something, and that would be only ONE of you (you know who you are), this is my second post in 24 hours, which pencils out to a rate of 730 per year. So stop complaining. And for the love of Pete, leave a damn comment already! ;-)

Arise and Simpsonize!!!

According to a Burger King internet marketing tool, this is basically what I would look like as a Simpsons character. It's a frighteningly accurate likeness, actually... Try it yourself the next time you feel like goofing off at work.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Circumference divided by radius squared...

...equals Pie! I finally got around to doing something with the pie crust I produced in Shuna Lydon's pie class a few weeks back. I decided to make a peach pie, as peaches are now in season here in the Pacific Northwest. In place of the regular sugar and raw sugar called for in Shuna's instructions, I substituted vanilla sugar and habañero jelly, respectively. I also opted to go without crust on the top.

Unfortunately, the texture of the filling was completely off after it came out of the oven. The addition of the pepper jelly made it way too liquid. I managed to salvage it somewhat by adding a little more cornstarch to the filling and blasting it in the oven for another 30 minutes. Which of course rendered the crust a bit overdone in the end. While the peach and pepper flavors paired well, the vanilla didn't really come through. Perhaps next time I'll stick to the regular/raw sugar combination and just use real habañero. All in all I managed to at least snatch the thing from the jaws of disaster, but my pie skills clearly need a little more work...

PDX Pop Now! Part I

What do you get when you combine gypsies, burlesque fan dancers, stilt walkers, clowns, puppeteers, minions of Satan and a high school marching band? Well, if you live on the lower east side, you might get something akin to Gogol Bordello. But if you live in Portland, you'll get the March Fourth Marching Band.

This evening I caught up with my friend Fuller, a fellow fixed gear geek with whom I haven't hung out for far too long. I headed out on the bike to meet up with him and his friend Kyle (also riding a fixie) at the Pilsener Room for a couple pints and some seafood/corn chowder (thus fulfilling the food requirement for a post on what is, after all, a food blog; standard McCormick & Schmicks fare, but a perfectly serviceable chowder nonetheless). We then headed over to La Merde and met up with Fuller's friend Abby for another round. Yes, you heard that right. "La Merde," french for "the shit." It's attached to Le Bistro Montage (famous for their leftover tinfoil sculptures). A fun little place underneath the Morrison Bridge in Produce Row. By the time we left, Kyle and Abby were done for the night, but Fuller and I headed a few blocks over to AudioCinema to catch March Fourth's set on the first night of the PDX Pop Now! Festival.

M4 put on quite a show. The stilt walkers made regular forays into the crowd, which made for some interesting audience participation. The rest of the band provided postmodern marching band insanity for the better part of an hour. They're heading out on a nationwide tour this fall, so if they come to your town, I highly recommend checking them out. It's a spectacle unlike any other you're likely to see!

From there Fuller and I went for a nightcap at the Speakeasy, a little dive bar on Taylor, near my mechanic, that I'd been meaning to check out for a while. Here's a shot of their lovely marble bar, taken by Fuller with his new iPhone:

Like any Portland dive bar worth its salt, the Speakeasy has shuffleboard. If you're thinking of the game that's played on cruise ships, that's deck shuffleboard. This was table shuffleboard, an entirely different animal. It's basically a bar version of curling. Fuller was amped up for a game, but I knew that if that happened, we'd never make it out of the place, so I resolutely refused to get involved. Sorry, Fuller. Next time for sure, buddy!