Sunday, December 16, 2007

Balsamic Pear, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Phyllo Tart

I posted about this back in April, but I figured it's worth a re-post as it makes for a good potluck item, this being the holiday potluck season and all. There's definitely a baklava/spanakopita thing going on here, but it falls between the two on the sweet to savory continuum.


• One 9X13 baking dish
• One pastry brush
• One of those pancake flipper things (I grew up calling it a spatula; it is in fact not a spatula, but rather a pancake flipper thing)


• Phyllo dough, one 1 lb package, thawed
• Unsalted butter, one stick (Not a bad idea to have more handy)
• Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
• Three pears (Bosc will probably work best here), cored and thinly sliced
• Balsamic vinegar, one cup
• Water, four cups
• Goat cheese, twelve oz, softened
• Three large yellow onions
• Salt, one Tbsp
• Walnuts, one cup, chopped

First, you're going to want to slice the onions into three inch pieces (ski goggles are useful here). Heat the olive oil and about 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large saute pan, throw in the onions and caramelize them over medium heat:

When caramelizing onions, it helps to throw a pinch of salt on them, which helps to draw out the sugars. You'll also want to stir them frequently. They'll take about an hour. When they're done, they'll have reduced in volume quite a bit:

While the onions are doing their thing, put the vinegar and water into a good sized sauce pan, bring it to a simmer and add the pears. You don't want them to cook for too long, just long enough for them to soften a little and take on some of the flavor of the vinegar, maybe fifteen minutes. Strain and pat dry.

Next, grease up that baking dish and melt the butter. Phyllo dough usually comes rolled into two half-pound sub-packages. You'll use at least one, and probably half of the other. Unroll the phyllo and lay it flat on your counter. Trim it, if necessary, to fit the baking dish. Lay a slightly damp towel over the dough while it sits, as it will dry out and become difficult to work pretty quickly. Once the onions are finished caramelizing and off the heat, layer 15 sheets of the phyllo into the baking dish, brushing melted butter onto every second or third sheet. Spread the goat cheese and onions over the top:

Layer fifteen more sheets of phyllo on top of the onions, again having brushed every second or third sheet with the butter, and arrange the pear slices in a thin layer:

Layer on fifteen more sheets of phyllo (again with the butter), brush the top with any remaining butter, score the top few layers of phyllo using the classic trapezoidal baklava shape, and sprinkle on the walnuts.

Place into a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes. When done, the top layer of phyllo will be golden but not quite verging on burned, and the walnuts will have a nice toasted appearance. Let it cool, and slice into pieces along the scores. Dig one or two pieces out with your knife and let the pancake flipper thing do the rest of the work.

Send any leftovers to your cardiologist.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Somewhere in Antiquity, a Goat Begins to Dance

If you live in Portland, you've undoubtedly noticed that there exists here a remarkable proliferation of coffee shops. And being as I'm currently studying for the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists' certification exam (and will be for months to come), I'm spending a lot of time in those coffee shops these days. Today's outing was to Crowsenberg's Half and Half. I like this place. It's tiny. It's funky. And Neil Young was rockin' the sound system this afternoon. I couldn't resist taking a photo.

And now, a few bits of local coffee shop related gossip:

• The Red & Black cafe has, according to their website, signed a lease for a new location on SE 12th and Oak, presumably the old Anne Hughes Kitchen Table space:

The R&B was ejected from its previous space by a bunch of greedy motherfu... I mean, the North Rim Development Company. I think the new digs will suit them just fine. And, it's within walking distance of my house!

• The paper is still up in the windows of Billy Wilson's new place. Will it be called Albina Press Too? Or Hawthorne Press, perhaps? Will it ever open? Just what the hell are they doing in there anyway? Incidentally, Billy recently took top honors at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition in Seattle, for the second year in a row. Congrats, Billy! Now open your new shop already, damn it!

• Word has it that Stumptown may be opening an outpost in New York in the "SoMa" (South of Macy's) branch of the Ace Hotel, come 2009. Can London, Paris and Tokyo be far behind?

In unrelated news, border collies are amazing... I discovered today that the unusual noises Burke's been making while I'm trying to sleep recently are due to the fact that he's taught himself to unscrew the knobs on the drawers of my dresser. I'm not kidding; I found two of them on the floor this morning!

That is all... Go drink your coffee.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Raygun... Naked Raygun!

I made my way to Dante's this evening to meet up with the Jon the architect. The occasion for this meet-up at Dante's was a performance by the Chicago based seminal 80's punk outfit Naked Raygun. I never saw these guys back in my high school days, and I was certainly glad to have the belated chance tonight. Once at the club, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, unlike last night, this crowd was composed of people who were likely old enough to have been fans of the Raygun back in the day. Most of them were probably middle managers by now, in fact. But they still had the look (although they were given away by the earplugs they were all wearing; I figure I've still got a good five years before I've gotta wear 'em myself). And they had the energy as well, bless 'em...

San Francisco's Swingin' Utters were a few songs into their set when I arrived. Impressive; Solid punk rock. Not much more than that to be said... they were great. Great enough that I bought a T-shirt, if that's any indication (no faint praise coming from this boy). Once they were done, Pabsts in hand, we waited for the Raygun.

And the Raygun did not disappoint. I spent a good part of their set in the pit, protecting my beer from my fellow weekend warriors, of course, all the while getting jostled a bit more than I'm used to these days. I was tempted to get up there with the band and do a stage dive... would've too, but for that damn beer I was protecting! Okay okay, it wasn't the beer's fault, it was mine... I've got a great medical plan, I really should've stepped up, I suppose. Ah well, next time, I promise!

Anyway, it was a good time. And that's all you're getting out of this aging punk rocker tonight... I gotta go to bed!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

100th Post!

It would seem only appropriate to dedicate this milestone to something I've cooked or eaten recently, but this weekend is not a food weekend. It's a music weekend. So bear with me, people...

This was almost a beer related post. Jenni and I made plans to head to the Holiday Ale Festival happening this weekend in Pioneer Courthouse Square. But at the last moment, we switched gears and decided to meet up with the Irishman and the Architect at a free Yacht/Thermals show at Backspace. We grabbed a quick pint at East and made our way over to the venue, only to find out that they were at capacity, with around 50 people waiting outside. Not too much of a disappointment for me, as I've seen Yacht and The Thermals, but a little bit of a bummer for the other three. So Jenni, the Irishman and I grabbed a Willamette Week and a Mercury and headed to the Shanghai Tunnel to strategize over another pint and some food (I had something called Fugo, a rice bowl with chicken and peanut sauce, which was very tasty; there's your food component), where the Architect and Jenni's friend Mike met up with us. After a quick perusal of the listings, we decided on another free show, a release party for a split 12" between Loch Lomond and The Builders and the Butchers at Slabtown, the storied former hangout of the Dandy Warhols. Unfortunately, we lost Jenni and Mike at this point.

We got to Slabtown only to find that they were at capacity as well, but being as there was no line, we managed to get in within ten minutes or so, in time to catch experimental indie folksters Loch Lomond:

Loch Lomond aren't exactly my cup of tea, but I did like what they were doing. They sort of reminded me of a more etherial version of Belle and Sebastian, but whereas B&S are completely insufferable (I think it was B&S that were referred to as "sad bastard music" in High Fidelity... I could have that wrong, though), Loch Lomond are actually pretty enjoyable, if you're in the right mood. At any rate, next up were The Builders and the Butchers:

These guys were a lot of fun. They've got a vaguely Celtic Mariachi Punk sound, and passed out noisemakers, rattles and toy drums to the audience, which was almost entirely composed of people at least ten years younger than myself. It's good to be part of a rowdy and youngish crowd once in a while.

So that was last night. One possibility for this evening is Naked Raygun at Dante's. Anyway, thanks for reading the nearly food-free centennial post. Hope you enjoyed it. I'm off to rally the troops...