Tip of The Week: Utilize Your Freezer

downloadThis week’s kitchen tip is brought to you by…your freezer. No, I’m not someone that has quarts of homemade chicken stock tucked away between my bags of frozen blueberries and peas. Though I definitely admire those who do. My kind of freeze-planning ahead usually comes from having too much of something or not wanting it to go bad right away. Here are the 4 things I usually have lurking somewhere in my freezer:

Ginger

Ever had a nubby little ginger root go bad on you in one week flat? Your freezer can prevent this. Simply cut off the end of one side of the root so the interior is exposed and pop it in a small ziplock. Then, use your microplane or small holes on a cheese grater to zest ginger into smoothies or stir-fries.

Lentils

This has saved my work lunches for more than a year now. On a slow Sunday I make some variation of this lentil recipe and then freeze 1/4 cup amounts small Ziploc bags. Then, all I have to do is pack a kale salad and grab a bag of frozen lentils on my way out the door. At lunchtime, I microwave the lentils on a plate for about a minute and pop them on top of my salad so I can still have something warm to eat on the coldest days.

Grains

As I write this, I’m currently eating a salad enhanced by some farro I cooked months ago and  popped into bags the same way I do with lentils. You can do this with rice, barley, or any other grain, too. Just expect a little bit chewier texture than it’s original form.

Bananas

Is a bundle of bananas on your counter starting to freckle? Take off their peels, cut them in any size (or not), and to the freezer they go. Now you have a way to make your smoothies sweet and creamy whenever you need them.

That’s all for now, have a great weekend, and eat well!

Tangy Kale Salad With Dates & Toasted Nuts

This salad has become my go-to work lunch lately. It’s fast to prepare—you don’t even need to dirty a knife—it takes on additions well (sometimes I add garlic or anchovies), and it’s filling enough to hold me through the day.

I often switch out the toasted nuts for whatever I have on hand (walnuts, sliced almonds, slivered almonds, etc.). The only important part is that you toast the nuts. It doesn’t take long, just a few minutes in a skillet on medium low until they change color a bit and they start to smell delightful. Oh, and if you do decide to use minced garlic, go with half a clove—for the sake of your coworkers.

Ingredients

1/2 bundle of curly kale

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar (I like white)

10 or so toasted nuts (walnuts, sliced or slivered almonds, etc.)

5 pitted dates

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Method

Take the kale bundle and use your fingers to tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Put all the pieces in a to-go container or the bowl you’ll be using.

Add the oil and massage it into the leaves with your fingers, then do the same with the vinegar. Do one tablespoon, mix, then the other.

Add the nuts (feel free to add beans here for more protein if you like), and then tear the dates into pieces and toss them into the mixture as well. Season aggressively with salt and pepper and let it marinate for a few hours if you can.

What’s your go-to packable lunch?

2 Recipes: California Breakfast Pudding & Sriracha Broccoli With Honey Butter

I thought I’d give you two recipes this morning, since I was feeling indecisive about which recipe to blog. Enjoy!

California Morning Pudding

Adapted from Food and Wine, specifically by Grace Parisi

Have you had chia seeds yet? They’re sort of the kale chips of the online food world right now;­­­ they seem seem to be everywhere. Given their health properties (hello, fiber, protein and omega 3s), rich history and interesting texture, they were bound to show up in my cooking rotation eventually. The seeds become boba or tapioca-like when soaked in liquid (in fact, some just sip them in water as a refreshing drink), but more importantly, they give me an excuse to eat pudding for breakfast.

I call this California Morning Pudding because its toppings: dates, oranges and almonds, are all from my home state. Their contribution to the dish is a layer of acerbic sweetness, which is the just the right way to be woken up on a cold winter morning. Oh, and I hate to oversell you new ingredients here, but Cara Cara oranges are another thing you should seek out if you ever get the chance. They’re the less bitter cousin of grapefruit, who has still inherited that same gorgeous blush.

Ingredients

2 ½ cups unsweetened soy milk

½ cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons of honey

3 Medjool dates, pitted and torn into pieces

1 Cara Cara orange, peeled and sliced (you can sub grapefruit or any other orange)

6 or 7 almonds

Method

Mix together the first 3 ingredients in a quart container (I used a leftover yogurt container). Shake or stir the mixture, cover and let it sit in your refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, give the mixture a good stir. Spoon about a cup or so of the pudding into a bowl and top with the dates, oranges and almonds. The leftover pudding will last for a week.

Broccoli With Sriracha Honey Butter and Toasted Sesame Seeds

I’ve been working from my pantry a lot lately. And if this is “cooking with what you have”, I’m thinking I should do it more often. Honeyed and spicy with just enough fat to add some flavor, this dish is great on its own as well as stirred into a salad or noodles.

Ingredients

1 cup broccoli, steamed in a steam basket or the microwave

generous squirt of Sriracha hot sauce (or more)

1 teaspoon of honey

½ tablespoon of unsalted butter or olive oil

toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method

Top hot broccoli with the rest of the ingredients, stir and enjoy.

Melissa Clark’s Spicy Calamari With Israeli Couscous

I’m not one for posting other’s recipes unless I somehow riff on them. But tonight I am singing the praises from my apartment that smells like lemon, garlic, butter and the sea—and I only have NY Times writer Melissa Clark to thank.

Her book, Cook This Now was just released in October, and it’s everything I like in a cookbook. The recipes are fast (which is nice for after-work preparation), flavorful, and even a little healthy (yes, Ms. Clark I noticed all those whole wheat ingredients!). Each chapter is separated by month, so you cook with what’s in season. Even though this recipe is from the February chapter, it shouldn’t be missed at any time of the year.

Since copyright issues are sticky, I’ll just give you the basics and implore you to go out and buy her book. I’d offer to lend you mine, but I’m already making 3 recipes from it this week…I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon. This recipe reminds me why I love seafood-it’s light but not dull, and almost demands to be washed down with a glass of crisp white wine. The (kind of) recipe:

Cook Israeli couscous according to the package (I like Bob\’s Red Mill) and toss with  a little olive oil. Heat more olive oil in the largest pan you have, and throw in a pound or so of cut calamari, red pepper flakes, parsley, basil, garlic and butter. Toss until opaque, about 4 minutes. Finish with an abundance of lemon. Hide the leftovers from your dining partner.

Porter-Soaked Refried Beans

* Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook *

I’m not a big recipe repeater. My dinner cravings vary week to week, so I don’t often cook something more than once. Then, a few weeks ago, I had some leftover pinto beans from a pot I’d made, so I set out to make Mark Bittman’s Refried Beans recipe I’d been meaning to try. With what I had in my fridge (bell peppers, dark beer and half an onion), I cooked up my own version. The result was a flavorful—a combination of warm spices, rich beer and the smooth texture that defines the best kind of refried beans (in my eyes). And without overselling it, I’ll just say that I made a pot of pintos this week just so I could use the leftovers for this recipe.

Ingredients:

¼ olive oil

4 cups cooked pinto beans

1 bell pepper, chopped

½ an onion, chopped

1 tablespoon of cumin

½ tablespoon of chili powder

¼ teaspoon of cayenne

kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper

¼ cup of dark beer (such as a stout or porter), more as needed

Method:

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan or skillet.

When the olive oil is hot, add the beans. Mash the beans with a potato masher or fork until they’re broken down and about 75% smooth, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the bell pepper and onion and stir thoroughly. Add the spices and the salt and pepper. Raise the heat slightly to medium high. Keep mashing the mixture until the vegetables have softened, about 5 more minutes.

As the mixture becomes dry, add the beer to achieve your desired consistency (I enjoy my refried beans pretty smooth).

Taste your beans, and adjust the spices to your preferences. Remove from heat, and serve.

Serving suggestions: Tucked in burritos, along side brown rice, with cilantro, Dabbed with salsa next to eggs for breakfast. Tonight, I piled them in homemade tortillas, topped with chard, cilantro pesto and hot sauce.

Mary’s Salad

In my hometown of Santa Rosa, California there are few people who don’t have a childhood memory involving Mary’s Pizza Shack. At Mary’s, there were a few things you could always count on. You knew you could get breadsticks to nibble while you waited for your meal. You also knew that in order to retrieve said breadsticks, you had to make a journey up to the counter where teenage guys were tossing dough rounds into the air (oh what a shame when that plastic breadstick bin was empty!). It was a given that you’d  run into someone you knew, and that there was always some sporting event on the televisions. And even though your Dad told you not to, you’d always fill up on the warm sourdough they’d bring to your table with the butter strategically placed under the loaf to soften it. And while the good pizza (great even) was also a part of the Mary’s equation, it’s the Mary’s House Salad I still go back for to this day while visiting.

The salad is a standard Italian American antipasti plate when I think about it: salami, mushrooms, beans, vegetables and a tiny mound of grated cheese to top it off. While some of my friends swore by ranch or raspberry vinaigrette, my heart always belonged to their tangy Italian dressing. I set out to find a recipe (I don’t buy the bottled stuff) for that dressing, and ended up creating my own. The salad recipe below is slightly tweaked from Mary’s original, but it still captures the same spirit.

Italian Dressing, My Way

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons of kosher salt

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons of fresh basil (cut in a chiffonade style)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup of canola oil

1 tablespoon of water

Method

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a closeable ziplock bag. Take two tablespoons of the herb mix and place it in a bowl with the basil. Whisk in vinegar, oil and water. Put away herb mixture for later use.

My Mary’s Salad

3 cups of red leaf lettuce

1/2 cup of kidney beans

1/2 cup of canned beets

1/2 cup of canned green beans

2 very fresh tomatoes (I like Early Girls), sliced

3 large carrots, shredded

5 slices of salami, thinly sliced

1/4 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Mix together the vegetables and legumes in a large bowl, toss with  1/4 cup of dressing. Stir in the salami and top with shredded cheese, season to taste. Serves 2-3 people (with plenty extra salad dressing).

Très Affordable

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard  here

In the past year, Portland’s French scene has grown significantly, with three new spots

Photo by Saria Dy

popping up in various corners of town: there’s downtown’s Little Bird, North Portland’s Cocotte and St. Jack on Southeast Clinton. It’s hard not to feel left out when your slightly slim wallet won’t allow you to try them all in the same month—not to mention keeping up with old favorites like Paley’s Place. Yet, it’s important to remember that while some parts of France are stereotyped (or known for) their big attitudes, good French food is not actually about ego or even about being expensive. Simplicity and quality ingredients are all you need to enjoy a fabulous French meal, in your home or at a restaurant. Here are three ways to consume French excellence without having to pay a Paris-sized bill.

Evoe

This appendage to specialty food shop Pastaworks doesn’t primarily serve French dishes, but their food holds the true spirit of the cuisine. The chefs at Evoe build sandwiches from the fresh produce, carefully crafted charcuterie and array of cheeses from the next-door shop in an uncomplicated yet careful way. Sitting belly up to the counter or at the few sparse tables in the room, you’ll sip rosé while the sun pours in through the window that you will use to spy on Hawthorne shoppers. Each sandwich is elegant and intelligently built; rarely do you leave feeling uncomfortably stuffed.

What to mange: The Parisienne sandwich (thinly sliced ham on a light-as-air baguette) or croque madame (open-faced sandwich with a fried egg and a dab of creamy Mornay sauce).

Price: $7–10

3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Open Wednesday–Sunday, noon–7 p.m.

503-232-1010

Chez You

While it’s always fun to go out and let others cook for you, sometimes the best way to eat French is to cook French. I’m not saying you need to pull out every recipe in Julia Childs’ “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking,” but you’d be surprised what a quick jaunt to the market will do for even the shyest of home cooks. Head to Whole Foods, grab a Ken’s Artisan Bakery baguette, some good cheeses and perhaps a hard cider and take them home to enjoy. If you have some extra cash, asking the deli to thinly slice you a little ham wouldn’t hurt either.

What to mange: Ken’s Artisan Bakery Baguette, Le carrer d’affnois (ridiculously creamy double brie) and some Gruyere for good measure.

Price:$7–12

Whole Foods Market

1250 NW Couch St.

Open 7 a.m.–10 p.m., seven days a week

503-525-4343

St. Jack

Amongst the new French garçons in town, St. Jack stands out. With lovely mood lighting and a classy bar seating area complete with photos of stunning French actresses from the past, happy hour feels a whole lot more elegant than PBR and onion rings. The happy hour menu at St. Jack carries dishes for seafood enthusiasts and carnivores alike. To start, try the butter-lettuce salad, carefully dressed with Dijon vinaigrette and tossed with hunks of avocado and thinly sliced radishes. Later, you can get a decently sized bowl of light broth, creamy clams—each stuffed with garlic—that’s served with French bread for dipping. The burger is over-the-top-memorable with a juicy patty, lardons (for $1 extra) and Gruyere, dabbed with a slightly spicy mustard sauce to balance the richness. On the side are parsley-sprinkled frites with a generous amount of aioli for dunking.

What to mange:Le Hamburger with

Gruyere & bacon

Price:$13-15

2039 SE Clinton St.

Happy Hour: Monday–Saturday 4–5:30 p.m.

503-360-1281