Rustic White Beans With Spinach (Or, Leftovers In A Ziplock Bag)

I love the surprises that come from my leftovers. This recipe was born from a slightly barren fridge and a lack of to-go containers. It’s perfect for work consumption, works well from cooking ahead (try making the beans and sauce in big batches on Sunday), but also would be equally successful from twisting open a jar of marinara and a can of beans-all a matter of preference. This recipe, which is sweet from the tomatoes and toothsome from the beans, is comforting and healthful at the same time.

Speaking of, you may notice a lack of holiday recipes on my site, and it’s intentional. There are so many cookie recipes, dips for parties, cakes, fudges, etc. being covered everywhere that I like to cover the other 24 days of the holiday season. Recipes when you want uncomplicated and flavorful meals that aren’t for your in-laws (not to mention I’m a horrendous baker).

Ingredients

1 cup of white beans (cooked from scratch or canned)

2 cups of red sauce (recipe below or your favorite jarred kind)

2 huge handfuls of spinach

2 slices of bread for toast

Method:

If you’re taking this meal with you, simply load all the ingredients except the bread in a large ziplock bag or to-go container. When you’re ready to eat, microwave for three minutes or simmer on your stove at medium heat for 10-15. Serve with your favorite toasted bread drizzled with olive oil for scooping.

My Go-To Red Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 lb button mushrooms

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

1 bay leaf

2 cans of whole tomatoes

Method:

Warm the oil in a large saucepan at medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about eight minutes. Toss in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add the mushrooms and spices, stirring for about six minutes until lightly browned and some of the juices have released. Don’t be afraid to go crazy with the black pepper here-it’s the base of your sauce so it’ll pay off later in flavor after simmering away on your stove.

Next, open your cans of tomatoes and get messy–squeeze each tomato  with your hands in the pot (low so you don’t spill on yourself, which I have a habit of doing), or squish with a potato masher. Add the remaining tomato liquid and the bay leaf, and bring the sauce to a simmer at medium low heat. Now, walk away. The longer it cooks, the chunkier the sauce will be, my ideal time is about 30-40 minutes. When your sauce is at the consistency of your liking, fish out the bay leaf and serve.

Note: You can play with the flavors by adding wine, tomato paste, etc. based on what recipe you’re using the sauce for-this is just a base, make it your own!

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Oven and Shaker Twists Traditions This Wednesday

Connoisseurs of cocktails often say that you must first master traditional drink recipes before you can move forward and alter them creatively. If this axiom

Photo by Jennifer Heigl

is true for pizza, Nostrana’s Cathy Whims can put whatever she wants on her pies.

Tomorrow night in the Pearl marks the opening of Oven and Shaker, a pizza and cocktail lovechild from Whims and Ryan Magarian, with help from ChefStable’s brilliant Kurt Huffman. While Whims stays true to Italian culture at her restaurant Nostrana, Oven and Shaker is more about sipping a great cocktail and eating dishes that aren’t always rigid with the traditionalism.

Last night at a preview event she told me, “This menu is more relaxed. We’re playing with our pizzas more, we’ve got things like Brussels Sprouts on them…we might even have one with pineapple at some point.” The menu’s pies are topped with combinations like chanterelle mushrooms, radicchio and fried sage and a cheese-less pie with white anchovies and fried capers. Sometimes, the menu even takes unexpected risks like adding a little wild honey to a Calabrese salami pizza. Other dishes take some inspiration from Sicilian street food (often in the fried variety) like three types of arancini (including one with a beef and pea ragu and saffron risotto) and fried cheeses like mozzarella in carozza with anchovy caper salsa. Perhaps the most impressive are the lamb lollipops (shockingly tender lamb chops lightly fried and squeezed with lemon).

And the “Shaker” part of Oven and Shaker is definitely something to be equally excited

Photo by Jennifer Heigl

about. Namely,a pineapple concoction titled the Pineapple Trainwreck with just enough spicy ginger to kick the usually cloying affect found in similar cocktails elsewhere. And like  Cathy’s food dishes, Magarian takes smart risks like his Pepper Smash- an Aquavit drink with bell pepper juice and mint leaves, and a Manhattan made with high-end tequila that’s not for quitters.

The restaurant will be open nightly for now, with plans for lunch in the future. And if you do go, please save me a seat—this is definitely the woodfire oven pizza spot I’ve been waiting for on the West side.

1134 NW Everett St 4pm-12 am, opens Wednesday November 30th

Week’s Eats-Because I Want To Talk Restaurants, Dammit.

I realize I read and talk about Portland’s food scene quite a bit and I thought I’d start sharing what I know. I’ve got plenty of reliable and talented sources, but I understand not everyone reads 6 food websites regularly to hear what’s opening, closing etc. So, I decided I’d start posting about new restaurants/chef changes/dishes I’ve tasted so you can read it all in one spot with a Kat twist. Any place you’re wondering about? Let me know in the comments.

 

November 14th-18th

Over the weekend:

Last Saturday Portland’s second Dick’s Kitchen opened in the NW 21st  area. DK is a health-inspired (?) burger joint with dishes like grass-fed burgers and kale chop salads.

Last Saturday also brought in a drinking abode for fans of effervescence: Ambonnay had its grand opening in the same SE building that houses the first Olympic Provisions. The spot serves sparkling sips from around the world as well as vegetarian small plates (do I detect a little drinker stereotyping? Okay, they might be right….)

And lastly, the weekend also delivered  BJ Smith (formerly chef at The Original)’s Smokehouse 21 in NW 21st (no site that I could find, but here’s Eater’s preview.) The menu will be available for takeout and bike delivery as well as eating in. And it looks like it has the usual suspects, nice and smoke-ified: pork, brisket, and sausage, with some unexpected, like smoked trout and bacon molasses cornbread. An added bonus— there’s an abundance of housemade sauces (and a mustard one with my name on it).

Tuesday, November 14th:

The much talked about, much sought-after beginning of the West Side Pizza Revolution has arrived (more on that in the coming weeks with Oven & Shaker, Sizzle Pie, etc.). Via Tribunali is a PDX version of a Seattle pizza hub (thanks to restaurateur bad-ass Bruce Carey) and I anticipate great things. Wood fire oven pies with calzones and cocktails open late for downtowners? I’m in, I’m in, I’m in.

And since this is my first restaurant post, I’ll direct you to the new spots I’ve liked recently:

Woodsman Tavern: Brought to us from the owners of Stumptown, this place has just as much Swank as Portland will allow. With a seafood-heavy menu (Someone! Finally!) and cocktail superstar Evan Zimmerman at the bar, this is definitely the place you’ll want to spend any extra money you might have.

Luce: Opened with not nearly enough fanfare, this is an intimate (and yes, small) Italian restaurant recently opened on East Burnside. The menu is shockingly well-priced and the dishes are what Italian food should be: simple and unfussy. I’d suggest the rich Bolognese to shake off any of that winter chill we’ve been having.

Well, that’s all for now, but don’t worry, there are plenty more openings in the Portland food forecast. Let me know if this was helpful or if you have any suggestions in the comments!

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.

Because None Of Us Have Time

Often, the rebuttal to cooking  is, “I would love to! But I have no time.” As my own life shifts from graduate student to a full time office folk, I can commiserate.

So I thought I would direct you busy people (and remind myself) of the “fast” category on my blog (over there on the right side). These are recipes you can pull together the night before work or in about ten-fifteen extra minutes in the morning. Also, some thoughts about fast cooking:

1) It helps to plan. Menu planning can feel a little OCD, but I learned a lot from local food writer Kathleen Bauer in this post.

The post on her blog, GoodstuffNW suggests cooking big batches of dishes that don’t require a lot of effort on your day off. That way, you have something you can reach for each night when you get home, or on your way out the door in the morning. Lately for me, that’s been a big batch of beans (cooked on the stove-so cheap & much more flavorful than canned), a batch of steel cut oatmeal, and usually some kind of seasonal produce (last week it was green beans with shallots, garlic, white wine and tomatoes).

2) Don’t be afraid to be simple. Just because you don’t have an hour to pull together a 50 step recipe with 35 ingredients doesn’t mean your food won’t be great. The best meals embrace simplicity, anyway like toast with garlic and a fresh tomato, or popcorn with olive oil and salt.

3) On the other hand, creativity is your friend. There is absolutely no need to stick to traditional. While leftover roasted vegetables, brown rice and soy sauce may not show up on a brunch menu anytime soon (or maybe it will, this is PDX after all), if it fills you up til lunch, it’s okay by me.


What are your go-to busy meals/ or what do you wish you knew how to prepare quickly?

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).