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Twenty minutes from Beaverton exists an island with sand beaches and pick your own produce.   Brett and I were lucky enough to arrive on a warm and sunny day.  I suspect you aren’t as excited by this as I am.  It was sunny and there was sand.  Last time I went to the beach here in Oregon, it snowed.  I didn’t even know it could snow on a beach.

I wanted wrap it all up, stick it in my pocket, and save it for January.  So I did, kinda.  I took lots of pictures and made strawberry jam.  In January, I will be able to crank up my heater, drizzle some strawberry jam on ice cream, and look back on the post.

 

Dear January version of Me,

It will get warm again.  The sun does shine in Oregon sometimes.  Brett is wonderful and he was totally worth moving to Oregon for.  Go eat some strawberry jam.

Love,

Me

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And… We’re Back

Oh my goodness, February was a long month.  I am so sorry to have gone so quiet without warning.  We moved and it took foooreeeeevvvvveerrrr.

We are in the new place, unpacked, and ready to cook.

In addition to the packing, I have spent February  reading other people’s blogs.  I owe you some links to some incredible food writing and photography.

One of the highlights is this post at The Yellow House blog.  In the post, Sarah honors home cooks and the challenges they face.  She expresses concern that perhaps pretty pictures of six-hour food projects take away from the joy of cooking daily.  Taking her lead, the next few posts will be weeknight dinners.  They are not as pretty, elaborate, or pricey as my weekend bake-a-thons but they bring me more joy.

I like providing for my little family of three (update to come).  I like budgeting, considering calories, and the creative use of leftovers.  So stay tuned for White Fish with Lemon Caper Butter, brocoli and Cucumber Salad.  Which, I promise, will post in a timely fashion.

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Infusing Flavor

Before the new year, I removed some of the excess in my life to make room for 2012.  Then, I took stock, made some stock, and figured out that I am looking forward to all sorts of things in the coming year.  Mostly, I am looking forward to adding flavor to the warm, comforting base Brett and I have created.

2011 has been a quiet, cozy year.  I have enjoyed creating a home, getting settled in a job, and adjusting to the dreary Portland weather.  In 2012, I look forward to meeting new people and seeing new places.  Adding some flavor to my warm, comforting home base.  similarly, last week’s stock needs some flavor added.

I served my miso soup with Lemon-Simmered Sweet Potato and New Years Salad.  I really liked both because they are a bright and flavorful way of eating my vegetables.  The kick of color and tart was a nice contrast to the gray day and provided a bit a kick in the pants to enact the goals that I have set for myself    Both recipes came from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku.  Here is my interpretation of the Lemon-Simmered Sweet Potato.

1 cup Basic Sea Stock

10 oz sweet potato cut into chunks

1 small lemon, zest removed and juiced

1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce

1/2 Tbs brown sugar

1.  Combine the stock, lemon juice, and brown sugar.

2.  Bring to a simmer and add the squash.

3.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Test with a toothpick for squash that you can pierce but still meets some resistance.

4.  Flip the squash and cook for another 2 minutes.

5.  Add the soy sauce, swirl, and simmer for 30-40 more seconds.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year

I am inspired by the Japanese traditions surrounding New Year or Oshogatsu.  According to Victoria Abbott Riccardi in Untangling My Chopsticks, “beginning on the eve of December 31 and ending on January 3, it is a time of great joy and renewal.”   Families prepare by thoroughly cleaning their homes, and by paying off social and physical debts.  They enjoy “year forgetting parties” in which they drink and take the opportunity to speak honestly to superiors and colleagues so as the walk into the New Year unburdoned.  During the holiday, no work is done, people pay respects to their elders, cleanse, and rest.  I cannot say that my interpretation of her interpretation of New Years is correct.  However, I like the idea of taking a moment to cleanse oneself and ones house of 2011 before walking into 2012.

Kombu

I did a couple of deep scrubs this week in preparation for the New Year.  One thing I took some time to clean was my budget.  I removed some unnecessary items to make more space in my paycheck for whatever 2012 brings.  I took the opportunity to speak honestly with a good friend about where our friendship might go next.  Brett joined in to the cleaning frenzy  by going through some boxes to decide what to keep and what to give away.  Our house is cleaner, our budget is freer, and I feel a sense of clarity.  In this space of clarity, I hope to set some intentions for 2012 knowing that I am keeping what I want from 2011 and leaving behing that which will no longer serve me.

Having been so inspired by the culture, I took a day to explore Japanese food.  Elizabeth Andoh’s beautiful cookbook Washoku served as my guide.  In the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing more with you about my Japanese culinary adventure as well as some of my intentions for 2012.  In the meantime, I encourage you to make this basic stock which will serve as the basis for the meal to come and take some time to determine what from 2011 need a deep cleaning to prepare for 2012.

Basic Sea Stock

Katsuo-bushi

15-20 square inches kombu 

4 1/4 cups cold water

1/2 cup katsuo-bushi

Place the Kombu in a pot with the water.

Let soak for 10-15 minutes

Heat until bubbles start to form.  Remove from heat.

Add the katsuo-bushi.

3-4 minutes later, strain stock.

 

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Sausage Mushroom Pesto Pasta

One of the delightful things that Fall has brought is a veggie box split with friends. Brett and I get enough veggies for the week and regular meal inspiration as we try to figure out what to do with the contents of the box.  Not knowing what is going to arrive in the box creates space for me to be spontaneous.  As we enter a season rich with traditions, I encourage you to allow yourself space for spontaneity as well even if it is in little things like what to do with a veggie box.

???

Every week, our veggie box has contained a new unidentifiable green leafy vegetable.  To the left are this weeks greens.  Seriously, what are these?!?  The one on the left is sour and wilted quickly while the one on the right is bitter and more durable.  If you have any insight, let me know.

In the end, what they were mattered less than the bitter greens pesto they turned into.  Garlicy with a bite, this pesto eased my guilt about the sausage that also found its way into the pasta.  Because, you know. . . if there is something healthy and green in your meal it okay to add something fatty and delicious. . . right?

1 large bunch bitter greens

1/4 onion

3 garlic cloves

 2 Tbs olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

1.       Roughly chop greens, onion, and garlic.

2.       Blend until almost smooth.

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An Update from the Field

I got this e-mail from my dad and think it is probably relevant to you all as well.  Can you see where I get my food obsession?

 

Ali-

So . . . Central and SoCal will have fresh crab next week.  Portland will have fresh crab December 15.

My favorite time of year; paired with Fettucine Alfredo and a dry champagne (Korbel Natural is a favorite).If I was blogging, this would be excitement!

Also, remember that the Beaujolais Nouveau is released November 17.  Serve slightly cool and its fruitiness is wonderful with poultry or pork and brie is the classic cheese pairing.

Enjoy!

Dad

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/12/BAFB1LTQ8G.DTL

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Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes with a pumpkin spice filling and a ginger buttercream.  I like these because the cake is dense and moist with a pumpkin spice filling that is a fun surprise.  I’m not sure if these cupcakes will replace the traditional pumpkin pie at my family’s Thanksgiving but they are darn tasty.

I used a yellow cupcake and a buttercream recipe as the base from The Bakers Field Guide to Cupcakes.  I really like this cookbook because Dede Wilson leaves very precise instructions at each step to ensure success.  I have not included her level of detail here.  However, I added pumpkin puree and dropped the amount of milk to make a pumpkin cake base.  I also cut the butter in the butter cream by half  because the texture was perfect and three sticks of butter seemed a bit much.

12 paper liners

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare cupcake tin with paper liners.

2.  Beat butter until creamy with an electric mixer.

3.  With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar.  Then gradually add the eggs.  Wait for each addition to fully absorb before continuing.

4.  Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin puree and milk.

5.  Add one quarter of the  flour mixture to the butter mixture, then one quarter of the puree mixture.  Beat briefly until smooth on low-medium speed and repeat until all of the flour mixture and puree mixture is incorporated.

6.  Divide the batter into the 12 liners and bake for 15 minutes.

While the cupcakes are baking:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Brown sugar, cinnamon, and powdered ginger to taste.

1 egg

1.  Mix pumpking puree with brown sugar, cinnamon, and powdered ginger.  Add ingredients slowly and taste frequently.

2.  Add egg.

3.  Fill pastry pipe with pumpkin spice mix.  Choose a thin tip.

Pull out the cupcakes.

1.  Insert the tip of the pastry pipe 1/2 way into the cupcake.

2.  Fill until cracks start to form along the top of the cupcake.  The goal is to get about 1 tablespoon of pumpkin spice mix into the cupcake.

3.  Repeat for all 12 cupcakes.  Bake for 3 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting

2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup water

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1.  Place 2/3 cup sugar, water, and candy thermometer in a small pot.  Stir.  Bring to boil over medium high heat.  Dip pastry brush in cold water and wash down sugar crystals from the sides of the pan.

2. Place the egg whites in a standing mixer and whip on low speed until frothy.  When soft peaks form, add 3 tablespoons sugar.  Continue whipping until peaks are stiff and glossy.

3.  Bring sugar-water to a rapid boil until it reaches 248 – 250 degrees.

4  Continue whipping egg whites on low.  Pour a thin steady steam of the sugar-water over the meringue without pouring any on the whisk attachment or the sides of the bowl.

5.  Whip at high-speed untill cool.  When the merengue is cool, add the room temperature butter a couple of tablespoons at a time.

6.  Keep beating until the butter cream is smooth.  If it liquefies, don’t get discouraged.  Keep whipping at high-speed, it will firm up.

7.  Add ginger to taste.

8. Insert butter cream into pastry pipe.  Pipe onto the now cool cupcakes.

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