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hawthornecarts

Last night, after spending some time at the Doug Fir, a strangely calculated and even more strangely attended bar in SE Portland, we headed off to SE 12th and Hawthorne to check out some more food carts on a friend’s recommendation. Good late night grub. It was when we pulled up across the street and saw the bustling scene, complete with white lights on strings and numerous picnic tables, that I realized how big the food cart movement is in Portland.

I guess it makes perfect sense, if you have a large number of small, local food producers, that they might band together and create this kind of environment. Running a food cart (even for nearly 20 hours a day, which is how long these carts are open) must be significantly cheaper than renting permanent space. And by clumping the carts together, you’re each benefitting from the others’ popularity. I’m not sure how well-loved they are by the neighboring businesses (someone’s car got towed from a nearby parking lot while we were there, the poor girl running down the street yelling a friend’s name with a cone of Belgian style fries in her hand) but it is a fairly sparsely populated area, and so they must benefit from the foot traffic at least a little.

crepeandsteak

I had a crepe with ham and gruyere, and Brian had a Philly cheesesteak. We shared a delicious vanilla milkshake. I didn’t have my trusty camera with me, so I used my favorite iPhone application, “Shake It”, to get a few Polaroid-esque shots.

fries

creperie

Quick post from Portland here…spinach

Having lived in Beaverton, Oregon throughout middle school and high school, I never really appreciated Portland as much as I could have. Teenage angst and all. But Downtown Portland is really only a 15 minute drive away, and in the intervening years, the food scene has exploded. One of the major attractions is the many high quality food carts.

Brian and I drove down to check it out — a major concentration exists at Alder and 9th / 10th Avenues. And it was something to behold! There were about 20 carts, selling all kinds of cuisines, from Thai to Mexican to artisan sandwiches. It was awesome. I decided on Ziba’s Pitas — which are less pitas than stuffed fried dough…like a cross between a pastry and spanikopita. The dough is somewhat chewy and flaky at the same time, and apparently this cuisine is Bosnian. Bosnian! Have you ever eaten Bosnian food? Probably not.

I got the full plate, which included this bright red sauce (apparently roasted vegetables) which was slightly spicy and bitter. It was a nice contrast to the cool cucumber and sour cream salad. Vaguely Greek or Middle Eastern, but definitely its own thing.

Here are a few more pictures of the very idyllic scene. Soon I’ll post about my trip to the Portland institution Otto’s Sausage Company! Off to Seattle…

carts

zibaspitas

foodcart

Things have been a little slow around here the past week or so, and that’s because I have vacation on the brain. Tomorrow night I’ll be headed to Portland, Oregon, where I promise to visit farmer’s markets, take pictures, and eat some good food. I’ll try to post while I’m there. And it couldn’t come soon enough — I don’t think I can tolerate another day of this New York August weather!

tomatoes

I’ll confess — I used to hate tomatoes. Except that I liked tomato sauces, and generally things that contained tomatoes when they were cooked. But show me a tomato in a salad (which, to their credit, my parents continued to attempt even though I ate around them) and I would just not touch it. No way. There was something luridly tomato-ey about raw tomatoes. TOO MUCH LIKE A TOMATO. But…I guess we all change, huh? “Your tastebuds will change”. How many times did you hear that growing up? I heard it A LOT.

So now that I like tomatoes, it makes me sad that there’s been a late season tomato blight in New York. I still see lots of gorgeous heirlooms at the farmer’s market, but I’ve heard local restaurants that usually take advantage of the seasonal local produce have had to change it up. Sad. Since the volume of tomatoes I personally use is so small, I’m still faring OK. Tonight, I made a salad with heirlooms of many colors, ricotta salata, and something called “bush basil”, which tastes like basil but has very small, densely packed leaves.

Before I serve, I’ll drizzle with some olive oil, balsamic, and salt & pepper. But here the tomatoes are, in all their glory.

tomato salad

I will officially be cementing my reputation as a baker at the Fierce & Sweet bake-off in October, benefiting New York Cares. If you don’t know about New York Cares, you should — they make it very easy to volunteer with a ton of New York area non-profits, on as frequent or infrequent basis as works for you. Check out the Fierce & Sweet page for info about the cause, judges, and to RSVP for some baked deliciousness!!

I have no idea what I’m making yet, but rest assured my test batches may make it onto this blog…I just won’t reveal it’s for the competition until afterward in the interest of intrigue!

raspberrycake2

Sunday means baking. And laundry. But more enjoyably, baking.

This is a simple, sweet cake to take you into the week. This particular week is my last before a week of vacation, so it’s extra sweet. Deb from Smitten Kitchen (where I found the recipe, although it is originally from Gourmet…what a tangled web we weave) calls this an “everyday cake”. And it’s true — this cake came together very quickly, with minimal ingredients. The texture of the batter as it goes into the pan is divine. It was so light, fluffy, and extremely glossy. As I was smoothing it into the pan I was imagining what kind of crumb a batter like that would produce and I was right. Soft, super moist, and light. This is an awesome summer dessert, when the berries are fresh and juicy.

The only modifications I made were to sub almond extract for vanilla, and I omitted the lemon zest. I also baked mine in an 8 1/4″ cake pan instead of 9″…I don’t think it needed more than a few minutes added onto the cooking time suggested. Check your cake about 5 minutes before it’s supposed to be done. The line between underbaked and overbaked is a fine one with this cake. I will say that it is probably a good idea to add parchment paper to the bottom of your pan. Despite the buttering and flouring I still managed to half destroy my cake trying to get it out. It is quite delicate. Good thing it still tastes delicious!

raspberrycake

ricebowl

You know what I’m talking about. Weeknight food is different from weekend food. Sometimes weeknight food is a bowl of cereal at 9:30 pm. Worse things have happened. Tonight, I was determined to do better than cereal. It’s been a busy few days at work, and with my vacation coming up, of course I am busier than ever. Mustering the energy to cook anything when it’s 90 degrees out and 180% humidity is difficult, and when you factor in what I like to call “summer brain” it’s game over.

On the train home I was wracking (racking? I believe there is some controversy over the correct usage here) my brain to come up with something to make that involved little to no purchasing of ingredients. Things I knew I had: romaine lettuce, brown rice, cilantro, tomatillo salsa, goat cheese, 1/2 a zucchini, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 a lime, and garlic. So…what about one of my cold / hot salad combos? I love love love hot brown rice on cold salad greens. Don’t ask me why, I just do. All I had to buy for this particular dish was black beans. This is a fridge clean-out idea, so improvise based on your own ingredients. Mine happened to feature Latin flavors, but yours may skew more Asian, or Italian, or Greek. Just go with it.

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evobread

People go nuts for Dorie Greenspan (and by people, I mostly mean foodies and food bloggers). Her specialty is baked goods, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. This is possibly the simplest cake you’ll ever make — and it’s mouth-wateringly moist and delicious. The texture is something like pound cake, but made with olive oil instead of butter, and it’s not too sweet in the slightest. I added a simple lime juice and powdered sugar glaze (to complement the lime zest in the recipe), but it would be delicious without.

Here is the recipe at Serious Eats: EVO and Yogurt Loaf Cake

pastacreamsauce

I’m not typically a fan of creamy sauces — I find fettuccine alfredo way too rich. But in thinking up a way to use the lovely corn I got from the market, I thought a creamy basil sauce with corn sounded nice. And it was! The sauce was not overly thick, and the main texture takeaway was the crispy, sweet corn. This could easily be made without the corn as a way to use up some spare basil, but I think the corn really makes it. The best part about this dish is that besides the prep of chopping, the actual cooking time takes about 10 minutes, so no slaving over a hot stove in summer. I had mine over a bed of arugula dressed with just a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Tangy!

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eggsandwich

An egg sandwich is one of the world’s most perfect foods. I even have a soft spot for deli egg sandwiches with American cheese (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone!). But if you’re in for a more artisan breakfast, I’d suggest this route.

I took a thick slice of ciabatta bread and cut it in half, then toasted both sides. I put a little bit of goat cheese on the bottom layer, then a slice of prosciutto, then a small handful of arugula, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar. I topped it with a fried egg (still a little soft in the yolk but nice and crispy around the edges – the trick is cooking at very high heat) and salt & pepper. This is my new favorite weekend breakfast sandwich. With Brian out of town, I may even have another one for dinner!

eggsandeaten

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