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Brian has a habit of secreting in a tin of grocery store onion dip occasionally. I’d never even seen the stuff myself, and it has that addictive flavor of something highly unnatural. Here’s the simple, natural response to such cancer-inducing stuff, and unlike many “homemade” versions of junk food, I think it’s actually better. It requires a bit of patience to caramelize the onions (it will take longer than you think) but it’s worth it in the end, because you get tartness from the yogurt, sweetness from the onions and balsamic, and a tiny hint of heat from the cayenne. I may need to have a party just to make this dip again!

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I keep looking at the 10 day forecast on weather.com, and it keeps showing me these awful, awful things. Like 90+ degree days with horrible little graphics of clouds and lightning bolts. It’s enough to give me nightmares about hair frizz.

This, however, is a good little dessert recipe to have in your pocket if you are suffering from the “no central air” problem and live somewhere with an equally unbearable summer climate. Cheesecake without the oven. Now, this is no New York-style Junior’s cheesecake, I admit that. But it’s tasty, cold, and goes nicely with all that berryliciousness at the farmer’s market.

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s site, and it called for a 6″ springform pan. I could only find a 7″ one…and I’m one of those idiots that will buy a pan just to make one recipe. I’m positive you could double it and just make a regular sized cheesecake, but if you’re feeling like buying something useless, go for it. It’s also very cute in the small size, if that convinces you!

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I am not one to let this travesty of a weather situation get me down. Just because the lower half of my apartment feels like the ninth circle of hell does not mean I will succumb to crappy take-out. I have rediscovered my love of avocados (it’s all good fat, I promise) and what I like to call “things on toast” as of late. Trader Joes has this nifty bag o’ avocados for cheap, and they’re all little baby ones — the perfect quantity for one person and two slices of whole grain toast. Also good on toast, for future reference: any kind of cheese, peanut butter & jelly, hummus, cottage cheese with fruit, etc. etc.

My inspiration for this ridiculously simple dinner comes in part from an adorable little hole in the wall somewhere on Mulberry or Mott or one of those little streets that are littered with boutiques I can’t afford. It’s called Cafe Gitane, and it’s extremely European and extremely tiny. They serve, quite literally, avocado on multigrain toast. It’s kinda mashed up, it’s drizzled with olive oil, it’s sprinkled with salt and red pepper flakes. So simple. So delicious.

I added some fresh mozzarella, which I melted by toasting my bread in a pan with some butter (camp-out style) as opposed to turning on my oven so as to use the broiler. I also had a hunk of jicama in my fridge, which I diced and combined with some diced radishes, finely minced red onion, lime juice, a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Voila! “Things on toast” + cold crunchy salad = almost no heat dinner. Enjoy!

Thank you, New York, for being as crappy in the weather department as I always complain you are. I know it could be worse, but we are experiencing some serious August weather in June, and I’m just not prepared for it. The next couple of days have 90+ degree weather and thunderstorms in store for us, which if you have not experienced, consider yourself lucky. The subway is like an armpit, everything (and everyone) stinks, and my kitchen in particular will not be a friendly home to those seeking shelter from the heat. Now that I live in a 2 level apartment (it’s like a 1 bedroom but split into two levels, lest you think I am fancier than I am) I see the down side of having just one air conditioner. At least I can sleep at night, but I certainly can’t stand any prolonged heat in the kitchen.

So this taco salad last night, which I accompanied with quesadillas filled with some leftover vegetarian taco filling I made over the weekend, was just right. Crisp, cool, citrusy, and requiring little to no heat to create. I have a feeling I’m going to be getting very creative with no heat meals in the upcoming months. Perhaps I should try a raw diet….on second thought, that sounds terrible, and I think Brian would finally revolt.

This salad consisted of chopped romaine, hunks of jicama (key in a taco salad, in my opinion), tomatoes, red onions, quickly sauteed fresh corn, avocado, cilantro, and a simple vinaigrette of fresh lime & orange juice with cumin, a pinch of salt and olive oil. Black beans would round this out without the need for quesadillas, but who doesn’t love melted cheese??

This is not a recipe for Pad Thai. I know that. But it kind of resembles it, sort of. It would have resembled it even more, but the produce deli I go to was out of bean sprouts and had no thai chilis, although they normally do. And I forgot to buy scallions. And tamarind paste. Actually, I didn’t “forget” to buy that — it implies I knew to buy it in the first place. I realized I should have known to buy it after I got home, and had I looked at the Pad Thai recipe on the side of the package of rice noodles, I would have known. Oh well. I actually think this turned out really, really well, considering how much of a completely made up dish it really is.

Of course if you follow Mark Bittman’s recipe for Pad Thai, it doesn’t mention tamarid paste anywhere, so I’m no more of a cultural ignoramus than he is, at least as it relates to Thai food. Or so I’m telling myself.

I’ve been trying to integrate as many vegetables as possible in everything I’ve made lately, so tomato sauces get extra mushrooms and zucchini, and this got some extra cabbage and green beans. Here’s my recipe — you can bastardize it as much as I have bastardized actual Pad Thai, and I bet it’ll still be good! It’d be vegetarian except for the fish sauce, so if you are vegetarian, sub out for extra soy sauce and you’ll be good to go.

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Admittedly crappy lighting in this photo, but I hope you can appreciate how freaking delicious this pie was just by looking at it. Perhaps Deb’s photos on smitten kitchen will convince you (that link has the recipe as well, if you’re interested). You’ve got to try this crust — it was super flaky and crisp, such a nice contrast to the buttery texture of the fruit. The only changes I made to this recipe were to add about a cup of blueberries and a bit of extra crème fraîche (maybe 2 additional T.). This pie is really easy to make, and would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer bbq, chilled, room temperature, or still warm from the oven. It’s great any way you slice it.

It’s amazing what a week of not walking will do to your system (or I should say, not walking the absurd amount most New Yorkers do…). Getting back from Oregon, I felt sluggish and bloated. Now, that may have had more to do with the red-eye flight than anything else, but I wanted to have a fresh dinner to combat that memory of having eaten a bag of Doritos snack mix on the plane. Gross.

I cooked two boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a nonstick pan (flattened a bit to be a more uniform thickness), just with a touch of oil and salt & pepper to season them. After they were done, I put them on a plate and tented foil over it to keep them hot. I added about 1 1/2 T. of butter to the pan, browned it (careful to not burn!) and then threw in some capers, fresh thyme, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. This was a fantastically nutty, tangy quick pan sauce to top the chicken with, and I served it with some brown basmati rice cooked in chicken broth with garlic and shallots. At the end, I stirred in some chopped spinach and basil for greenery and herbage.

This won’t fix jet lag, but it’ll make you feel pretty good otherwise. I still have at least one more Oregon-related post in me, but photo editing has taken a back seat to unpacking, running errands, and alas, working.

Just a few snaps from the lovely Portland Farmer’s Market, which I visited in the park blocks on Wednesday.

I had this post sitting, waiting to go up before I left for vacation…so here it is! I was in a rush so the pic is crummy, but use your imagination.

Latkes are so simple and quick — the shredded veggies cook up in no time, and you can spice them up with whatever you want. I found a recipe for beet latkes and decided to combine them with the sweet potatoes. For a simple topping, you could just add a dollop of sour cream (always yummy with beets — think borscht) and if you like dill, it’d probably be great with this as well. I chose to make this tangy green apple & celery slaw instead, with greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo. The crunchy texture of the slaw goes nicely with the crisp yet soft latkes. A great weeknight meal served in this case with some Trader Joe’s chicken sausage for bulk.

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Bunk Sandwiches is not a place you’d come across just by walking around Portland. It’s in a strange spot, just over the Morrison Street Bridge, in between a music shop and an extremely sketchy bar in a fairly industrial few blocks. Its storefront is probably 15 feet wide. But it was buzzing with activity when we stopped there for lunch yesterday. I’m sure anyone who works in the area knows and loves it, since the other lunch options around are limited essentially to Subway. Why anyone would pay for a crap sandwich from Subway when such delicious sandwiches are throwing distance, I will never know.

Bunk also has some great branding — their simple logo is stamped on everything, from the coffee cups to the paper that sits under the sandwiches to the t-shirts for sale (they say Bunkity Bunk Bunk on the back — I almost wanted to get one). They also serve other local goodies, like cupcakes and “pie holes” and the famous Stumptown Coffee, which has now made its way to Brooklyn thankfully. I enjoyed a very delicious roast chicken salad sandwich with applewood bacon and avocado, and Brian went for the meatball sub. Both excellent choices. I think Bunk has officially made the list of mandatory Portland visit stops.