Wednesday, August 27, 2008

and away I go....

That's right folks I am off tomorrow to the first annual Slow Food Nation.  Five days of food, oh fabulous food!!  I will be volunteering Saturday and Sunday then exploring Berkley on Friday and whatever San Francisco has in store!  Wish me luck....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

well helooooo there mr. stripey!

As far as I am concerned, there could be no better representation of the peak of summer as the heirloom tomato.  These fanciful tomatoes grow in a multitude of varieties with names that will evoke a little giggle such as the Hillbilly and Green Zebra, or arouse your curiosity like the Cherokee Purple and the Mortgage Lifter.   While some are quite enchanting with names like Jubilee, Mirabell, and Elfin.
If you haven never tried an heirloom tomato (first off, I'm a bit disappointed!), a Mr. Stripey is a good place to start.  Mild in flavor and texture, this tomato is really quite versatile.  You can find a variety of heirlooms at the local farmers market, just ask around and start trying all kinds of varietals.
The definition of an heirloom (as far as how old the seed has to be) ranges from 50 to up to 100 years but the significance doesn't change.  With agribusiness and mono-crops growing, it is ever more important to be growing and preserving seeds of the past to feed the future.  There are two fabulous groups out there right now that I am aware of:  Renewing America's Food Tradition better known as RAFT and the Ark of Taste.  These two organizations are focused on "saving cherished slow foods through rediscovering and cataloguing" endangered seeds.  There is so much to be said for these two groups please stay tuned for blogs dedicated to RAFT and ARK for more information!  

Ultimately, whether you try them for their history or to support your local farmer or merely for the imaginative names, I promise you, you won't be disappointed!  

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

did I say peaches? I meant pickles.

I figure if we do it a third time it will be considered a pattern, however, if we have learned anything from our past two canning experiences it is to "cut the recipe in half and double the number of jars we are using," according to Dave.  We had 16 pounds of cukes in all.  According to the recipe it was eight pounds of cucumbers per three quarts of pickles.  Just so you all don't think we are crazy, we picked double that for six quarts of pickles.  Long story short, we have fourteen quarts of pickles...whole, halved, and speared.  With pickling spices and without, with garlic and without, processing 15 minutes, processing 10 min.  By eight o'clock last night, we decided a cucumber salad for dinner would be just fine.

peaches peaches everywhere!

sauvie island farm flowers

Dave loves pickles....Dave really loves pickles.  So, last Monday in a drizzle of rain, we trekked out to Sauvie Island (a predominantly farmland and wildlife refuge which is an absolute must see for anyone visiting the area) to pick our own cucumbers for pickling.  While we were there, we noticed that peaches were a mere $1.25 a pound when you bought 15 pounds or guessed, we got 20 pounds, thinking, no big deal, we LOVE peaches, we'll just can those too!  We got them home, started peeling the skins off and found that were were up to our ears in peach, while searching for more bowls to put them in we wondered what else could we possible do with them?  Peach butter it was, but still after simmering down 8 pounds of peaches, we STILL had more there we sat, after a marathon canning extravaganza eating peach cobbler on the floor (for every surface in our apartment was now covered in canned peaches of one kind or another.  All said and done I think we have eight quarts of canned peaches, five pints of peach butter, and enough peach cobbler to feed our apartment complex (or apparently Dave for breakfast if he's "real hungry").    

Pickles would have to wait till tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

a hikin' we will go

                                                         arriving at the falls in one piece!

So, I finished baking really early on Sunday and Dave had a brilliant idea to go enjoy the natural beauty of Oregon while we are still here.   He took me out to Oneonta Falls (don't ask us how to pronounce it for no one here is quite sure!) about 30 minutes away from downtown Portland.  No matter how it is pronounced, it is one of the most beautiful places I have been to yet.  Set deep in a gorge, with walls of rock that are covered in a gorgeous green moss, we hiked over a huge log jam (a bit unnerving) and back through a stream (waist deep at times of freezing cold mountain run off) to the waterfall.  It was really quite breath taking... as was the icy water, but refreshing after the 100 degree weather we have been sweating through the past couppla days!                                                           

the log jam we precariously climbed over!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For Love of the Oven

Where oh where to begin?  I promise folks to try and keep it short, I just wanted a chance to give a bit of background on my passion for the wood fired oven and why it is one of the few things I can not live without in my life.

I have had the pleasure of working with five different wood fired ovens in the past two and a half years, mostly Alan Scott designs with the exception of the current oven which is a Mugnaini (pronounced moohn-ya-ni).  No matter what the name, I have found a rhythm with each oven and a relationship forms - though none of the ovens are my own personal oven, I feel they have become a part of me.

The Mugnaini that I use currently at Tastebud, I must say, has been the most intimate.  Early bakes, long bakes, hot bakes... I have spent a lot of time in front of this oven (on my tippy toes none-the-less!) sweating, smiling, and cursing when baking upwards of 960 bagels (at the most!) 70 pizzas, and oh....maybe 200 pitas.  Even when I feel I couldn't slide another pizza off the peel towards the sizzling flame Mark is generally right there reminding me there's a good 20 left so get moving!  (Not really, he's usually pretty compassionate in those times).  The Alan Scott ovens I used were at the Flat Rock Village Bakery (FRVB) in Flat Rock, NC, Camp Arrowhead in Tuxedo, NC and West First in Hendersonville, NC.  During my internship at the FRVB, I was trained to bake rustic wood fired breads and pizzas.  At that moment when Scott Unfried showed me how to light the oven, scrape out the ash, mop it, and slide each loaf off the peel and into the dark corners of the oven...right then, I knew, I would never go back.

Moving to Maine in a couple months I am in a bit of a panic wondering what I will do, how I will manage for a bit without one and wonder how soon I can build something to suit me until I have one of my own, and well, Dave and I put our heads together and came up with a solution.  We will set to build a cob oven as soon as we arrive and would love to invite any and all people who are interested in the process to join.  This way I can keep my fire burning! (Stay tuned for time and location of this exciting event!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

cake...cake...and more cake!!!

Happy happy birthday to the lady of Tastebud...Miss Alexandra! I volunteered/was elected/given the honor of making dear Ali's birthday cake this year. Given her favorite of all times is carrot, I figure I have it in the bag. You see, there was this carrot cake I had at a Thanksgiving dinner a few years back on a farm and was so in love with it, begged the hosts to pass on the holy recipe. Since that evening three years ago I have made this cake numerous times and it has yet to fail me. Then came the challenge: "My mom makes the best carrot cake ever!" I began to question my fabulous cake recipe...WHAT IF her mom's WAS better? I am never one to be out done, well, not if I can help it! I received over five pounds of carrots from the market, though that was an excessive amount it gave me the option to pick the best. Well, I gave it a go, it was the most fun I had had making a cake ever, knowing it was going to fill the bellies of all the friends I adore here in Portland. I also got a bag FULL of nasturtiums to decorate and found a couple of whimsical birds on long skinny wires from a local vintage store and TADAH! I had a birthday cake.
Kelly and I loaded it into the car and headed off to the festivities. Arriving safely the cake made it to the a table overflowing with a cornucopia of Portland Farmer's Market's finest...everything from squid to Mediterranean salad (like none other!), fire roasted pork, potato salad, and a fabulous lime/cilantro/corn/black bean mix which I put with warm tortillas paired with a fabulously light queso fresco...and people, that was only the beginning! What a sight. Needless to say after indulging in all the savory treats, the cake was a went home with the birthday girl and was enjoyed even a couple days later. Thanks again to Jessie and Andy for hosting. What a fabulous night!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

a shout out to my musical friend

Spencer and I went to the river the other day...and while I lounged in the sun (with loads of sunscreen and a big floppy hat) reading D.H. Lawrence, Spenc picked at his acoustic guitar. I thought I was in heaven. I love the acoustic guitar, he could play for hours and I could listen for hours....and so we did, all afternoon. When we got home, I had the fabulous idea that I wanted his music on my blogspot, bribing him with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (boy what a sucker!) he went home and created this beautiful music you are listening to. After a couple stressful hours of trying to figure out how to load it onto my page, it is here for you all to enjoy, oh and if you like this stay tuned and I will post a link to his website as soon as it is finished so you can all listen whenever you like! Thanks again Spencer for the wonderful early morning tune...