Monday, September 29, 2014

Eating Portland

Portlandia, a sculpture by Raymond Kaskey.  The second largest copper repousse statue in the US after the Stature of Liberty (9/26/14)
I just returned from a trip to Portland, OR with my sister and couldn't wait to tell you all about the amazing time we had, with a focus of course on the food.  Portland really is a food lovers city, real food that is.  We didn't eat at any so called fancy restaurants but even the tiny soup and sandwich places are serving premium ingredients and every little detail is well considered, simple and precious.  Not to mention the coffee, which I will, so read on.

First order of business on vacation is a hearty breakfast.  Portland is a walkers paradise and you want to power up before you hit the streets.  Our first morning found us at The Original, one block from our digs at the Benson Hotel.  If I could say the words chic and diner in the same sentence that would discribe The Original.  It's bright and open with super high ceilings and two walls of windows, perfect for people watching.  The black and white palette and overall design is smart and clean.  One back wall is fitted with metal strips that hold postcards sent by happy, satisfied diners from all over the country.

The menu at The Original reads like a diner but it's no greasy spoon! (9/24/14)

My scrambled eggs tasted fresh out of the hen and perfectly cooked.  The hash browns were delicate and crisp.  And the rye toast was meaty and flavorful and a good foil to the homemade marionberry jam.  As with many meals I had in Portland I started eating them before I had a chance to take a proper photo.  Let's just say I was already composing my postcard to send back here once I got home!

You can't go very far in this town without bumping into a cafe and everyone has their faves.  I went back a couple of times to The Fresh Pot, a mellow, unassuming spot downtown with great art on the walls.  They serve homespun Stumptown coffee and the friendly baristas make beautiful, creamy lattes.  Also, I love their business card.

 Creamy lattes and arty business cards at The Fresh Pot downtown. (9/24/19)

If your going to eat pizza you may as well make it a pizza baked in a wood fired oven and that's just what we did on our first night in Portland.  We walked a few blocks over to the Pearl District to Piattino and split a pizza Margherita.  Pizzas cook in about 90 seconds in the massive oven and the crust comes out incredible thin and crispy.  The tangy sauce, velvety cheese and full flavored basil were in just the right proportions.  This pizza went down easy, way too easy.  Good thing we had more walking in our future.


Bread and water: Crispy crust pizza Margherita at Piattino in the Pearl (9/24/14)

Next up: smoothies, soup and cupcakes...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sourdough Corn Cakes

As I write this I am officially on vacation and will leave in a few days for Portland OR where I will drink Stumptown coffee in the rain, hike in Forest Park, sample Blue Star Donuts and peruse the aisles at Powell's City of Books, among many other things!  While still tying up loose ends in preparation, there was plenty of time to get off one last recipe, and what a special one it is- a recipe that warps up all the end of summer flavors in one fantastic dish.   

This month's Sourdough Surprise is dedicated to corn bread in all it's many permutations, from skillet bread to hush puppies and everything in between.  I'm a huge corn bread fan and especially love it hot out of the oven with chili, or toasted with butter and jam.  But I was curious about corn cakes, or Johnny cakes, so I decided to explore that side of the corn cob.

Not quite fritters or pancakes, but with mostly all the same ingredients as corn bread, corn cakes are in a class by themselves.  Light yet filling; sweet, but happy to be paired with savory, corn cakes are ready for any breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I started with my trusty recipe from the back of the Indian Head corn meal package, the one I always use for my corn bread, and then I began to play with my food.

I used corn flour in place of corn meal and buttermilk instead of regular after reading this.  I also added a couple tablespoons of masa harina for extra corn flavor, adding fresh corn kernels as well.  And of course worked in a cup of sourdough starter because, hello, Sourdough Surprises!  

I wasn't sure how it would all work out, but I live for the excitement of trying a new recipe!  The first one was a complete disaster, it refused to be flipped and was badly charred.  I tossed it in a heap on the counter but still wondered how this sad quasimodo would taste.  One nibble and I know I was on to something.  I added another egg, adjusted the heat under my cast iron pan, gave it a good smear of butter and started over.   

A plate of picture perfect corn cakes later I was declaring this recipe a complete success.  Topped with homemade sweet and hot tomato jam (freshly made with a boat load of my homegrown toms), these delicate and delicious corn cakes made the send off meal I'll be thinking about all the way to Portland. 

sourdough corn cakes

1 & 1/4 cup corn flour
2 tablespoons masa harina (or corn meal)
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft butter (plus more for the pan)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup sourdough starter (discard is fine)
1 cup fresh corn kernels
tomato jam (recipe can be found in this post)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and have a sheet pan set aside.  In a large bowl whisk together flour, masa harina, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a smaller bowl stir together butter, buttermilk, eggs and starter.  Add wet ingredients to dry, along with corn kernels, and stir just to combine.

Heat skillet over medium heat.  When skillet is hot add a bit of butter and turn pan to coat.  Pour about 2 tablespoons worth of batter into pan and coax it into a round shape about three inches in diameter.  Cook for a minute of two and flip to cook other side.  Repeat with the rest of the batter. Transfer cooked cakes to sheet pan and keep warm in oven until ready to serve.  Serve hot with tomato jam or topping of your choice.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Pear Tart

I didn't intend to have a hunkin' slice of pear tart for breakfast this morning. However, that's how it turned out.  I'm leaving for Portland in less than two weeks and I have a ton of things to do to get ready, but I really wanted to share a pear tart recipe with you and today was my window of opportunity. 

There's something so perfect about pears- their feminine shape, their soft skin, their ethereal flavor.  What do you do with it that doesn't overpower the pear's gentile nature?  For this tart I firmly grounded it in a flaky whole wheat crust filled with a light frangipane and once baked simply gave each slice a drizzle of caramel sauce.  

Was it overkill?  You'll have to decide for yourself.  I only know that when all was said and done and the next to the last photo was taken, I decided that, with the morning quickly disappearing and a looming to-do list ahead, this pretty pear tart would be the perfect breakfast.

Autumn pear tart


4 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup almond flour 
2 or 3 firm, ripe pears
caramel sauce (optional)

In a large bowl whisk together soft butter and sugar.  Add eggs and almond extract and continue whisking.  Fold in almond flour with a spatula until completely combined.  Cover and chill for one hour.

tart dough

1&1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into tiny pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl whisk together flour and sugar.  Cut in butter and vegetable shortening unto mixture resembles course meal.  Add enough ice water to form dough.  Chill for 1/2 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a small amount at a time, work the dough evenly into the sides and bottom of a 3 1/2 by 7 inch long tart pan or a 6 inch round tart pan.  Prick with a fork along the bottom.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until dough is just baked through.  Cool thoroughly before continuing.


almond filling
baked tart shell
raw cane sugar
caramel sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel pears and slice in half.  Spread almond filling in baked tart shell (keep shell in pan).  Slice each half, starting from just below the top of the pear, in thin slices.  Fan pears and lay on top of almond filling.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Place tart shell on cookie sheet.  Bake tart for 35 to 40 minutes or until filling in set and golden.  Cool tart on wire rack before removing from tart pan.  Serve with caramel sauce or vanilla ice cream.  Makes about 6 servings.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to School Peanut Butter Cookies

Can anyone tell me what happened to summer?  The kids are back to school and I haven't even been to the beach yet!

The weather never turned really hot and sticky this summer (until yesterday), which is not me complaining, but when we have a season like that we're so happy when fall does finally get here.  Then we can take out our sweaters (I never put mine away), and we can mull cider and make peanut butter cookies because peanut butter cookies remind me of school.  Well today's that day.  I don't care that it finally got hot and sticky, not to mention stormy, I'm making peanut butter cookies.

I love the smell of peanut butter cookies baking.  It's immensely satisfying and of course when you get to eat that first one, with a beverage of your choice, it's a peak moment.    

This is the recipe I used forever, most likely taken from the back of a peanut butter jar.  As you can see it originally called for Crisco, although it wasn't long before I switched to all butter.  I held true to this formula for these cookies with some notable exceptions.  First, I added salt because I bought 'no salt added' peanut butter.  I left out the vanilla, have you seen the price of vanilla lately?!  I left off the chocolate chunks in favor of some crunchy Demeara sugar.  And lastly, I backed out some of the flour and subbed chickpea flour, lately I'm sneaking it into everything.  A little extra protein and fiber, you know, for the kids.

back to school peanut butter cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/c cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 & 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Demerara sugar for the tops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and peanut butter together in a stand mixer on low.  Add brown sugar and raw sugar.  Mix on medium, stopping to scrap the sides of the bowl and necessary.  Add egg and mix well.  In a small bowl whisk together flour, chickpea flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add to mixer in thirds, scraping the bowl between additions, and mix until well blended.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop out cookies with a 1 ounce scoop, 12 to a sheet.  Flatten each cookie, and mark with a fork two times at 90 degree angles.  Sprinkle with Demerara sugar or cane sugar.  Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed up and lightly golden around the edges.  When cool enough to handle transfer cookies to a wire rack.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.