Dandelion Greens….Tis the season.

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So I’ve been wanting to do some gardening this year….yesterday I went to assess my garden spot; there in the composted, weediness, sat green and lush the most appetizing looking dandelion greens I’ve ever laid eyes upon.  So there I went a foraging and found one of my favorite things, for free, in my backyard.  My Mom used to take us in the Spring to find all the tasty dandelion greens while they are edible…once they flower…no bueno.  This tradition is one Mom stumbled onto from my Dad who grew up very Greek, “horta” are greens, served warm or cold with olive oil and lemon.  Horta are a super food and can contribute to a longer life and many other benefits….if you are in this for the health reasons…its worth a google.  Personally, I just like em’, some would say it’s an acquired taste….not for me I’ve always just loved greens.  I must say Oregon has some amazing weeds….I have never seen such lush and emerald dandelions in my whole life!!!  This is one of those times when I wish I could beam down to UT and show my Dad my bounty.  When harvesting, make sure you cut right at the root, and rinse, rinse, rinse!SAMSUNG

I rinsed mine three times…..first in hot water, then cool water, then repeat till there is no more dirt or worms…that can ruin a meal.  Next in a large pot, boil  salted water….add greens, cook 20 minutes or till tender (remember these take longer to cook, then chard or spinach).  Drain water, add olive oil, juice of one lemon (I lucked out and found some “in season” meyer lemons) salt and pepper….you can add a teaspoon of granulated garlic while boiling if you like.  Serve today or tomorrow with bread!  Seriously one of my favorite foods, so instead of covering dandelions in pesticides…try eating them!

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Dolmathes

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Dolmathes, or stuffed grape leaves are one of my favorite things to make, maybe its because my mom used me as child labor starting from age 8 or so to help with labor at our restaurant.  During my formative years, about age 3 to age 14 my parents ran a restaurant/bar, perhaps this explains much of my oddness in general.  If you’ve worked in the “industry” it attracts a special group of folks, an awesomely bi-polar group of misfits, especially in Utah in the 80’s and 90’s, the food biz didn’t make you a rock star like “chefs” are in the now times.  Cooking was a job for the troubled soul, the criminal, the outcast, and this is perhaps why I am so fond of those types in general.  Myself and my sisters would sit at the bar or later in the back by the walk in at our place on 33rd and Washington, and roll dolmathes or stab souvlaki for hours, honestly I hated it at the time…now I would go back in a heart beat just to sit and listen to “Rollin’s Band”, talk with our staff, and argue with my sisters while I flipped marinade at them.  Good ole’ days.  Anyhoo, I am sharing this recipe…its honestly a little hard for me to do, as I am attached to it and never given it out.  Shall we begin the potion of amore?  Yes I think so:

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Ground meat of choice: about two pounds or so, I used Ground beef 85/15

1 cup long grain rice, you can use quinoa or another fast cooking grain if you wish….make it yours.

1 jar grape leaves in brine, if you live on a wine vineyard in Napa or something feel free to use fresh leaves, just salt and blanch beforehand.

a tsp each: Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, dried oregano (I used dried herbs d’ provence), dried mint.

2T fresh parsley

1 tomato

1 large shallot diced

Grab a bowl and combine above ingredients, get in there and show that meat who’s the boss, kinda like Tony Danza…..once mixed it’s time to let the good times roll.  One does this by taking a grape leaf and putting a “fat fingers” worth of filling in and rolling it “burrito style”.

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Once your lil’ buddies are all rolled put them in a heavy bottomed pan, use a plate placed over them to weigh them down, then add 3 cups beef stock, cover, bring to a boil then turn down to medium low for about 30 minutes.  When finished cooking, squeeze juice from one lemon over dolmathes, whip 3 eggs till light, temper in 1 cup of the cooking  liquid and heat on low till lightly thickened……pour over dolmathes and serve!  They are dangerously addictive and can make a hermit become a people person.  Use wisely and well.

Thrifty….the new rich?

I’ll tell ya, growing up in Ogden, UT…I’ve done a bit of “thrifting”, second hand shopping for those not in the know…haha!  Now when I was salvaging good will (DI…Utah natives will understand) it was not considered “cool”.  You see much of my youth was spent in the consumerist 90’s where accumulating mass produced items new and often was the chic and yuppie perspective.  I was neither chic, nor yuppie, quite the opposite…my moo-mu clad mother would load us up in whatever “pimp mobile” car from the 70’s that my dad had gotten from Breaktime Bob on the cheap and school clothes shopping was done at “Savers” or “Vintage Thrift” .  Nowadays that would be cool….back then….we would hide our faces when my mom dropped us off in the “Aspen”.   But I digress…..This is about thift store shopping not my upbringing in a hyper-conservative place by an ubber liberal pair of parents.  I still remember my super awesome “Nirvana unplugged” look a like sweater that my sister “Tex” found for 69 cents.

Unbelievably not cool in the 90’s.

In the current market however, perhaps due to a more competitive global market.  “Thrifting” has become cool, some mainstream brands actually have a “vintage” line where they send out their “stylists” to raid thrift stores and charge you 10 x what they paid for it!  Portland is thrift Mecca, my favorite spot being “Better Bargains” it’s old, huge, unorganized, and all those things make it a goldmine!  Great for finding vintage items because after many years of people dropping off what they don’t want the stock piles and many things dropped off in 1982 don’t get opened and sold till 2012.  Beautiful.

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The less cool it looks the better…steer clear of anything with “hip” decor or being in a “cool” part of town.  I do have a great consignment shop by my house…but if you wanna get the super duper under appreciated awesome….go dirty.  Proud to say my high chair $3, double jogging stroller $40, and Gianfranco Fierre resort dress from the late 70’s $12, Keen’s for Ava $3 were all purchased and found at Better Bargains.  I bought 50% of Ava’s school clothes for pennies on the dollar, and most of Ari’s clothes that aren’t “hand me downs”.   Buying good quality items used, is like upcycling in the best possible way, it benefits everyone!  Money can’t buy ya happiness, and so much of our culture is based purely in commerce, it is necessary I agree, but I also think conservation is necessary.  When I was a kid upcycling was instilled in me, and now it’s actually a fashionable activity!  So weird….its like that pair of shoes you bought in the height of a trend, then 10 years later you see high schoolers rocking em….I love nostalgia and maybe that is why I love thrifting so much.  I never thought I would feel this way but I am so incredibly glad my mom raised me to be so “uncool” , the funny part of life is that in one’s lifetime many things come full circle.  Being wealthy for me isn’t spending the most….but being wealthy in life experiences.  With our blown out economy, and changing global vernacular “Thrifty” might just be the new “Rich”.  Next time you are browsing “Urban Outfitters”, get some ideas then get out and buy it in your local goodwill….chances are something cooler, cheaper, and full of nostalgia will be waiting for you, and with the money  you save you can do something awesome with your family, whether it be a vacation or simply an outing for ice cream.

Note: the other baby is Ava's doll, get a lot of weird looks when we load the doll in this fashion.
Note: the other baby is Ava’s doll, get a lot of weird looks when we load the doll in this fashion.

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$1 vintage sunglasses
$1 vintage sunglasses

 

 

 

 

 

Lettuce wraps easy, breezy, carb freezy.

wrapsSuch a fun and easy way to make a carb free and seasonal meal, anyway with you dice it, you can make these fit your tastes, I do like to use baby romaine leaves they are easy to pick up so they are great for fork free eating!  Use what you want, use what ya got!

I stir fried on medium high 1lb ground pork (chicken works great too), 1 small onion chopped, 2 cloves garlic, 1 small can water chestnuts (drained and diced), 1 red bell pepper, 1 seeded Jalapeno (you can leave some seeds if you want it hotter, but for my five year old I have to mild it out), 2tbsp hoison sauce (international foods aisle). Cook till the meat is brown and veggies are still crisp. Sauce, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp chili paste (international aisle as well), 1 tsp chinese mustard, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce (use temari wheat free if you are trying to avoid all gluten) whisk together. Serve in lettuce leaves and top with sesame seeds or almonds or whatever you like….this recipe is great cuz you can use whatever you have around…and change the flavors to suit your own tastes…works well when you grill and you can always buy like a sesame ginger dressing you like pre made, or thai peanut sauce if you are short on time!

Vous les vous manger quiche avec moi?

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Quiche is one of my favorite things, my take on it involves a little deviation from the norm.  For my crust I add ½ cup fried shallots (found in Asian markets) to add a little crunch and interest the usually most uninteresting part of the dish, also I add some fresh cracked pepper.  Quiche is great if you need to use up leftovers or if you want to serve dish to a crowd that is great at room temperature.  I like to pair my quiche with a nice frisee salad,with some citrus segments, red onion, and light vinaigrette to cut the richness of the quiche (now is not the time to substitute “low-fat” products…a watery quiche is a waste of the labor, all things in moderation).

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Ingredients for inside the crust
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Fried shallot in flour mixture
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form into a disk
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Parchement and weights to set crust before you add the egg mixture

 

Mise en Place:
6 room temperature eggs
1 cup half & half
1 cup cheese of choice (I used some  smoked swiss, baby swiss, and parmesan)
dash of Tabasco (French chefs always have this in their arsenal)
4oz prosciutto diced (use what you have on hand)
8 oz  mushrooms sauteed (I used crimini, you what you like)
Tip: when sauteing mushrooms, for a beautiful golden color DO NOT SALT!  Salt draws out the water and they will never get brown just steam.
a few tablespoons of herbs (I used parsley, and some dried herb de provence, dried are fine as long as they are freshly purchased…also use sparingly as they tend to be much more condensed.

Crust:
2 cups unbleached flour (substitute whole wheat if you like)
6 oz cold butter (I used salted, if you are going the unsalted route add 1 tsp of salt)
¼ cup ice cold water.
¼ cup fried shallots or those “french fried” onions used in the Thanksgiving favorite “green bean casserole” only if you really can’t find the shallots though…haha!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make your crust first by cutting the butter into the flour until it crumbly, cut in the shallots, add water, combine and form a disk (do this in advance and freeze if you want).  Refridgerate 1 hr or overnight.  Roll out into pie pan (I used a 10 inch tart pan) and use parchment paper and pie weights (dry beans work well, I used my husbands bourbon).  Bake 15 minutes until set.  Remove from oven.  Set aside.  Whip eggs, half and half, and Parmesan.  Layer prosciutto, cheese, mushrooms, pour egg mixture over.  Bake 45 minutes till the middle is set and lightly golden.  

Toddler approved!  Enjoy!
Toddler approved! Enjoy!

 

Alameda Brewing

Yes, it’s raining in Portland…..but that is really ok because it’s great stout beer weather!!! My featured brew du jour is Alameda’s Black Bear XX. Moving to PDX two years ago from Utah, I never really understood what a “brew house” really is! A true pub is like a neighborhood gathering place, a much better alternative to what many a Utahan has done…going to the ole’ TGImcNasty pants chain restaurant, where if one asks for a beer it takes an hour to get and you are looked at like a criminal…no joke one time at a BBQ chain in Layton I got ID’d five times!! I was done eating before I got my beer. Here in the rose city you can take your kids at “happy hour” (Alameda has especially great food, btw…a lacking theme with some other brew houses with great beer but less then mediocre fare) reduced price brews, great $5 meal options (Lemon pepper chicken strips, beer battered goodness…yes please!), on Tuesdays Alameda even has all their brews for $3, which should make ya holla! The service is competent without being phony and you CAN BRING KIDS!! Bringing kids saves us parents who like to enjoy a brew without dropping $20 an hour for a babysitter….God I love you Portland! Stout beer should be rich, delicious, creamy, a head of copper, and like any good stout tastes great with chocolate (they make an out of this world milkshake with it!). I take everyone that comes and visits me to the Alameda. If you are native to P-town or planning a visit they are located at 4765 Fremont or check em’ out on the web alamedabrewhouse.com. I am just a fan, and wanted to share my love of what they do….yellow wolf imperial IPA is also a must try. Have the black bear on nitro! Also they frequently have awesome seasonal beers depending on what is in season My bloody valentine saison (blood orange), white peach IPA, huckleberry IPA, bad bunny cream ale….never a dull gulp.

Roasted beet crostini w/ chevre

Roasted beet crostini
Roasted beet and chevre crostini with baby kale,almonds,balsamic reduction. Recipe: 1 day old baguette sliced on bias 1lb fresh beets peeled and sliced lengthwise 1 shallot sliced 2 garlic cloves crushed 4 oz chevre 1 T honey olive oil salt and pepper 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 1/4 sliced almonds baby kale leaves or whatever herb you like for garnish, any micro green will do. Method: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. On a 13 x 9 inch sheet pan place beets, garlic, and shallots in a layer. Coat veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper, roast for 20 minutes. While beets roast, slice bread, coat with olive oil and place on sheet pan, place in oven till nice and golden. In a small bowl mix chevre with honey, set aside. In a sauce pan reduce vinegar by half, or until syrupy (unless of course you have a beautiful $80 bottle of aged balsamic you can skip think part). Toast sliced almonds in a dry pan. Assemble: Dice cooled beets. On each crostini place a teaspoon of chevre/honey mixture, top with beets, almond and kale, repeat until you run out of ingredients. Drizzle with reduction, mange!!

Farm to table salad

Utilizing what is best of the season is the secret to making a great salad. By knowing a few super easy techniques you can make beautiful edible art for your loved ones, without breaking the bank. The philosophy is using what grows best in the season of choice i.e. no watermelon at Christmas etc. This pic is a salad I did using what is best at the farmers market in Portland. Mix and match and top with a vinaigrette (2 part oil to 1 part acid, salt, pepper, herbs…easy) pictured is white corn & fava in lime vinaigrette over arugula with yucatan pickled onion and creme fraiche. Be creative, be local and use what is best where you live.

World’s Best Baklava

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My Dad is Greek, so ever since I can remember we have had Baklava for Christmas. This is my version i’ve created through years of eating my mom’s and other ladies varieties. This recipe can be made ahead, and freezes well! A delicious and impressive gift idea, utilizing simple and accessible ingredients!

Baklava:
20 Sheets pre-made frozen Phyllo, Thawed
2 stick unsalted butter
1 lb walnuts, pulsed in food processor
½ lb pistachios, roughly chopped
1 ½ Cup Brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
1 Cup melted unsalted butter
Syrup:
1 Cup granulated sugar
½ Cup water
1 Cup Honey
juice of lemon (use the one you zested)
juice of orange (use the one you zested)
2 cinnamon sticks

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl combine brown sugar, walnuts, pistachios, zests, and spices.
Using melted butter, butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Layer one sheet of phyllo, brush with melted butter. Repeat till you have seven layers. Top with one cup of nut mixture. Layer, butter three more layers of phyllo. Place 1 Cup of nut mixture aside. Use the rest of nut mixture to cover the layers of buttered phyllo. Top with three more butter phyllo layers. Use the remaining 1 cup of nut mixture. Top with remaining phyllo layers, and throughly butter the top.
Cut top layer of phyllo into desired pattern, cut verically into four rows, then horizontally into five rows, then cut each square on the bias.I like to put whole cloves in the middle of each piece. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.
While baklava bakes make syrup by combining sugar and water in a small sauce pan till bubbling and all sugar is dissolved, add honey and cinnamon. Remove from heat add citrus juices. Cool.
Top cooled baklava with syrup and cut. Should make about 40 pieces

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