Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deschutes Brewery

Once again my blogging has gotten away from me as I've gotten busy trying to figure out life in the big city.  But as you can see I've been enjoying myself. 

Portland keeps giving me more and more reasons to love it.  And now I can added great locally brewed gluten free beer to that list.  Anyone who in a former life was a beer lover and now is trying to make due in this new gluten free existence with the crap they try to trick us into believing is beer will understand how big of a deal this is.

Most gluten free beer is made from sorghum, a crazy amount of hops and a tad of rice.  It tastes like burnt slightly alcoholic artificial maple syrup.   If you squint and tap your heels together while drinking one of these abominations one can actually pretend it's beer.  I have a pretty stellar imagination but even I can't pretend to be satisfied with these icky gluten free brews.  Thankfully wine is more my thing but the fella has been enjoying a bunch of the local microbrews in my presence so I was getting a tad jealous.   So when someone mentioned a brew pub with gluten free options I was so there!

Deschutes Brewery in Northwest Portland was worth the journey and the long wait for a table.  They have an ample gluten free menu with a handful of vegetarian options and always have one gluten free beer on tap.  You heard me...on tap!  

This is unheard of, finally a brewery is doing the gluten free thing right.  Not only that but the gluten free beer is produced in dedicated tanks and such so there is no cross contamination.  And when ordering the gluten free ale, the bar tender immediately puts a red band around the glass so everyone is 100% sure that no gluteny beer is going in that glass.  This was the first bar of my life where I felt safe, they knew what they were doing and obviously took pains to not make their gluten free patrons ill.  Yay Portland!

The gluten free beer apparently changes seasonally so during our visit I enjoyed their ale.  It is a blend of sorghum, brown rice, roasted chestnuts and Cascade hops.  But there was none of that overly bitter syrupy thing to this beer.  This was well balanced, slightly sweet, a hint nutty and just enough bitter to round things out.  It smelled and tasted like beer!  I didn't have to pretend to enjoy this in order to trick myself into having a beer experience, I genuinely loved this stuff.

The fella had the big evil gluteny stout which smelled amazing, like an expensive cigar enjoyed in a room where chocolate, coffee and bacon are all being cooked at the same time.  He said it was among the best stouts he's ever had.  And even after having that huge heavy beer, he tried a sip of mine and agreed it tasted like the real thing.  So we both left happy.  Whenever the fella and I can find a place we both can eat at, it is a huge accomplishment because it doesn't happen often.

Next time the urge for a beer strikes I know where I will be headed.  Thank you Deschutes for making a great gluten free beer!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Soup 2.0

Hello Fall, you sexy creature with your falling leaves, chilly evenings perfect for puppy cuddling and best of all the copious amounts of squash.  The rain still isn't getting me down, you'll have to try harder than this.  It's impossible to be bothered by the weather when I'm spending my free time keeping the kitchen warm by cooking organic local squash.  Mmm...homemade pie pumpkin puree.

I already turned my pumpkin into bread, today it was time for some soup. This one was a favorite last fall but no matter how many times I made it, there always seemed to be something missing.  This time around I figured it out.  Ancho powder!  It adds the extra kick and bit of smoky goodness that was lacking in the original recipe.  Now it is spicy and perfect.  It warms and fills you up with very little work.  And if you're not up for heading the Penzey's to get the best ancho powder money can buy, some decent chili powder will probably work just as well.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup Version 2.0

2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
(or 2 cups dried beans cooked)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 3 fresh tomatoes diced)
4 cups vegetable broth

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons ground cumin
2  teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons ancho chili powder

1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Baked pumpkin seeds, for garnish

In a food processor puree the beans and tomatoes with half of the vegetable broth.  (If you have an immersion blender you can just blend the soup at the end.)

Warm oil in a large pot then sauté red onion, garlic, cumin, salt, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, cayenne  and ancho powder on medium heat until onion and garlic are browned; about 3 minutes.

Add pureed ingredients, pumpkin and the rest of the broth to the pot. Simmer uncovered until thick, stirring often and scraping the bottom, about 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Before serving stir in balsamic vinegar. Garnish with baked pumpkin seeds.  I baked my own pumpkin seeds sprinkled with ancho powder.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Bread Tease

Nothing takes the chill off a damp fall morning in the good ole Pacific Northwest like a giant cup of tea (Yogi's teas are gluten free except for the handful clearly labeled as containing barley malt) and some fresh baked cinnamon pumpkin bread.  The puppy curled up at my feet also helps.  Life is good.

Breakfast wasn't always this painless though.  When I first suspected I had a problem with wheat and gluten, breakfasts and desserts suddenly became a lot more complicated.  Then when I started taking eggs and dairy out of my diet, even I was at a loss.  There were a lot of nearly inedible experiments in bread making where I attempted to veganize a gluten free bread recipe by doing nothing more than using the EnerG egg replacer and dairy free milk in place of the real things.  It was not pretty. 

Luckily I soon stumbled upon the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen website  where there is a profusion of gluten free recipes, many of which are vegan or have suggestions for making the recipes vegan.  Suddenly I had breakfast ideas to last me for months.  So I ordered their Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and life got even better.  This amazing vegan and gluten free pumpkin bread comes from that book, along with the rice flour pancakes the fella and I make every Sunday and never get tired of.

It also has instructions and recipe ideas for the best elimination diet ever (as in not one that involves enemas or only eating water and one weird ingredient like lemon or maple syrup for 30 days).  I've used the diet several times when I suspect there is something in my kitchen or lifestyle that is making me ill.  You start out drinking very healthy and tasty green smoothies for a couple days to get your digestive tract back to normal.  Then eat a very simple diet of allergen free whole and organic foods for a couple weeks.  After getting all the nasty things out of your life like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol that are so much fun but do not great things to the body over time, you will feel like a brand new person.  Now you can add in foods families one at a time to find out what's been making you sick.  It takes a lot of discipline but is well worth the results.

Moral of this story is: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook is the first book I would suggest to someone going gluten free especially if they were also leaning towards a vegan lifestyle.  The recipes are healthy and tasty but also very simple.  About a third of the book is also helpful suggestions on cooking various ingredients like millet or aduki beans most of us don't have much experience with.  I use it as a reference a couple times a week and couldn't cook without it at this point.  Not to mention I'm not spilling the secret of the best pumpkin bread ever so you have to go buy the book.

This post is also for all the people that keep asking me, "Elimination diet? Say what now?"  Not that I talk about food constantly in every day life or anything.  Hopefully now my sometimes strange eating habits make more sense.  As always if anyone has more questions about this or anything else I mention or has a suggestion for a post that might be helpful, feel free to send me an e-mail.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pick Me Up Pink Risotto

 The only thing worse than looking for a job in general is looking for a job in Portland during an economic slump.  Sitting in Madison in my soul draining cubicle eavesdropping on my 8th hour of phone calls for captioning I couldn't imagine anything worse that didn't involve working in a sewer.  I figured the fella and I would come out here with our crazy Midwestern work ethic and find jobs in days and live happily ever after.  The fella has had an okay time of it but I'm competing with the other 1000 people in town who want a coffee or wine shop job and it isn't going so well.

I've had a handful of interviews so I'm doing better than most.  The problem is all but two of the interviews have either been fake outs or hellish bait and switches.  I filled out an application for an ad to be a front desk person at a publishing company only to get there and be interviewed on the spot and told I could start today but guess what it's a telemarketing job.  I picked up my stuff and ran for the door.  I didn't move 2000 miles to sit in another cubicle.

Next I drove 30 minutes out of town to interview at a roadside coffee stand only to be told at the end of the interview that they really didn't have the money to hire anyone.  They just wanted to know if anyone was interested in working for them if business ever picked up.  Seriously? 

Next I apply to work at a Starbucks downtown (I know, I know but a girl needs to eat) only to get hauled into a secured room with 20 other people in a conference room with assigned seating.  We're all given 10 pages of questions like "do you consider yourself lucky?," "tell me about your favorite person you've ever worked with," "if you had to hire someone else in the room, who would it be?"

After a half hour a somewhat straighter version of Jack from Will and Grace comes into the room and tells us we will be interviewed as a group and he'll pick who will get the job by who can yell out the best answers over everyone else.  Really?  Oh by the way this isn't really a barista job it's to work room service 3rd shift at this hotel we're meeting at.  Surprise!  Also I picked you guys based on who had the best Facebook profiles because really I'm looking for a new best friend.  You have got to be kidding me!

This is my life.  I don't need to make anything up because stuff this weird just happens to me on a regular basis.  So perhaps you can understand why the job search has me a little down at the moment.  But you know what unemployed slackers like me have on you people with jobs?  I can open a bottle of wine at 1 in the afternoon to take the edge off and treat myself to a delicious lunch.  It's not something I make a habit of but sometimes it needs to happen in order to keep me from giving up and going to apply at one of the 100s of strip clubs just to have some sort of income.  Although that would bring a whole other level of weird to my life...

There was some overly tart 2010 Chilean rosé from Calcu in the fridge that was just too much to drink straight due to the heavy dose of Petit Verdot grapes in it that I thought would be great in a risotto.  Turns out I was right.  I threw in some baby artichokes and mushrooms and a fair amount of rosé in place of lemon juice and it was delightful.  It isn't the best risotto I've ever made but it was the pick me up I needed.

A couple weeks ago at the farmer's market the fella and I picked up an absolutely amazing syrah rosé made in the Rogue Valley of Oregon by Shy Chenin.  It's distributed by the Twist Wine Company that does tastings each week at the market.  That's right Madison friends, wine at the farmer's market and fruit trees; Portland is awesome.  It is everything I personally want out of a rosé the right blend of obvious sweet floral notes with a bit of tart herbal qualities on the finish.  And at $15 it's a nice but affordable treat.  This addictive beauty is what I drank with the risotto while relaxing from the job hunting tension. 

Rosé Risotto

Add Ins:
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 fresh baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered (or a handful from a can if you must)
1 cup mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter spread
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup rosé wine
1 lemon, zested
salt and pepper, to taste

Add Ins:
In a small pan heat the first tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  When it is warm add the trimmed artichokes to the pan and cook until tender.  If  you need detailed help preparing the artichokes check out the instructions here.  If you are using canned artichokes they don't need to be cooked so skip ahead to the risotto.  When the artichokes are nearly done add the mushroom to cook until just starting to get tender.

While the artichokes are cooking, in a large pot or deep pan over medium heat heat, melt the other tablespoon of oil and the vegan butter.  Add the garlic and cook until brown around the edges then throw in the rice, cooking for about a minute and stirring the entire time so the rice doesn't burn.

Begin adding the broth one ladleful at a time, add more as the rice absorbs the liquid, stirring frequently.  Keep adding broth until the rice is plump and al dente.  Use water when the broth runs out if necessary.  

When rice is finished cooking, stir in the rosé, vegan Parmesan, lemon zest and salt and pepper to your taste.  Continue cooking for another minute or so until warmed through then toss in the artichokes and mushrooms from the other pan and stir once more before serving.   

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gluten Free Vegan Goodies at the Portland Farmer's Market

So it's started raining in Portland lately.  So what?  It's not snow and it's gorgeous here.  Are you kidding me?  Green grass and things growing like crazy in nearly November?  For that I will deal with the rain.  The rain also didn't keep the fella and I from going to the Farmer's Market, to splash through puddles on our way to amazing produce.  And it was an excuse to wear my new rain coat, which when combined with the fella's fedora made me feel like a purple version of Carmen Sandiego.  A couple vendors commented that we were the only people smiling through the rain to which we explained that this weather is awesome compared to what we're used to.  See also: purple raincoat, what is there to not smile about?

Then disaster struck.  Even after a huge breakfast and ferreting away snacks in my purse, I was hungry.  This isn't an issue for an ordinary person who can eat anything in a pinch to keep off hunger, but for people with food allergies this is our worst nightmare.  And anyone who has dealt with me while hungry knows that just waiting until the 45 minute train ride home was not an option.  When I'm full and happy I'm Emily, when I'm hungry I become the Hulk, no one is safe.

I'm used to only having a couple options when I find myself in need of sustenance in the world outside my kitchen.  1.  I could eat the first person I see since human flesh is usually gluten free and, given how testy I get when hungry, is quite possible.  2. I could make myself very sick by eating something that might be safe.  Something that doesn't obviously contain gluten but might be cross contaminated or have traces of something icky in it. 

Then I remembered we live in Portland now.  The magical land where people know what the phrase "gluten free" means.  So as we wandered around the food carts, I was on the look out for something that might be safe.  Then I spotted Salvador Molly's Tamale cart.  I crossed my fingers while asking if they had anything gluten free.  "You've come to the right place.  Everything here is gluten free."  I very nearly jumped over the counter to hug the three very friendly and helpful guys running the tamale cart.

Not only was it gluten free, but it was the best tamale I've ever had.  The corn filling was creamy without being too dense or heavy.  And there was the perfect amount of yummy bits hidden in the polenta.  The salsa was very basic so it added a hint of spice to the tamale without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients.  I had the roasted vegetable option which was full of sweet potato, green and red pepper, onion, garlic, sweet corn, and black beans.  But they also have a chicken option and the very tempting sounding artichoke heart and cotija cheese tamale. 

As you may be able to tell from the picture I enjoyed my Salvador Molly's experience quite a bit.  Enough that I will be sure to visit their full scale restaurant one day soon, as they have a sizable gluten free menu above and beyond the tamales.  I was so happy with having a lunch that I could eat without any worries that I threatened to take one of the tamale makers home with me.  Maybe next time.  Those were damn good tamales.
 Picture by Mark Galligan from the Petunia Pies and Pastries site.  Chocolate things never last around me long enough to get photographic evidence.

But the gluten free vegan wonders did not end there, just a few stands down from where we ate lunch was a dedicated gluten free bakery called Petunia Pies and Pastries.  At first I stopped to live vicariously through looking at some chocolate goodies I couldn't eat but when I saw it was gluten free and vegan I almost cried with joy.  Instead I just body checked the fella and ran as fast as I could to get in line for a chocolate hazelnut cupcake. 

It was divine!  Literally the best cupcake I have ever had, gluten free or otherwise.  I'm not positive of exactly what magic is contained within these tasty treats but I know part of the secret is nut flour which makes these super rich but fluffy.  They are the perfect texture, none of that hard as a rock or overly chewy mouth feel of so many gluten free baked goods.  The only explanation I have for how the amazingly chocolatey frosting is possibly vegan is that fairies and the souls of babies must be involved.  And then to top it all off there is one precious little gold foiled hazelnut on top of each cupcake.  It's almost too pretty to eat, but I managed. 

Petunia has a new loyal customer for life.  Sometimes I close my eyes and dream about that cupcake,  I can't wait until next Saturday to go back and have another.  There were so many other delicious looking things at Petunia, like cheesecakes, crisp rice bars and tarts that I feel bad for them knowing I will go right back for another cupcake, never stopping to taste the other goodies.  Well I'm sure I'll get around to them eventually but right now I am in love with the chocolate hazelnut goodness.

Speaking of wonderful chocolatey things this is the furry love of my life who has been ill lately and could use all the positive energy you can send her way.  Fluffy Butt here ate something toxic the other day, spent the night in the vet hospital and is just now getting back to her normal silly self.  If you have a furry little one in your life you will understand how scary this week has been for us so please keep your fingers, toes, and eating utensils crossed that she will make a full recovery so we can return to our regular schedule of traipsing through the all the parks in Portland.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure Squash Soup

The only reason I'm excited about the chillier weather is that it means it's time for soup.  Not that summer ever really prevents me from doing things as insane as making brownies and stew on 90 degree days.  But there is just something about coming in out of the cold and the rain to make a big pot of simple, filling and warm soup that really can make your day.

My fella and I have been amused by all the signs around town claiming winter is here.  "Weatherize your home.  Winter's coming!"  "Time to winterize your vehicle."  As Wisconsinites accustomed to winters of over 100 inches of snow, the idea that 60 degrees with no wind or weather can be considered "winter" has been amusing us to no end.  The west coast must spoil everyone and make them all soft and easily chilled.  People are running around in parkas and scarves, while the fella and I are still running around in sandals and bare legs.

Apparently all the hype finally went to the fella's precious bald head because the other morning he woke me up extremely excited.  "It's cold.  I got to turn on the heater."  There are two reasons this is funny.  A.  It was about 55 degrees which to me, as my mother's child is "put on a freaking sweater you sissy tempterature." B. Our apartment doesn't have heat per say so much as mini warm air blowers mounted in each room.  So Mr. Lets-move-somewhere-warm was bouncing up and down about getting to flip the switch on a glorified space heater.  He's so cute sometimes.

So to do my part to get into the supposed winter spirit I decided to make soup.  Problem is I'm still feeling extremely basic.  So basic I couldn't even handle reading a recipe so this is what came out of playing squash and the various Indian spices in the cupboard.  It took 15 minutes to make, no effort and was super tasty.  So exactly what I wanted.  With a little vegan yogurt to make it creamy it was just that much better.

You can choose your own squash and Indian spice and go crazy, that's the joy of this recipe.  I had acorn squash in the fridge so that made my squash decision easy.  Somehow we have two full containers of Penzey's Tandori seasoning so I figured I better put that to use.  And I was happy with my decision.  If you're feeling basic butternut squash and curry powder is a traditional match up well known for the happy soup eating noises it creates.  Basically any squash you have hanging around will pair well with a good quality Indian spice blend.  Experiment and let me know what you come up with.

Squash Soup

1 tablespoon vegan butter spread
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon Indian spice mix of your choice (curry powder, Tandori seasoning, masala)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

2 cups cooked squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin)
4 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper, to taste

vegan yogurt and cilantro, to top

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter spread and oil until warm.  Add garlic and onion to the pot and cook until browned.  Sprinkle in the spice mix and red pepper flakes, stirring until thoroughly integrated into the onion mixture (this will prevent the spices from clumping when the liquid is added.)

Add the squash of your choice and the vegetable stock to the pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for a couple minutes.  Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to your taste.

Using an immersion blender or carefully pureeing in the regular blender, mix soup until smooth and creamy.  Serve with a dollop of vegan yogurt and some cilantro leaves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Cup Tofu

I haven't been inspired to cook much of anything as of late.  After long hours sending out resumes and pounding the pavement looking for an ever elusive job, all I've had energy for is eating for sustenance rather than for the usual hedonist frenzy of flavors.  If I never eat another pre packaged Indian meal, spinach salad or pan fried piece of fish when this job search is over I will be that much happier.

So when the urge for Asian came over me I wasn't going to resist.  There was massive amounts of basil in the fridge from the farmer's market so I thought Three Cup Chicken would be delightful.  But that would be cheating so I went crazy and made it vegan with a little help from someone else who had obviously already had the same idea.

I changed things up by adding some spinach so I could feel like I was getting my vitamins and some cashews to add a better mouthful to what tofu lacks versus the chicken thighs in the original version of this dish.  It worked out delightfully.  Craving satisfied in a matter of minutes.

Pan fried tofu is actually pretty tasty and does a great job of sucking up the flavor of marinates.  So if you avoid it for texture issues, try it this way and see if you change your mind.

Three Cup Tofu

14 ounce container firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons sesame oil
6 cloves garlic, diced
3 inch nob garlic, grated
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoon sake or rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable stock

2 handfuls of spinach, chopped
1 handful of basil leaves

1 handful cashews

In a non stick pan over high heat fry the tofu until browned (about 5 minutes each side.)  Set aside.

Lower heat to medium and place oil in the same pan.  Cook garlic and ginger until browned.  Add soy sauce, sake and tofu to pan and cook until liquid reduces slightly.  Place vegetable stock in pan and reduce further until sauce is thick and sticky.

Add spinach, basil, and cashews to pan and toss briefly to coat.  Serve over brown rice.

Recipe adapted from original at Table for 2 or More.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegan "Parmesan" Cheese

Tonight in my on going quest to cook all the artichokes I impulse bought at the farmer's market I went super basic by steaming a handful of the baby ones.  Paired with some local caught salmon and dipped in some vegan butter substitute, it was a very happy making meal.

It also made me realize I don't miss dairy at all.  Considering I spent 28 years in the dairy state surrounded by some mind bogglingly delicious cheese, giving up milk products seemed like it would be a pretty big deal.  Turns out, not so much.  It takes an adjustment and strong will but there are so many decent ways to substitute the few dairy products I did enjoy that I don't feel like I'm missing out.

Earth Balance spread tastes and acts like butter so that one is easily covered.  There are so many great dairy free milk alternatives that you're bound to find one that tickles your taste buds.  For the most part I stick to making my own rice milk at home for basically free but Trader Joe's (on my side of town at least) sells gluten free hazelnut milk for about $2 that I'm also becoming a huge fan of.  Coconut yogurt isn't so bad if you need to fill that void.  Liquefied tofu or coconut milk make pretty great faux heavy cream.  And coconut ice cream is far better than even the best custard I've ever tasted, to the point that I wish I didn't know it existed seeing as it's awfully tempting to justify living on nothing but cookie dough coconut dream ice cream.

So far the only dairy free problem I have is cheese.  Soy cheese is creepy and it doesn't melt correctly.  Nut cheese has an odd texture.  And some dishes just aren't the same without cheese in some form.  I'm a big proponent of if you're eating vegetarian then eat food that is naturally vegetarian (no fake meat burgers or soy chicken nuggets for me...too creepy.)  But sometimes I stumble upon an easy and tasty alternative that allows me to pretend I'm eating the real thing and I'm all about that.

Surprisingly enough Parmesan cheese was one of those things I've been able to find a decent substitute for.  All it takes is a blender and a trip to the bulk bins at Whole Foods or New Season's and you have a vegan cheese creation that will fool you into thinking you're eating the real thing.  Nutritional yeast is actually a pretty good fake out for most of your vegan cheese needs so I always keep some on hand.

So blend some up and try it everywhere you've been missing Parmesan; in pesto, in risotto, on top of pasta, you name it and this recipe will work

Vegan "Parmesan" Cheese

1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 dash mustard seed

Put everything in a food processor or spice grinder and process until the texture of crumbled Parmesan.  I use my bullet style blender gizmo  to grind the ingredients which also allows me to leave the left overs in the same cup for storing. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baby Artichoke and Loveage Risotto

Portland blows my mind at least once a day.  It's gorgeous here.  So I should warn you now, fair reader, that to make up for my lack of skill in the food porn photography department I will hope to distract you with photos of the various eye candy this city has to offer just because I can.  Gaze for example upon the two tiny houses I stumbled upon on my dog walk around the neighborhood the other day.

Besides being easy on the eyes Portland has all sorts of other goodies that quickly made me a huge fan of the city.  There are fruit trees everywhere.  The Asian plum tree in the alley way behind our apartment for example I have named "breakfast" and take advantage of at every opportunity.  Apples are everywhere.  Today the fella and I found two fig trees and his sister lives in a neighborhood where we have spotted pears, lychees, kiwi and persimmons.

This is quite a change having come from a city where fruit trees are illegal because the mayor decided people will kill themselves trying to pick the fruit and Madison can't afford the liability insurance.  Some bureaucratic nonsense like that.  Someone should inform Mayor David that I've been here a month, and though I have seem a lot of strange things, that has not included anyone bleeding from the skull after a failed attempt at apple gathering.  I'm just saying...

Then there is the farmer's market downtown.  We went two weeks ago and I'm still recovering from the amazement not to mention cooking from our bag of goodies.  This is a market like the Midwest could only dream of.  It's massive and the produce is insanely beautiful, abundant and fresh.  There are food carts, bakeries (including a one that is gluten free and vegan, New Cascadia, that I will be reviewing soon), chocolate makers, even local wine.

There were fruits and veggies there like most people would not believe.   It never crossed my mind that I was lucky enough to now live in a place were artichokes are local so I snatched up a bag of baby chokes and two mama ones for my cooking schemes.  And after smelling this mysterious local herb called loveage (which is a relative to capers and celery I have now learned) I knew I had to have that too.  When the lady selling it to us said the word "risotto" I knew exactly what to make for dinner.

Somehow the fella and I made it home on the Tri Met with our many bags of goodies, all the while munching on fresh blackberries and dreaming of the meals that were in our future, given the quality of food we now have to work with.  Our first experiment was a success.  It isn't much to look at but this risotto was crazy good, you can substitute in whatever herb you have on hand because the fresh artichokes are the star of this show.

Baby Artichoke and Loveage Risotto

2 tablespoon olive oil
8 baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter (I use EarthBalance soy-free spread)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup arborio rice (brown rice will work as a slightly healthier substitute)

2-3 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon loveage, ribboned (use basil or mint if you must)
1/2 cup frozen peas

lemon juice
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan cheese

In a large frying pan, heat oil and place prepared artichokes heart side down and fry at medium heat until tender.  If you need more detailed instructions on properly trimming artichokes and frying them, then check this out.

While the artichokes cook, in a separate pan over medium high heat, melt the remaining olive oil and butter substitute then add the garlic, cooking until slightly browned.  Add rice to oil and toast for about a minute, stirring constantly.

About a 1/2 cup at a time begin adding the broth to the rice.  Wait for the rice to absorb most of the liquid and then add another portion of liquid.  Continue this ritual, stirring often until your rice is al dente.  Use water or additional broth if necessary.  Now add salt and pepper to your taste.

Your artichokes should be soft and crispy by now, add those to the rice along with the wine, loveage and frozen peas.  Stir well and continue cooking until the peas are warmed through.

Remove from heat and drizzle with some lemon juice and some vegan Parmesan, giving it one last stir before serving.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Beginnings

It was quite the adventure but I have made it to Portland, Oregon at long last.  I have never been happier.  

My fella and I had talked about moving from frigid Madison, Wisconsin to the west coast for years, more as a wild fantasy than anything we truly thought we'd get around to doing.  Then life happened.  He got down sized and I was about to burn the building down if I stayed at my soul draining job one more day.   So we said the heck with it, packed everything we owned and moved out here with only a part time job and the flimsy idea of an apartment between us.  But here we are making a new life from scratch while only knowing two people in the whole state.

With all the beauty and the opportunities for awesome at every turn, even the job market and the supposed nine upcoming months of Portland rains can't get me down.  Because you know what this town has that Madison never even dreamed of?  Food I can eat!  

As a person with a plethora of food allergies and intolerances this is a big deal.  Portland has me covered.  Gluten free restaurants or traditional ones with gluten free options are everywhere.  There are even a handful of dedicated gluten free bakeries here.  Not to mention the tasty vegan places that understand my issues with eggs and milk.  There is even a vegan gluten free Italian place with a low sulfite wine list and sugar free desserts.  Finally a city that understands me!

So far I've explored a couple bakeries and been taken out to dinner at a tiny bistro with food so great my friend and I fought over which one of us got to purpose marriage to the chef.  But I haven't even gotten started.  And today the kitchen is finally fully unpacked so let the cooking begin. 

I'm in a town where I will never have to struggle to eat or fit in again, this will be my documentation of living the life I've always dreamed of in the city of my dreams.  There will be lots of food, wackiness, recipes, restaurant reviews and the unavoidable pictures of my dog.  Enjoy the ride.