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.