Monthly Archives: October 2008

An ode to a cutting board

Sometimes I feel like a culinary novice, like when I found out that the best cutting boards are end-grain, not the cheap plastic ones I’ve been using since college.

Serendipity shined on me when I noticed a round end-grain bamboo cutting board at Newport Avenue Market earlier this month. It was in the discount bin, thanks to a few imperfections. Marked down: $65. Still too much for me.

Then, last week, I saw it marked down to $30. Well, I couldn’t resist. So here she is, folks. Perfect for slicing, dicing, serving bread or a selection of cheeses.

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Breakfast in bed

One by one, my boyfriend and I are figuring out how to beat the system.

As lovers of a good breakfast cafe, we’ve visited nearly all the best places Bend has to offer. And we’ve begun to make our favorite dishes at home.

Today, we made a version of Nancy P’s lox bagel sandwich. It was 100% the bf’s concoction.

Here’s how he did it:

Toasted everthing bagels

Cream cheese

Capers

Red Onion

Lox

Simply mix a Tablespoon of capers into a couple Tablespoons of cream cheese (whatever you would normally put on a bagel). Spread that on your bagel, then top with a couple slices of lox (we get ours from Newport Ave. Market) and some thinly sliced onion, to taste.

Ta-da!

Oh, Merenda…

Just when I get tired of their menu, they change it up. My Saturday night started at a birthday party at 28, where I bought my friend the chocolate decadence cake and said to the waitress, “I have a cold. So I was thinking something with vodka, maybe citrus, what do you have for me?”

I ended up witht the classic cosmopolitan. Made well, it never lets me down.

Once the crowd grew to twice its size (of people I didn’t know) and people started clapping and throwing glitter everywhere, we bounced.

That’s how three fabulous girls ended up at Merenda’s happy hour, where we got the new pizza on the menu: gorgonzola cheese, caramelized onions and pinot noir grapes.

No, those aren't blueberries.

Not blueberries

I must have read the menu wrong, because I thought it meant grape tomatoes. Not the actual grapes used to make pinot noir wine.

Turns out, it was pretty darn good. One friend exclaimed it was the best pizza at Merenda, but I think she just said that so she could get the last piece. (love you, B). For $8 that I split, not a bad way to end the night.

Baked ziti with a wilted spinach salad

We’re all lucky to find someone who can cook gourmet comfort foods. This post is dedicated to why I’m a lucky girl.

Inspired by a Sopranos episode, he spent two hours making baked ziti with meatballs and a wilted spinach salad with bacon, red onions and a boiled egg on top. It was out of this world.

First, he made Italian sausage meatballs with romano cheese and parsley.

Then, he mixed them with the ricotta/romano/tomato sauce. And the rigatoni noodles.

Topped with more cheese, red pepper flakes and butter…

And baked until golden and oozing goodness.

For the salad, he browned 10 pieces of bacon, drained the fat and added sliced red onion.

Then, he wilted the spinach into the onion and bacon mixture, topping it with the pieces of egg.

Even the salad was good the next day. Hello, yum!

Taking stock of the situation

I love making soup stock because it lets me get rid of any spare vegetables or herbs in the fridge.

I threw in a couple leftover onions, carrots, celery and some fresh tarragon, parsley and thyme.

All I added to the water was a couple bay leaves, salt, pepper and garlic powder and let it simmer for around three hours.

I plan on using it to revisit my favorite comfort soup: pho. Stay tuned and keep eating.

Feeling Fallish

Apple crostata

Apple crostata

Of all the delicious recipes we keep stuffed between pages of cookbooks, some manage to pop up over and over.

I recently made Ina Garten’s apple crostata based on my love of baked apples, cinnamon, allspice and strudel. My boyfriend instantly ate 50 percent of it and requested another, por favor.

So we had some friends over for dinner Sunday night and I cooked the crostata for dessert. Sadly, boyfriend only got one piece and is now asking for another one. Pronto!

This rustic tart is always a crowd-pleaser, makes your kitchen smell amazing and will be one of those go-to recipes that never stay folded away for long.

For the pastry, blend 1 c. flour, 2 T sugar and .25 tsp salt in a food processor, adding 1 stick of cold cubed unsalted butter until it forms beads. Drizzle in a couple tsp. cold water until the dough forms a clumpy mess.

Pour it onto a floured surface, pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hr.

After that time, roll it out to 11 inches, and place on a baking sheet.

Cut 3 apples into small chunks and mix with 1 tsp. orange zest. Pour into the center of the dough.

For the strudel, process .25 c. flour, .25 c. sugar, .25 tsp. salt, .25 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. ground allspice. Add half a stick of diced unsalted butter until it forms beads. Mush it a little with your hands to form larger clumps and pour it over the apples.

Fold the crust up over the apples to create the tart shell. Bake at 450 degrees until the crust is golden and the apples are tender.

Try to have just one piece...

Try to have just one piece...

Serve warm or at room temperature. I find it’s best with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream. My mom likes to make it for her Bridge parties.

Mom’s Swiss mushroom spaghetti squash

My mom is the original. She put her career on hold to raise us girls and then went back to work after 10 years, full-time, and somehow had energy to cook dinner for us every night. (How do you women do it? I’m lucky I have energy to pour myself a glass of wine after work.)

While my sister hasn’t taken to cooking, I do it for sentimental reasons.

I want my kitchen to be the heart of the house, always warm, brightly lit and full of delicious home-made goodies where public radio always plays. My memories of watching mom cook all her delicious meals from scratch keeps me going back to the kitchen. I guess it’s a way of always being home.

I’m delighted to host Thanksgiving for the FIRST TIME EVER this year (am I scared or excited?). That means my whole family will be traveling to Bend and squeezing in our house for a weekend of gluttony. My boyfriend and I are already planning the menu. Tonight, I made a dish mom always makes on Thanksgiving. And it was made with a spaghetti squash from her own garden!

Mom’s Swiss mushroom spaghetti squash is a great lesson in the joys of the squash. I normally hate squash, but this dish is different. The spaghetti texture fools me, and the bacon and cheese make everything delicious.

The first time I tried to make this, the squash exploded out of the microwave (projectile squash), almost making my boyfriend the casualty. I suppose I just didn’t poke enough holes in the thing.

This time, I used a thick fork to make deep incisions all over the skin. After 20 minutes in the microwave, it split easily open.

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash

One fork later and I had my spaghetti.

The recipe calls for sauteeing sliced mushrooms in bacon fat, but because I don’t like mushrooms, I just crumbled the bacon into the squash, along with 8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese and a dash of grated nutmeg. I seasoned it with S&P, added more cheese on top and popped it into a 350 degree oven for another 20 minutes.

When it came out, I added chopped green onions. This dish is great as a side for almost anything. Try it with pork chops or your next holiday feast. Scrum!

I heart F.O.S.

Cup of love.

Cup of love.

To me, nothing smells more like fall than French onion soup. The salty, sharp, sweet, hearty flavors of autumn. My sweetie and I like to make this soup whenever we crave the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket.

The soup is cheap to make and goes well as a first course or the main course, with a salad on the side.

This pile of tear-worthy onions would soon become a caramelized reduction.

After half an hour in my trusty Martha Stewart dutch oven, the flavors of chicken and beef stocks, red wine, bay leaf, parsley (see floating), thyme and balsamic vinegar steeped with the onions.

A sliced baguette with shredded swiss and parmesan cheese is broiled to bubbly goodness with a sprinkling of green onions on top.

It looks like a heart! Love is delicious.

Orange beef

Rachael Ray’s recipes are usually good, but some are a miss. This orange beef stir-fry wasn’t my favorite.

I found myself wanting less sweetness and more saltiness and fish sauce. So I added some. Fish sauce doesn’t taste too great with orange, fyi. Maybe next time I won’t add the zest, too. And the beef was kind of tough, which I guess is what you get with ultra-lean meat. What’s the best cut of beef for stir-frying?

The cilantro rice was tasty, but I don’t think it needed any salt.

Nevertheless, my boyfriend liked it, so it wasn’t a total bust. It was cheap to make, though.

Rachael Ray's orange beef with cilantro rice.

Rachael Ray

No more tea bags

My parents brought my these blooming tea flowers from their trip to China. One was carnation, but this one is jasmine.

If caffeine were always this beautiful, I would totally sacrifice my pumpkin spice lattes.

Blooming tea

Blooming tea