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By Debra Meadow of Blue Raven Wellness

My husband I had friends over last weekend and one of the couples brought gold for a hostess gift.  They handed me a limp, slightly damp brown paper bag, saying, “Hope you can use these.”  I peered inside to find a nest of perfect morel mushrooms.  Not just three or four, but about a half pound.  Like I said: Gold.  With friends like these, who needs other friends?  Just kidding, other friends: We love you, too.

MorelsMorels are difficult to cultivate, which accounts for their rich price tag.  They are the same species as the truffle, so if you look at it that way, they’re a bargain!  As with most wild mushrooms, they are very nutritious and, according to the USDA, are high in iron, phosphorus and potassium and one of the best plant sources of vitamin D.  But, really, I’d just as soon get my vitamin D from the sun.  I eat morels because they are fresh, wild and soooooo over-the-top delicious.  They have an earthy, nutty flavor that sings in comparison to the nearly tasteless cultivated white mushroom, but it’s also not as powerful as the strong-tasting shiitake mushroom.

And then there’s the aphrodisiac factor.  Early (first couple of centuries A.D.) philosophers and herbalists swore by something called the “doctrine of signatures,” the idea that useful plants looked like the body parts they were supposed to enhance.  Hence, we have asparagus appearing on Valentine’s Day dinner plates, as well as morels, with their long, tapered caps.

I wasn’t keen on letting this precious gift sit around, so the following morning I attempted creamed morels on toast with poached eggs for breakfast.  I wanted the mushrooms to play the starring role, since I can safely say they won’t be making a frequent appearance on my table.  Once we dug in to the tender bites bathed in butter and cream, I was in love, so I can vouch for their seductive powers.  I can’t honestly remember ever eating a more delicious breakfast, and it probably ranks up there with my top ten all-time most delicious meals.

Yes, morels are pricey, but even if you only treat yourself once a year, you won’t regret it.  I’m still swooning.

Creamed Morels on Toast with (or without) Poached EggsCreamed_Morels

Serves 2

½ pound fresh morel mushrooms

¼ cup minced shallot

2 tablespoons butter, plus some for the toast

6 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons dry sherry or Madeira

Salt and pepper to taste

2 slices good white bread or 6 to 8 slices baguette

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Fleur de Sel or other coarse grind sea salt

2 – 4 poached pastured eggs (optional)

With a pastry brush or soft cloth, brush excess dirt from the mushrooms.  Do not rinse or they will become waterlogged.  Slice each mushroom lengthwise and then in ¼” crosswise slices.  Start some water simmering to poach eggs, if using.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add sherry or Madeira, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more.

Poach eggs.

Uncover pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream; simmer until slightly thickened, 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toast bread and spread with butter.  Place toast on two plates.  Top each serving of toast with half the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with chives, garnish with sea salt, place poached eggs on top and serve immediately.

Note: If morels aren’t available, try this with other wild or exotic varieties, like oyster mushrooms, cremini or chanterelles, or a combination.

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In my early days of cooking, Alice Waters’ triad of “fresh, local, & seasonal” was the answer to all my food questions. At the same time, there was an explosion of regional Italian cookery – even though this is certainly a platitude – French cooking is about the cook, Italian foods are about the ingredients, and I learned to love the ingredient. For most of my cooking life, these two forces have influenced my cooking decisions above all else. So I never really had any inclination to add cream (or butter or cheese) to veg – why neuter them with heavy sauces and long cooking times? Al dente or the highway, right?

Except food tends change and the pendulum has swung back to the other side. Ron Swanson, bacon, comfort foods and the centenary of Julia Child have helped usher in a neoclassical era to our kitchens. Take an item like meatballs, considered unserious; possibly pedestrian a decade ago, now they’re cause for some passionate debate and cravings.

Spinach

Fresh


It’s good to keep your perspective fresh, not only in the kitchen but it’s a good idea to periodically revisit thoughts, ideas and ideals every now and then to make sure you aren’t shaking your fist – either literally or figuratively – at what the kids are doing these days. So I did something I’ve never have done before, I creamed spinach.

That stuff, that came in cans when I was a kid, the side cigar smokers order at steak houses after they’ve obliterated their taste buds with a stogie. Creamed spinach isn’t cooking with reverence for the ingredient; it’s what a teevee chef on a competition show would do. But because I had nothing else in the fridge except a bag of spinach that wasn’t going to last through three; possibly four days of salad, I let down my guard and now I know – So easy, so good, so quick. Creamed spinach did everything right except photograph well.

8 oz. Spinach, cleaned and salad-spun.

1/3 cup heavy cream

A healthy amount of salt, some pepper and a little nutmeg

photo

Cooked

2 oz of grated cheese (optional)

Add cream to a pan, place on high heat with spices and seasoning. When cream reaches a boil, take spinach – tear/rip into thirds, add to pan, stir until cream nearly evaporates and spinach is 1/37th of original volume. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Adjust seasonings and don’t be mortified at the amount of salt your adding – sometimes you just have to have the heavy hand.

Serve.

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Dungeness Crab and Noodle Soup

By Dustin Clark Executive Chef of Wildwood Restaurant

When the biting cold winter weather finally strikes, nothing is more satisfying and restorative than a hot bowl of soup, but sipping on the basic beef, bean, and root vegetable stews day after day can quickly kill some of the love for comfort food. Luckily for us, winter in Oregon also means fresh Dungeness crab!

This is a satisfying seafood soup, concentrated oceanic flavor and the delicate richness of the claws and body meat. Crab shells lend great flavor to broths and butters. I could happily use brown butter into every dish, but here I’ve chosen to follow Asian influences for this particular soup, adding flavor and depth with ingredients like ginger, lime, and cilantro, that lend to lighter fare – perfect for keeping those new years resolutions!

Wildwood is a Portland institution that helped launch Pacific Northwest cuisine. Fresh, local ingredients are served in an evocative, ever-changing menu that is approachable and modern, with international influences like French, Italian, Indian, and Eastern European. Wildwood strives to provide excellence in all aspects of dining – from cuisine, to wine and spirits, to service. Wildwood is one of the most acclaimed and well-known restaurants in Oregon, and its dedicated staff is committed to providing the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Crab Broth:
2-4 Dungeness crabs
8 pork bones split
6 oz ginger root cut lengthwise
1 head garlic
3 yellow onions cut in half
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch thai basil
2 oz squid brand fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
8 ea star anise
1 T dried shrimp

To make the crab broth: Boil crabs in well-seasoned water for 12 minute. Allow to cool. Remove meat – reserve both shell and meat. Heat oven to 400 F. Roast pork bones until golden brown. Add crab shells and continue to roast until very aromatic. Place bones and shells in a stock pot. Over a flame, char ginger, onion, and cinnamon until slightly over caramelized, then add to the pot. Toast star anise and dried shrimp in oven until fragrant, then add to the pot. Pick leaves of basil and cilantro reserving for garnish. Add stems to the bones and cover with water. Simmer stock for 2 to 3 hrs. Stain and reduce by 1/3. Season with fish sauce.

Soup:
Broth from above recipe
Reserved crab meat
Thick rice noodle soaked
½ red onion shaved

Garnishes:
½ bunch scallions sliced
Cilantro leaf
Thai basil leaf
Bean sprouts
10 birds eye chiles sliced
3 limes cut into wedges
sesame oil

To make the soup: Boil thick noodles until tender 15 minutes. Bring prepared broth to a boil. In serving bowls, place hot noodles, crab meat, and shaved onion. Pour hot broth over and serve with garnishes.

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Post and Photos by Barb Skinner

greens

Greens galore

Late fall is a wonderful time in the NW growing season, and while my own urbanized inclination is to think that keeping locally grown nutritious veggies in my diet is more difficult, nothing could be farther from the truth! It’s more important now than ever to have delicious and healthy recipes up your sleeve.

Yes it’s cold, and yes Portland Farmers Market is down to one weekly market on Saturdays at PSU, but the opportunities that root vegetables and winter crops present are truly exciting IF you have some interesting recipes to try. Allow me to expound…

wintertoadA lack of fresh summer berries can seem like a major loss in the fruit category, but PFM currently has delicious pears, apples, and Winter Toad Melon… wait WHAT? If you have never heard of Winter Toad Melon (like me), you are missing out. This delicious winter melon, like rich honeydew, has allowed me move on from those succulent summer berries. Stop by the La Mancha Orchard booth to sample it yourself. Another wonderful market treat is Kiyokawa Orchard’s Mt. Rose Apples – with a beautiful pink interior and crisp flavor, these are perfect to munch on or to make a beautiful cobbler!

squashThe options for winter squash are endless and many of the vendors have them coming out the ears. Roasting almost any type of winter squash with potatoes, onion, rutabega, carrots, or whatever you have around the house with some simple herbs draws out its deep and delicious flavors, and it’s fun to get creative! Try this savory vegan Pumpkin and Sage Pasta as an alternative to a fattier mac’n’cheese.

celeriac

Celery root a.k.a. celeriac is great raw or cooked

Late fall also yields some oddballs like celery root – this potato salad alternative is a light option, especially if you sub Greek yogurt for the mayo. But even if more unusual recipes like this are not your style,  the beauty of Portland in late fall is that greens are available all year long for traditional salads too.

Speaking of both squash and salads, PFM staff will be at Director Park this Saturday from 2-4pm cooking up two tasty dishes to simplify your holiday cooking: a raw kale and chickpea salad as well as sauteed delicata squash with chili.  Stop by to sample the goods and pick up the recipes!

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by Kelly Merrick

When the weather starts to turn cold and rainy like it has been for the last few weeks, I turn to hearty soups and stews to warm me up. And where there is soup, there is stock. Whether it’s vegetable- or meat–based, you need it to make a great soup. But why buy a high sodium variety from the store for $3 a quart when you can make it yourself from scraps and trimmings of farmers market veggies you would have normally discarded?

Along with saving money, there a few other good reasons to make your own vegetable stock. First, you can control what’s in it by adding the types of veggies and seasonings you like. Second, you will make your delicious farmer’s market veggies go further. Third, you’ll generate less packaging waste and the fourth and final reason: it’s really, really easy.

So how do you make this delicious, easy and low-cost stock? Follow these simple steps:

Get scrappy in the kitchen

Homemade vegetable stock

 1 large stockpot

1 gallon-sized freezer bag full of vegetable scraps (see below)

10 cups water

Seasonings of your choice (see below)

Containers for storing your stock

As you chop your vegetables throughout the week, save the scraps and store them in a one-gallon bag in your freezer.  You’ll want to use scraps from veggies you might put in a regular pot of soup – onions, leeks, carrots, garlic, herbs, etc. While you are saving your scraps, you’ll also want to start saving containers to store your stock in.

Once you have collected enough scraps to fill your bag, fill a large pot halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil add your veggie scraps (no thawing needed) and let it return to a boil.

Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add seasonings. You can use bay leaves, dried oregano, dill, or whatever else you have in your pantry. I add about a teaspoon of each, but you can adjust the amounts as you like. I recommend leaving out salt, as you can add it in later.

Once you’ve added your desired seasonings, simmer for 20-25 minutes. Unlike meat stocks, simmering longer won’t extract any more flavors.

Once the time is up, cool the stock for about 15 minutes. Carefully scoop out any large pieces (don’t forget to compost them!) with a slotted spoon.  Once you’ve removed the large pieces, use a fine-meshed strainer or a colander with cheesecloth and pour the rest of the broth into the strainer and into another pot.

Let the stock cool to room temperature and then taste. You can add more salt now (but remember you can also add it when you’re making the soup this will be the base for) and more seasonings if you want.

Once your stock has cooled, fill up the containers you’ve saved. If you plan to freeze your stock, leave about an inch of room at the top to allow for it to expand. I also recommend measuring out how much you put in each container and then labeling the container so you have pre-measured amounts for cooking. You could also freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag.

The day I made my stock I used it to make this potato cheddar soup that was absolutely delicious! Plus, it was 100 percent homemade and you can’t beat that!

Kelly Merrick lives in Portland with her husband Josh. Kelly is a Master Recycler and a self-proclaimed locavore. She has been a volunteer at the Portland Farmers Market since the spring of 2012 and says the market is her favorite place in Portland. She is a marketing assistant at PECI for Energy Trust of Oregon’s New Homes and Products team and loves to talk to others about ways they can conserve resources to protect our environment. In her spare time she enjoys exploring Portland’s many parks, cooking, reading, blogging (you can check out her blogs here and here) and spending time with family and friends. She can often be found volunteering at the PSU Farmer’s Market so stop by and say hi sometime. She’d love to chat.

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tomato sauce with sprig of basil

One of the best scenes in the 1996 movie Big Night was the simple preparation of an omelet in stark contrast to the previous night’s gluttony that ended in a brotherly brawl. The best and most enticing food is often the most humble (and brawl-free), and, to go a step further, that which comes from your own kitchen.

This statement comes dangerously close to the Italian notion that no one’s food tastes as good as one’s own, or rather one’s mamma’s cooking. I say dangerously because Italians are notorious for being close-minded about food. I prefer to be curious and experiment. But they have an enviable, embedded food wisdom that we Americans will never fully grasp. This wisdom is no doubt related to how hard it is to extract recipes from an Italian grandmother.

The notion of eating from my own kitchen lingered all last week, a week punctuated with the desire to cook when I least had access to a kitchen. My preferred dish? A simple tomato sauce (recipe at end).

It started with a visit to see old friends San Francisco. Though we all like to cook, we ate out almost every meal, from overdoing it on award-winning pastries to indulging in high-end Moroccan and Indian. They begged me to teach them how to make pasta so by the third night, I was happy (read: craving) to indulge them (Curious? See my Team Pasta class).

We amassed a great deal of pasta thanks to their deft three-and-a-half year old. The table went quiet as we all took our first bites. This is what handmade pasta and simple tomato sauce does to you. As your belly swells, so does your pride in having produced for yourself one of the most satisfying dishes known to man.

This only scratched the itch.

Why the itch? September is my favorite month and with Portland’s temperate climate and near-perfect September weather, the farmers market explodes with a mashup of summer hangers on like corn and tomatoes, and fall’s pears and winter squashes have marched in.

A not-so-best-kept secret at the market? Roma tomatoes are a steal at this time of year. This, and the notion that summer produce will soon be a mere memory makes me want to hit the kitchen.

But I was on vacation making my way up the California and Oregon coasts, and would arrive home only to drop my bags and run off to volunteer at FEAST Portland, the multi-day foodie phenomenon. In spite of, or maybe because of, the preposterous array of celebrity-status culinary goings on, all I really wanted to do was be in my own kitchen. That would have wait another two days.

In a FEAST speaker series, Oregon farmer/philosopher Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, journeyed around the globe from Oregon’s spot on the 45th parallel to our same-latitude culinary cousins. Even as we are surrounded by exceptional restaurants, as Boutard said, “It’s really the home kitchens that inspire what we grow, especially immigrant kitchens.”

That was the final nudge I needed on the journey to savor the simple pleasure of Sunday gravy bubbling away on the stove.

……………………………..

Tomato Sauce Recipe

For a recipe with so few ingredients, there’s much to be said about skin and seeds, about pureeing before or after or not at all, about quick cooking versus slow and low. This recipe results in a thick sauce that can be used as is or you can add meat, seafood or vegetables. This sauce goes a long way especially if additional olive oil is added at the end, which helps to really coat the pasta. I did not peel my tomatoes but I do puree the sauce once cooled to avoid the unpleasant texture of the skins. Alternately, you can use a food mill to eliminate skins.

As for seeds, it’s been found that much of a tomato’s flavor comes from the gelatin-like substance around the seeds. I use a method passed on from Kathryn LaSuza Yeomans, a fixture at Saturday’s Portland Farmers Market, that uses this liquid for the sauce.

Ingredients

3–4 pounds of roma tomatoes (good to use because they’re mostly flesh and not runny)

1 onion, chopped finely

1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped finely

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

pinch of red chili flake (optional)

1–2 T olive oil

Several fresh torn basil leaves

Preparation

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium to large saucepan and sauté onions on low heat till translucent.

2. While onions are cooking, halve the tomatoes and, using a sharp knife, carve angled slits to remove the hard part of the core. This doesn’t have to be perfect or thorough. Scoop the seeds into a wire mesh sieve set over a bowl and chop tomatoes into chunks. Return to your reserved seeds and vigorously swish with a wooden spoon for a minute or two to release the jelly-like liquid in the bowl. Add this to the tomatoes.

3. Add garlic to the cooking onions and allow the aroma to just surface, then add the tomatoes and salt. Stir and let simmer very gently for an hour or more. Towards the end, add a pinch of red chili flake if desired and some torn basil (you can add more fresh basil to your pasta dish).

4. Puree the mixture or run through a food mill. You can freeze some or all of the sauce in freezer-safe jars or containers. If using glass, leave at least one inch of head space to avoid cracking the jar when the sauce freezes.

5. Add to your pasta of choice!

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Chef Cory Schreiber knows how to get kids to eat their vegetables. Photo by Kathleen Kelly.

A fresh, simple way to enjoy some of summer’s favorite vegetables, this recipe was taught by Chef Schreiber to our Kids Cook in the Market class this year.  If you have little ones, let them help in the kitchen and stuff their own tortillas.  Chances are you’ll both have fun and enjoy the meal even more!

Ingredients:

12 corn or flour tortillas

1 zucchini or yellow summer squash (medium in size) ends removed, cut in half-length wise and sliced into ¼ inch pieces

2 ears of corn. Shucked and kernels removed. (Discard cob)

½ of one sweet onion. Peeled and sliced thin.

1 small basket red cherry tomatoes (de-stemmed and cut in half)

1 bunch basil. Leaves only, hand torn into small pieces ½ inch in size.

Fresh lime cut into 1/8’s (optional)

Fresh radish cut into 1/4 ‘s (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 oz. Fresh goat cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedure

Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the slice onion; cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, being careful not to color the onion. Add the corn and zucchini, cook for 2 more minutes, tossing or stirring as it cooks. Add some salt to taste, add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute over medium heat. Have the torn basil in a bowl. Toss cooked vegetable into the bowl with the basil; add freshly ground pepper and toss. Let rest.

Warm tortillas over a gas flame or in a hot skillet with no oil until warm or slightly brown.

Fill tortillas half way with a spoon of the vegetable mixture. Crumble a little goat cheese over the top and roll the tortilla up. Serve on a platter with fresh cilantro, lime and radish if desired.

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