I was craving for the comfort that only a good glass of wine and a soothing bowl of brothy braised meat could provide me to combat the chilling effects of a late Fall Pacific Northwest drizzle. I couldn’t decide which to eat, so I made both: a batch of oxtail pho and a classic ‘pot au feu’, France’s version of a boiled beef dinner. I arranged all the ingredients on my counter and began cooking. I came to the quick realization that both were very similar; each dish featured meats being braised for long periods of time with similar spicing, the main difference seemed to be how each culture finished their dish. The Vietnamese serve with basil. mint, bean sprouts and rice noodles while the French with potatoes, cabbage and root vegetables. …
The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them. – Paulo Coelho
No other dish in the world better captures the soul and spirit of a single region than bouillabaisse. The rich, often colorful history of Marseille floats sublimely with rascasse in its spicy golden hued broth. Some believe bouillabaisse got its start from the Greek mariners who founded Marseille as Massalia in 600 BC, while others claim its origins are strictly Italian because of a few shared ingredients. The absolute truth may be that no one can precisely pinpoint the exact single moment in time, whether on that fabled riverbed encampment of fishermen and their wives or not, that bouillabaisse was born. What really would be the point of trying to figure that out anyway? It won’t make it taste any better, and it certainly won’t change the fact that bouillabaisse is the mirror reflection of the cultural melting pot Marseille has become. And the deeper I look into it, the more I see my own story reflected in it.
Spring has slowly been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Sure, we’ve gotten our miner’s lettuce, fiddleheads and wood sorrel. Yes, the halibuts have come and spring king salmon are making their legendary runs up the Columbia River. Even morels have started poking their curious honey combed heads through the forest floors. But what has been noticeably missing has been one of the oldest and most loved harbingers of spring; the fava bean. Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.
Here are three recipes for you to savor this spring.
Sharing good food and wine with someone you love is perfection. – Jean-Andre Charial
The foundation for today’s lunch was simple; it was cold out and I longed for comfort food. Everyone has their own mental picture of what that entails, for me, it is anything Provencal. What I love about southern French cooking is that it is very approachable, unpretentious and rustic yet at the same time diverse and alluring. A food deeply rooted in a regionality carved out by conquest, invasion and geography. Yet at the same moment, it is an artist’s palette of beautiful colors, textures and sensuous flavors. …
Where is my place in the food universe? I have struggled with this question for quite some time. The search for our treasure in life often begins and ends in the same exact space. Though a journey from adolescence to manhood is usually necessary to fully comprehend what we search for. The exploration allows us to naively abandon our roots, experiment and possibly forget what we were looking for in the first place. In the end, we find it hiding in plain sight. What we had in the beginning was probably all we ever needed and craved for only we usually are too stupid to understand life….
Chaga is one of the weirdest mushrooms you may ever see. A fungal parasite found on birch trees, Chaga is a hardened, blackened, crusty formation that looks like a bursting tumor. – Paul Stamets, Fungi Perfecti founder and president
I was nodding at my computer yesterday afternoon like I do most days around two. The obvious result of too many hours staring at a screen. I walked into our large, communal kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and stretch my legs. I bumped into John, our leader and the force behind Foods in Season, and started talking food as we so often do. He offered a cup of chaga he was brewing and proceeded to tell me about some braised chicken he prepared the night before. He marinated them in chaga tea overnight and it gave a very pleasant pheasant-like taste. I was intrigued. I only heard of chaga mushrooms and was familiar with their healthy beneficial qualities. No one ever talked about using them in a culinary sense….
Sweet, delicious Dungeness crab is always a treat. – Tom Douglas
A lot of people asked what I did with my Dungeness crabs Patricia Edwards, from Linda Brand Crab, graciously gave me at the Portland Farmer’s Market last Saturday. I was in the mood for Asian flavors and decided upon doing a take on salt and pepper crab. It quickly escalated to a sizzling rice version done as a soup….
French Onion Soup is perhaps the most iconic and well-travelled of all French dishes. Worldwide it has seduced more stomachs than even our beloved New England clam chowder, which incidentally, is another French export. Onion soup is, as author Robert Courtine suggests, “a daughter of the streets… In her presence all castes dissolve. Rich and Poor are equal in appetite.” Her simplicity seduces all….
“The crab that walks too far, falls into the pot”
Dungeness Crabs are to Thanksgiving menus in the Pacific Northwest what turkeys are to everyone else’s in America. They are the harbinger of late Fall, signalling that Thanksgiving is upon us. Crab bibs are dusted off and pounds of sweet cream butter melted in anticipation of feasts to come. National news reports of large, toxic algae blooms earlier in the year weighed heavy on the minds of locals much like a forecast of a snowless late December haunts the minds of small children facing a Santa-less Christmas. Thanksgiving is here and I started to craving sweet, briny Dungeness crab. I was troubled by recent news stories that there may not be a crab season at all. Rumors were spreading like wildfire that all crabs nationwide, even in Alaska, had been affected with abnormally high levels of a toxin called domoic acid. My heart sunk and I felt heavy and listless. Frozen crab can be found all year long but I prefer the flavor and texture of fresh Winter crabs….
It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.
I apologize dear mother, for I have not had time to keep up with my misplaced food ramblings. I apologize because, though my page lists 66 lost souls, I mean subscribers, I seriously doubt any are left beyond my dear mother due to the wide chasm of time that has separated this post from the last. In my defence, I have been hard at work crafting the pages of my forth coming cookbook ‘Cuisine of the Sun’. The book is finally at the publishers actually being printed. Torrey Douglass, of Lemon Fresh Design, spent several weeks giving it a make-over, making me look like an absolute hero with her dream-like designs. I only hope I haven’t sent her to the same fate I returned to. I know her husband Alan, so perhaps I should apologize to him as well. Writing has been the same brutal assault on my body and mind I thought I left behind when I walked out of my last professional kitchen. Oh how completely wrong and naive I was. I have adopted the Edward Abbey style of writing. I embrace loads of alcohol, nondescript pharmaceutical drugs and lengthy hours like a newly born babe takes to his mother’s breast anticipating the first swallow. I find words flow more freely slightly imbibed, ok, three sheets to the wind. With the ink barely dry on the last page of my book, I felt I better attempt to salvage my dwindling viewership with a very short and sweet seasonal ode to pumpkins in the guise of a recipe.
WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart, nor any vegans who may not have fully understood the title of my blog page and it’s full implications. Good Ramen is serious porky business.
I start my blog with a confession. I have been a confirmed ramen addict for several decades now. The disease shows no signs of slowing even though, for the most part, I have stopped eating gluten and pork. The addiction began in earnest as a small child left to fend for himself and forage the near empty cupboards of 1970’s America. Instant ramen noodles seemed the perfect cost effective solution for parents of constantly hungry adolescents. Any child with half a brain could boil a cup of water, open the tin foil flavor packet, drop the waxed noodles in and eat. It progressed, or degressed depending on your point of view, to high school where I put the high in high school and had the munchies that needed constant tending. Ramen was the perfect solution….
It won’t matter if the sun doesn’t come out when you serve this soup,
because it is hotter than the sunshine of the Midi. ~ Roger Verge
Nothing could be more Provençal than to eat a fish soup, whether it’s in the form of bouillabaisse, bourride or this simple seductive soup. Marseilles fish soup, or soupe de poissons as it’s known, is something I actually crave all the time. The assertive flavors redolent with the very soul of Provence transports me back to the old port of Marseilles where I first tried it decades ago. I fondly remember my first bite like some men remember their first experience with a woman. You may have many more in life but the first always commands a special place in your heart.
“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”
My poor wife was suffering through a terrible cold. The kind that pretends to go away for a day, fooling you into believing somehow you survived the worst. Then comes back with a debilitating vengeance that makes you wonder if it will ever end. I felt so sorry for her. She laid on the couch, snugly wrapped in two jackets, not noticing Beau bouncing next to her. Her chapped nose raw from constant blowing and rosy flushed cheeks. She whispered in a soft feeble voice, half begging for chicken soup. I made her a quick and easy Vietnamese chicken soup (chicken pho) to heal her and help forget her woes….
I have written and rewritten this post so many times I am starting to see cross eyed. What started a simple post celebrating a classic French dish, Volaille Demi Deuil, or Chicken in Half Mourning has become an ever expanding education into an important and often untold chapter in the annuals of great cooking. I decided to share a brief version for all the great women Chefs and cooks I have been fortunate to share the ranges with. So often it seems women Chefs feel alone and under appreciated in the kitchen. This story belongs to them, it is their story….
Here’s a Springtime recipe I have been using in the kitchens recently. Spring is my favorite time of year as the markets overflow with asparagus, fava beans, halibut, morel mushrooms and other great ingredients….
I have always been attracted to whimsical menu titles. I don’t what captivates me so, other than I just love a good story and the history behind them. If I really had to explain it deeper, I would say it is good for business and chicken soup for a Chef’s soul. It provides a moment for servers to develop a rapport with customers and take them past just eating dinner and onto a rich and multifaceted dining experience. By bringing life to older recipes it allows me to do my part in the vast lexicon of culinary heritage to help older traditions to continue to exist in the future and keep them relevant. It also gives the press an opportunity to write something interesting and educate us. My current menu has a few gems like Brule Doights and Squazabarbuz.
Sguazabarbuz, beard splasher, is an Italian pasta and bean soup from Ferrara. The story starts that on May 29, 1503 Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, came to Ferrara to marry Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. A steward of the Palace, taking inspiration from her golden locks, created this special pasta and bean soup in her honor. The pasta is cut into irregular strips resembled her hair.
The story is actually much longer, more complicated and has more plot twists than a Hitchcock thriller. Lucrezia was sort of a femme fatale. Her father, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, had arranged several marriages into influential families to help build power for her own family. History has shown the family to be power hungry and willing to spill blood to grow the family name.
Her first marriage to Giovanni Sforza enabled her father to ascend from a mere cardinal to Pope. When the marriage no longer gave the family benefit, her father had it annulled on the grounds that the relationship had never been consummated. While the deal was being negotiated apparently she had gotten pregnant by someone. Her first marriage ended on December 27th, 1497. In March of 1498, she gave birth to an illegitimate son named Giovanni. Stories swirled about the child being a product of incest. Two papal decrees later Giovanni became son of Pope Alexander.
Her next marriage came in July of 1498 to Alfonso of Aragon, the 17-year-old Duke of Bisceglie and son of the late king of Naples. Lucrezia and Alfonso had a child, but unfortunately for Alfonso, by 1500, Pope Alexander and Lucrezia’s brother Cesare sought a new alliance with France, and Lucrezia’s marriage to Alfonso became a major obstacle. On July 15, 1500, Alfonso narrowly survived a brutal murder attempt only to be strangled to death by Cesare’s goon squad while recovering from his earlier stab wounds.
After Alfonso’s death, Lucrezia’s father arranged for her to be married to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. Her new husband was hesitant because of the Borgia family reputation. The couple moved away from the inlaws, thereby escaping the endless scheming of her power hungry father and brother. Lucrezia and Alfonso became the reigning duke and duchess of Ferrara and Lucrezia garnered a reputation as a patron of the arts.
- 1 c. Borlotti Beans, soak overnight
- 3 oz Pancetta, diced
- 1 Onions, finely chopped
- 1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
- 2 Carrots, finely chopped
- 4 c. Chicken Broth
- 1 t. Rosemary
- 1 t. Thyme
- 1 t. Oregano
- 4 Sage leaves
- to taste Salt and Pepper
- ¼ c. chopped Parsley
- ½ # Maltagliati Pasta
- Drain Borlotti beans, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Cover, and simmer till done.
- Sauté pancetta. Add onions, celery, carrots and cook in pork fat till tender.
- Add half the beans, mash and cook another 30 minutes.
- Add whole beans, chicken broth and herbs.
- When you are ready to eat, cook the fresh pasta and drop in soup.
- Serve with grated parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.