Thursday, June 26, 2014

Preserved Lemons

A little tart

Sour has always been one of my favorite flavors.  When I was young, my mom would make pickles out of those rough skinned, seedy cucumbers and stuff the jar with home grown dill and whole cloves of garlic.  They were so crunchy and delicious, I could polish off most of a jar in one sitting, wrapping each sour bite in a slice of cheddar cheese to tame the bite.

I think I was the only child outside of Germany who loved sauerkraut with bratwurst; I even went through a period in grade school where I would just eat lemons and limes straight.  I like my vinaigrettes heavy on the vinegar and citrus is a must have whenever I cook or bake anything.

I chose to do this post about preserved lemons because they are a special kind of sour that can cross over into other flavor profile territories.  They're basically a lemon pickle, traditionally just packed in salt, but I also added some sugar and some toasted spices. 

I wanted to keep these pretty straightforward spice wise as I'd like to customize the recipes I use this with.  I decided to stick with cinnamon, coriander, black pepper and bay leaf for their warm and versatile flavors.

The witching hour

I didn't get started on this project until the wee hours of the morning.  I went to Podnah's Pit and decided that a giant fatty meat pile and a margarita(I'm kind of on a kick) were exactly what I needed to soothe the rage I felt for being stuck in traffic for an hour earlier.  It did the trick and also put me in a borderline coma for the next four hours.

I love late night cooking.  It reminds me of when I was a baker and would step outside at four in the morning to roll a cigarette and drink a cup of coffee.  The streets would be completely empty and the world was perfectly balanced between sleep and awake.  It's the witching hour and it's perfect for late night cookery.

Spicing it up

First, I toasted my spices, making sure the pan was only hot to the touch.  When toasting spices, make sure you throw in each spice one at a time, the hardiest and largest first, ending with the finer and smaller ones so as not to scorch them.  Toast until the aroma is released from each one.  This process shouldn't take longer than a couple minutes.

A regular old lemon party

Most old school recipes for preserved lemons slice the lemon into four segments with the bottom, but I wanted the process to move a little quicker.  Thin slice those mothas and throw them in a bowl.  Make sure to remove the seeds.

Toss them in a bowl with your salt, crushing them against the sides of the bowl to release more juice and create a brine, pack them in a container with the spices and wait for the deliciousness to happen.
Pack down the fruit each day to make sure it's below the brine level.  You can start using these a couple days after you make them, but they change and get better with time.  I put these directly in the refrigerator, but you could technically leave them out and they will develop more complex flavors every day.  Just make sure you use a sparkling clean container and keep that shit covered.  This process makes the whole lemon edible, use the rind in Moroccan tagine and the brine in a salty cocktail.  You can also blend the whole thing and use a spoonful to add flavor to soups and sauces(just be sure to taste as you go, it can get salty fast).

Preserved Lemons

4 lemons, scrubbed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup salt(I use kosher)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

Note:  You can use any number of different spices with this.  Get creative! Cumin, dill, fennel, star anise, dried chiles and cloves would all be great additions.  You can also change what kind of fruit you use, limes, grapefruit, oranges and even kumquats, just adjust the salt level for the sweeter fruits and add a squeeze of lemon as well.


1. Heat up a stainless steel saute pan on medium heat until you can only graze the top with your fingertip.

2. Toast the cinnamon until fragrant, add black peppercorns, then coriander and finish with your bay leaf.  Take off heat and set aside.

3. Slice your lemons along the axis the across the short side in 1/4 inch segments and place in a non reactive bowl.

4. Throw all of the sugar and salt in with the lemons and mash the lemons against the sides of the bowl until all the salt and sugar is dissolved.  Pack the lemons in a clean container, alternating with spices and brine.  Make sure the fruit is pressed down below the brine level.

5. Let them preserve for a couple days or a couple months, making sure you continuously push them below the liquid.  If made correctly, these can last quite a while.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lemon Lime Sorbet Margaritas

When I was a teenager, a margarita was a slushy, saccharine mess shlorpped together with some shitty rum/tequila blend.  They got the job done(if that job entails projectile vomiting into a bathtub), but as far as flavor and composition are concerned, they didn't quite hit the mark.

I had my first good margarita in Las Vegas, in a strange upscale Mexican restaurant situated at the bottom of a seemingly vacant building.   There was a valet for the tiny parking lot and a d.j. was obliterating our eardrums with some terrible bass as we destroyed some pretty incredible shrimp tamales.  The drink itself was simple, but perfect.  It was heavy on lime, light on sweet with the grassy tequila making a star appearance.  It was served on the rocks in a simple glass, not blended to death and thrown into a plastic vase and the large grained salt that rimmed the glass was to enhance, not overpower, the flavor.

Don't get me wrong, slushy margaritas have their place too.  That place is at the bottom of a garbage can, barfed up by a sloppy coed at a beach themed party.

Someone at work left the tiny lowboy freezer door open the other night and all the ice cream and sorbets melted.  I feel inclined to say that it definitely wasn't me, although I scored some sweet sorbet base to spin in my ice cream maker at home.

Needless to say, I couldn't wait to make myself a fancy boozy drink with this sweet sweet prize.  I made some pretty kickass leftovers salad, spun the sorbet and left it to freeze while Cody and I went on a trip to Trader Joe's to fill our kitchen with snacks.

Mothafuckin liquid gold
Baby Romaine with creamy caper dressing, spicy mustard, dried cherries, ground beef, sharp cheddar and pickled onions.

I had him stop at an ultra sketchy liquor store in the Hollywood area, where I was followed around by a lurky denim Dan until I made my selection: 100% agave Olmeca Altos for under twenty bucks.
My coworker Francisco can attest to the fact that my Spanish is god awful.  The other day, I tried to hand him some pudding, just pointing at the container and asking "Leche?" over and over again.  I do however know that the writing on this bottle's direct translation is "Nectar of the Gods."
When we got home, I salt and sugared the rim of a glass, muddled some orange zest with some lime juice, made some fancy quenelles with my sorbet and topped it off with the tequila.

Awwwwww yeah

To really get in the party mood, I took of my pants and watched The Office on Netflix until four a.m.  So that you can recreate this exciting experience in your own home(not me pantless, the margarita) here's a recipe for Lemon Lime Sorbet.

Lemon Lime Sorbet

1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsbp zest(lemon and lime)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp tequila(It helps create a smooth sorbet, you can use vodka too)

1. Mix all the ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved.  A food processor is the fastest way to do this.

2. Refrigerate until cold

3. Churn in ice cream maker until soft serve.

4. Put in container and freeze until firm.

5. Get crunk.

5 Food Blogs for the Fancy

There are many different food blogs floating around.  It seems like any shmuck with a crappy camera phone(ahem) can plaster the internets with their take on macaroni and cheese or some really inappropriate personal information.

These are some blogs that I really enjoy and would like to share with you.

5 Best Food Blogs

5. The Vanilla Bean Blog

This is a simplistically tasteful baking blog that shows delicate technique as well as DIY projects such as homemade vanilla extract.  The pictures of food are beautiful and the author has peppered the blog with the weddings and new babies they have captured (with a camera, not like they're going around with a net).  The recipes are approachable and rustic and the babies are OK I guess.

4. Cheese Notes

Ever since finding out that I wouldn't be able to eat funky, fermented, crusty breads anymore, I have turned my sights on to cheese.  Oh my lord do I love cheese.  It's almost a problem, when you feel like you have to hide your cheese addiction, horking it down the next room over while your boyfriend sleeps.  If that's a cheese affair, this blog is cheese porn.  It deals with everything cheese related, from the process of making it, tasting it and then trying to snatch it back from the FDA's prying fingers.

3. Love and Lemons

Love and Lemons is a produce inspired, mostly vegetarian food blog with gorgeous, vibrant pictures.  I like this blog for it's veggie-centric leanings.  As much as I love giant steaks and sausages, I think there should be more emphasis on proper cooking of vegetables.  It's sad to see such beautiful product reduced to an oversteamed mess with that farty smell of sulphur.  This blog shows you proper cooking techniques while also putting vegetables in the starring role.  

2.  Hortus Natural Cooking

Hortus Natural is a food blog that is centered around nutrient rich, whole foods.  The pictures are all beautiful and are apparently taken right after someone threw the ingredients all over the counter, perfectly posed next to antique sheep brushes(I didn't get that close of a look).  This food blog is gorgeous with a touch of condescension. The voice is a little cold, but the recipes look tasty.  You will enjoy this if you like taking selfies with vintage cameras and believe that you left your heart in New York.

1. i am a food blog

i am a food blog just won Saveur magazines Best Food Blog of 2014 with good reason.  The recipes are approachable and delicious, the site is incredibly navigable with recipes broken down in to food preference and the author is knowledgeable and endearing.  I like this blog for its simple layout, mouth watering recipes and the apparent love the author has for food.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pickled Onions

My job at Cocotte has impacted my cooking style more than most places that I've worked.  I appreciate the amount of care that is put into each component on the dishes.
The restaurant just closed last night so that the inside can be completely remodeled and I won't be back to work until July 5th.  The prospect of heading back to Montana and seeing all my friends is exciting, but I'm a little sad I won't be seeing my Coco family in that time.  I feel like I've already learned so much there and can't wait to see what the coming months brings.

Sometime at the start of every summer, I start to get the insatiable desire for outdoor party food; juicy grilled burgers, crisp, cold watermelon and german potato salad with smokey chunks of bacon and crunchy red onion vinaigrette.  One of my all time favorite foods though is the humble hot dog.  Bratwurst, Polish, all-beef, whatever, I will eat it all.  There's something about stuffing a tube with ground pork that turns it into something special.

Last night, after getting done with work, I ended up with a haul of prepared foods that would expire before we reopened the restaurant.  One of these was an amazing rhubarb-cherry "ketchup."  Seeing this sparked my desire for hot dogs and I got to work on a late night snack right away.  Luckily, with Cody around for the summer, I have a refrigerator full of food that I wouldn't normally buy for myself, including a pack of those delicious Hebrew Nationals.
Mise en Place

The only thing you need to do to make a hot dog even more delicious is just balance the flavors properly.  You need sweet, acidic, creamy and you also need some texture.  Seeing as my body revolts every time I put bread in it, I used a crunchy baby romaine lettuce leaf in place of a bun.  I know what I've said about lettuce wrapped burgers, but for some reason with hot dogs it works.  It also gives you then illusion of being healthy while finishing off three hot dogs in one sitting.

I chose mayonnaise, pickled mustard seed, spicy brown mustard, sharp cheddar cheese, rhubarb cherry ketchup and pickled onions to go with my hot dog.  I've got to say, it was a pretty tasty hot dog.  Everyone should have the ability to make these various accouterments because I think they come in handy, they also keep well.  So here is a simple recipe for pickled onions, so that you may enjoy your own hot dog feast at home.

Pickled Onions

1 lb. yellow onion, clean and sliced into 1/4 inch half moons
1 tsp yellow mustard seed
1 tsp brown mustard seed
5 black peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic, skin removed and crushed
1 bay leaf
1.5 cups cider vinegar
1.5 cups sugar(I like a mix of brown and white)
2 tsp salt

Note: You can add whatever spices your heart desires.  You can also adjust the flavor levels by adding more of each component.  These make a sweeter pickle, if you desire something more tart, just omit half of the sugar.


1. Slice your onions and place them in cold water while you make your brine.  This will cut back on the bite.  
2.Mix all the other ingredients together in a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a simmer, until the sugar is melted.

3. At this point you can strain out the spices, but I think they add flavor as the pickle sits so I personally like to leave them in.  Drain the water from your onions and place them in a heat proof container, preferably stainless steel.  Pour the pickling liquid over the top, making sure to cover all of the onion.  If it doesn't, add a little more vinegar to make sure everything is submersed in the brine.

4. You can leave it out until it's cool then place it in the refrigerator.  It's best to wait an hour before eating these pickles so that they can really soak up the brine.  They get better by the day if you can keep them around that long. 

5. Go buy some hot dogs.  You'll thank me later.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Five Best Places To Eat In Portland On A Budget

The Five Best Places To Eat In Portland On A Budget

Or being a poor as shit college kid

5.  Killer Burger

This burger chain has been growing since I moved here, with it's newest location being in downtown Portland.  The burgers are huge, come with a pile of fries and you can add a soft drink for 1 buck or a microbrew for 3.95.  The burgers are usually around the 8-11 dollar range, but if you go in during crazy hour(Mon-Fri 2 pm-5 pm), you can get a burger as low as 5.95.  Also, did I mention that they have a burger with peanut butter sauce, pickles and bacon? Sounds weird, but it's one of the most tasty flavor combinations EVER.

4.  Pine State Biscuits

This is one of the places I'm saddest about not being able to eat at anymore.  Nearly every menu item has some form of wheat in it(biscuits, chicken, their outstanding maple sage gravy oh my god) with the exception of some pretty tasty hashes.  They're best known for their biscuit sandwiches, namely the Reggie.  It's a piece of fried chicken with cheddar cheese, bacon and gravy in between their fluffy, buttery biscuits.  Make it a deluxe to fried egg with a delicious dripping yolk.  Biscuit sandwiches run from 6-9 dollars, but if you come in during their happy hour(after 3 p.m.) prices are slashed substantially and you can get fat sandwiches for a discounted price.

3.  Oregon Culinary Institute

Oregon Culinary Institute gives it's students the opportunity to be completely hands on and part of their last term includes working in the on site restaurant.  The reason I listed this school is because you can get a 3 course lunch for 9 bucks or a 4 course dinner for 18.  The menu changes seasonally and is served by management students.  The ingredients are also as locally sourced as possible, including Carlton Farms pork and Oregon Troll Chinook salmon.  The wine list is great, you can get a gourmet meal for dirt cheap and you're helping the future culinarians of Portland get real life experience, what isn't there to like?

2.  Garden Monsters

Garden Monsters is a food cart on the corner of NE Alberta and 23rd that serves big meaty salads and wraps.  This place became one of my go-to's after finding out about the whole celiac thing because everything on the menu is gluten free with the exception of the croutons and the vegan chicken.  The salads are packed chock full of fresh, delicious ingredients from the 6-9 dollar range and they have enough ingredients to be considered an entire meal.  By the way, I "smash" every salad I get, which adds pepperoncinis and bacon for a buck fifty more.  It's an added plus that the owner of this cart is quite possibly the nicest person in Portland.

1.  Whole Bowl

The Whole Bowl is a food cart with locations in every segment of the city.  They specialize in one item in two different sizes; the whole bowl is a delicious, healthy combination of black and red beans, brown rice, avocado, cheese, salsa, cilantro, sour cream, black olives and Tali sauce(secret sauce that tastes lemony and garlicky).  It has been one of my favorite comfort foods since moving here and is a treat on a rainy day.  Only 6 dollars for a large bowl and 5.50 for a bambino, you can add on tortilla chips and a drink and still get a hearty and tasty meal for under ten bucks.  If you're vegan, just leave of the sour cream and cheese, the awesome folks will happily accommodate. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Teff Burger Bun

Teff Buns

Finding a calling

I've grown up surrounded by food.  My mom owns a restaurant in Helena, MT that I was cajoled into working at from a young age.  One of my first jobs besides that was Baskin Robbins, which I promptly got fired from for allowing all my friends to come in after hours to eat free ice cream.  After that, I dabbled in care giving for the developmentally disabled, a job I was extremely under qualified for which consisted of me smoking two packs of cigarettes a day in my 81 Honda between clients.  I ended up quitting less than a year later by putting myself on call and never answering my phone.

This is how I looked.  Just kidding, I looked like a stupid teenager.

Bread Baking

After that, I decided to try my hand at working in a bakery.  There was an old school whole grain bakery that my hippy mom had worked at when she first moved to town.  It became kind of a coming of age employment in our family.  My brother, two sisters, cousin and myself all worked there at some point.  At first, I was only interested in getting drunk on the roof with the two ne'er do wells that were training me(just kidding, they are great people.  We were shitty workers then though).  However, after getting switched to the 3 a.m baking shift, I had little time for anything outside of work besides sleeping.  I learned all about sourdough starters and preferments as well as taking dough to the last second before popping it in the oven to get the right amount of jump from the hungry yeast.  I finally started to find passion in my work.

You know you want to eat all of that

Culinary School

After years of working in food service, waiting tables for entitled turds, short order cooking, bread and pastry baking and a short stint of bartending, I decided it was time to go to culinary school.  I've found myself 600 miles away from my hometown, working as a pantry cook at a french bistro and thrown into a whirlwind of blooming food culture.  About halfway through school, I started getting severe stomach pains every time I ate.  I found out I'm celiac and can't consume any gluten which includes wheat, barley, spelt, kamut fucking everything that I liked to bake with as well as hidden additives in all the tastiest processed foods.  After a couple months of being depressed and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to make the best of it and use it as a way to become more creative in the kitchen.  

This is the face of someone who no longer has to worry about constant rot gut

Which brings us to

Teff is an awesome grain used primarily in the making of Injera, and Ethiopian flatbread.  I started reading about it while researching a food culture for my communications class.  Teff is gluten free and has a really nice nutty graham flavor.  I've been using lately to bake gluten free at home.  One of the shittiest things about being celiac is I can't ever get a good burger bun at places that have great burgers and don't even get me started on tepid, flaccid lettuce wrapped burgers.  I'll puke right in your face.  The other night, I found myself craving a burger like nobody's business and ended up staying up until 2 in the morning getting all the components together, because I'm stubborn and like to make everything from scratch.  

I made bread and butter pickles, a patty made from Montana beef(courtesy of my mom's care packages), pickled mustard seed and slathered it in some homemade fry sauce.  I'm just going to go over the bun recipe today and will show you some of my other tricks later.  Wink.

The recipe for the gluten free teff bun is based on the America's Test Kitchen recipe for gluten free dinner rolls.  I recommend using their flour mixture, but any gluten free mix can be substituted in.  These are a little more crumbly than regular buns and I'm hoping to monkey with the recipe a little more, but here's a basic bun recipe for those craving a little burger in their lives.

A grain that doesn't make me feel like dying

Gluten Free Teff Buns

1 1/3 cups warm whole milk
2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice
2 eggs, plus 1 large yolk
10 oz. Gluten Free Flour Blend
5 oz. Teff Flour
2 Tbsp. psyllium husk powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
2 tsp. gluten free baking powder
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened
Fleur de Sel or Sesame Seeds(optional)

1.  Spray 9 inch round cake pan or silpat with vegetable oil.  Whisk warm milk, juice or vinegar and 1 egg plus yolk in a bowl.  combine dry ingredients, 1 1/2 tsp salt and yeast in a standing mixer.  Add wet mixture gradually and let dough come together, scraping down bowl as needed.  Ad butter, increase speed and beat until uniform.

2.  Roll 1/3 cup of dough at a time and arrange rolls in pan(1 in center, 7 spaced evenly on the outside) or place on silpat using wet hands to flatten a little.   Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size(1 hour)

3.   Adjust oven rack to middle and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat egg, 1 tsp of water and a pinch of salt.  brush rolls with egg wash, sprinkle with Fleur de Sel or sesame seeds and bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.

4.  Allow rolls to cool in pan for ten minutes then invert onto rack.

5.  Put delicious burgery things on them and eat them as quick as possible.

A nice, wheat bread like crumb without any of the shitty(pardon my pun) side effects