The past couple weeks have been more moving in, nesting, organizing drawers and building bookcases. That is, however, if you don’t count the jaunt down to the Bay area a couple weeks ago to visit my dad and stepmom, who were living there temporarily. We ate well (of course): highlights included State Bird Provisions and the Tartine Manufactory, both of which are as dreamy as you’d imagine them to be. Here are some more flavorful tidbits I’ve been digging lately:
There are some foods that have such a sense of place. For me, scallops take me back to the first time I gathered the courage to taste them – my dad had doused them in a carrot sauce – on the back patio of my childhood home. Deeper n’ ever pie takes me to my mom’s kitchen. Beer bread takes me to my apartment, senior year of college, my friend Rosie and I standing in the kitchen, waiting impatiently for the bread to cool so we could eat a slice. Annie’s mac n’ cheese takes me to the early days of my relationship with Jonah, standing in his college kitchen, scraping the pot of the tangy cheese sauce to procrastinate on our studies.
Hummus was never a food I loved growing up. I never understood why you would purée beans and then dip dry, bland pita chips in it. I would’ve rather eaten broccoli dipped in ranch, or Doritos, or almost anything else you would find hummus next to at the food table at whatever party you were at. It was cold, thick, and grainy, and seemed like a punishment to have to eat. I avoided eating it mostly until the past few years. I remember a hike that my dad and I went on, and we took a little tub of Sabra’s roasted garlic hummus to the top of Little Si outside Seattle and nearly polished the whole thing off. From then on, Sabra was the standard for me: rich, creamy, and smooth. At parties, I stopped avoiding hummus altogether, but I never really sought it out.
When I went to Israel a couple years ago, I knew I was going to eat the best hummus of my life. And I did, four times over. I ate hummus dusted with za’atar, hummus slathered in olive oil, hummus sprinkled with ground lamb and pine nuts, and hummus dolloped with roasted mushrooms. I would go back to Israel just for the hummus, eaten in the Jerusalem heat, watching the city bustle around me as I sat licking my fingers. When I got back from that trip, I started making my own hummus – I have become a snob about it, and I futzed with Ottolenghi’s recipe until it was as close as possible to the plates I scraped in Israel.
- It’s Portland Dining Month and WHOA are there a lot of good options. I hit up Urdaneta last night and it was DELICIOUS. I’ll definitely be returning.
- I have been really loving Michelle’s (of Hummingbird High) writing and honesty lately, especially when it comes to representation and diversity in the culinary world. It can be a weird thing to write about serious issues amidst pictures of brownies, but I really appreciate that she’s doing it.
- Spring is starting to creep up, and it is getting me in the mood for a crunchy, refreshing bowl of vegetables. This is my favorite right now.
- Brooke is back and I couldn’t be happier. I am loving following her adventures as she launches into her boat life, and I can’t wait to read more.
- I just made this baked pasta from Smitten Kitchen to take to a friend with a new baby (because new babies mean no sleep means how do you even have the energy to feed yourself), and now I would like to make it for myself all the time please.
- Now that I’m back, I’m hitting up all my favorite places and all the new places that have opened since we’ve been gone. Wares falls into both of those categories, and we went for brunch this morning. I was not mad about it. (GET THE FRIED KALE.)
We are back. Back in the U.S. Back on the west coast. Back in gray and rainy Portland. This past weekend we had a taste of spring, but otherwise it has been wet. And between the weather and having a bit more time on my hands and a fully functional kitchen again, I have been cooking some of my favorite warming meals. (Big shout out to friends Mac and Carmelle who are letting us room with them while we look for a place to live!) This recipe is one of those dishes. You may have heard of this pie, or at least the book series it is inspired by, Redwall. When I was younger, my older sister Emily was obsessed with the series, which focuses on a series of woodland creatures who live in mostly an abbey. If I recall correctly, there are castles and ghosts, banquets and wizards. I think of it as Camelot meets the Borrowers. My mother, being the amazing woman she is, somehow found a recipe for this pie, Deeper ‘n Ever Turnip ‘n Tater ‘n Beetroot Pie, and would make it for us, making us feel as if we were at the table during those banquets, eating alongside otters, squirrels, and birds.
This pie screams cozy to me. You start with a buttery, savory pie dough, layer the filling with cheese, mashed vegetables, beets, caramelized onions, and more cheese, and bake until the crust is golden. As an adult, I realize the amount of work that goes into this, and how long my mom must have spent in the kitchen making it: caramelizing onions, mashing potatoes and turnips, boiling beets, shredding cheese. It also is a great base for something that is easy to riff on – you could add squash, greens, mushrooms, peppers.
When we were talking to my mother about our travels in Portugal, how we were planning on driving around the Algarve, she said there was a town Évora, we had to go to, and a winery about 45 minutes from there where we had to have lunch. She took it upon herself to email them and make a reservation for us. And then, as we continued traveling around and talking to people, the name of this winery kept popping up. “Oh, you have to go to Esporão for lunch!” “You like food? If you feel like splurging, go to Esporão.” I was glad that we already had it on the books!
The drive to Esporão was beautiful, even if it was blanketed with soft, gray clouds. We passed fields of sheep, cows, and horses, trees dotted with huge storks, and orange grove after orange grove. We arrived at the winery about thirty minutes early (they recommended we arrive 10 minutes early and had warned of construction on the roads), and spent some time exploring the gift shop full of wines and olive oils, looking out at the view over the vineyards and lake, and relaxing in the sitting room which was warmed by a wood fire and decorated like the hippest hotel: leather seats, beautifully woven carpets, modern industrial lamps. We were then escorted into the dining area, which continued the beautiful decor. Our table was on a wall of windows that looked over the terrace and the view we had been admiring earlier, but the room had more great rugs and brightly colored art decorating the back wall.
Our server explained the concept of the restaurant, the importance of focusing on local Portuguese ingredients, and how much they make in house. After settling on the six course tasting menu and one wine pairing to share (one of us *cough Jonah cough* had to make the 45 minute drive back), we sat back, ready to start our meal. We started with three small amuse bouches, which were accompanied by a deep pink rosé that tasted of strawberries. The first was a mushroom tartlet with cheese and nasturtium; Second, a spiced cookie topped with crab and celery root; And third, a cracker with foie gras, oxalis, and black cardamom. I could have made a meal out of those bites. I wished each one lasted longer, that I got more chances to tasted the playful, unique flavor combinations. It boded well for the rest of the meal.