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.
Let’s be honest. The 4th of July has become an occasion for day drinking, barbecues, water balloons, and fireworks. But I’m not complaining. For the past few years we have spent the day in our friends Dylan and Caitlyn’s back yard, lounging, snacking, drinking good Portland brews, and eventually having a summery BBQ feast. And Monday will be no different. Here are the recipes I’m looking to cook this 4th of July.
If my memory doesn’t fail me – and it’s been a year so it might – Dylan and Caitlyn make this amazing dry rubbed chicken every year, throw it on the grill, and coat it in this homemade barbecue sauce. It is always the hit of the party, no matter how much I up my game.
I haven’t made this pie (YET!) but it has been haunting my dreams. The layer of cream cheese at the bottom? The mountain of strawberries? The crumble of pistachio and poppy seeds and cardamom? I mean, come on.
Zero Proof Beverages
The thing about spending all day in the sun eating and drinking is you have to be smart. It’s always good to have a NA drink option around, and I’m having trouble deciding which of these two I should make; saffron and cardamom lemonade or tea thyme soda.
This is my extremely reliable hummus recipe that I starting making regularly after returning from Israel last summer. With a few tweaks, it is rich and healthy and makes a perfect all day snack when paired with pita, carrots, bell peppers, and whatever other crunchy vegetables you like. (What tweaks, you ask? I do 1 cup tahini, 6T lemon juice, 6 cloves of garlic, and 4T ice water.)
2015 is almost over. I can’t believe how fast it has flown by. It has been a big year for me: I transitioned into working completely from home and for myself. I spend more time with Jonah than ever before, seeing as he is now working from home as well. I went to Israel (I still can’t believe that – did I dream it?). I finally learned how to use my camera and got my blog setup a little more polished. And the future is seeming just as bright: Jonah and I will hopefully be living abroad by this time next year, living our lives as digital nomads. Eek!
But before we look too far ahead, let’s look back, shall we? What better way to remember the last year than by my favorite things I ate? (These are listed in no particular order.)
1. Caramelized fennel and farro salad: This farro salad from Not Without Salt has been a game changer. I think I’ve written about it before. I tend to make double batches of it when I know I’m going to have a busy week, as it makes fantastic leftovers. It has all the perfect elements of a dish: crunchy, creamy, spicy, sour, and sweet. The only adjustment I make is to substitute dried apricots for the dates.
2. April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens: This book has been amazing for me. Everything I’ve cooked out of it has been fantastic AND pretty easy. Her writing is lovely, and I love her style of cooking. It’s so easy to riff on, to sub ingredients based on what you’ve got, and it has inspired me in the kitchen. I highly recommend the roasted carrots with herbs, the steamed eggplant with ground pork and thai basil, and the corn soup with chanterelles (but maybe wait on that one till it’s summer again).
3. Foil Yaki: This is a recent addition to my meal arsenal, but I can tell it’s going to be a keeper. It may not look like much, but this recipe is so unbelievably simple and packed with that scrumptious umami flavor (thanks mushrooms and sake and miso!). Here’s what you need to know: put a bunch of delicious ingredients in some foil, wrap it up like a jiffy pop, bake for half an hour, then eat supremely tasty, perfectly caramelized onions and mushrooms in a super savory broth. I recommend adding some soba noodles and eating it like a noodle soup or ladeling it over some rice.
4. Hummus: I’ve always liked hummus, but my trip to Israel really made me understand the pantry staple that it should become in my life. I adjusted Ottolenghi’s recipe from Jerusalem to suit my tastebuds, and now I’ve got a perfect recipe always ready in my back pocket. It is particularly delicious drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.
5. Tomato and peach salad with tofu cream: If you’d asked me a couple years ago if I’d ever want to make something with tofu cream, I probably would’ve said…um, no thanks, I’m ok. But times they are a-changin’ my friends! This salad became a summertime favorite: easy, impressive, and tasty. Rich sweet peaches, tangy tomatoes, spicy onion, and this salty tofu cream underneath it all. Perfection.
1. The American Local: This restaurant has got to be one of my favorites this year. Every meal I’ve had there has been pretty dang flawless. The drinks are lively, the service is friendly but not overly involved, and the food is creative, unique, and just plain fun. Wondering what to order? I suggest sticking mostly to the fish dishes (often prepared in a sashimi style) and the vegetables. Pictured above is a dish with heirloom tomatoes, buttermilk dressing, crunchy quinoa, and herbs from their menu last summer.
2. Nodoguro: This dinner was a birthday treat, and I must say it was one of the most magical dining experiences I’ve had in Portland. I can’t speak to what Nodoguro will be like in their new location, but sitting with a small group at the counter of Nodoguro’s old space and having Chef Ryan Roadhouse come around to each party individually to chat was such a great way to start the experience. It truly felt like sitting in a friend’s kitchen and having them make you the most creative, fantastical Japanese meal. After dinner, all of the guests and cooks and servers lingered, standing around talking, not wanting the evening to end. I loved my conversation with Roadhouse’s wife Elena about our favorite places to eat in Portland. Wherever I dine, I can tell you that the next iteration of Nodoguro will make it onto the list.
3. Coquine’s breakfast: Ok, this place has gotten quite a fair amount of talk this year. And while I haven’t been for dinner (I’ll make it happen soon), Jonah did take me for breakfast on my birthday. I had a stellar hash with mushrooms, spinach, and potatoes, and poached eggs. I don’t know what magic they put in this dish, but holy moly it was good. Also their chocolate chip cookie is divine.
4. Seastar Bakery/Handsome Pizza: Cozy and warm (mostly thanks to the giant wood fired oven) and smelling of equal parts spiced baked goods, cheesy pizza, and campfire, this new spot houses both Seastar Bakery and Handsome Pizza. This combination has become one of my favorite work spots: I can come in and have tea and any of their stellar baked goods or toasts for breakfast, work for a few hours, and then get a slice of pizza (or a small pizza if I’ve got someone to share with) for lunch. I’ve only had the pizza a couple of times, but it has not disappointed. The bakery and I are becoming fast friends, and so far favorites include the cocoa, yogurt, and rye muffin, the salted black licorice cake, and the house made english muffin – get half with jalapeño cream cheese and half with whatever jam they’ve got that day.
5. Tea Bar: This place has become a go-to for me. I love seeing the same folks working there every time I go. I love the space that manages to be both kind of cavernous and cozy at the same time. And I love the menu, where it’s hard to decide between matcha, a hong kong tea with boba, or the perfect London fog.
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite things you ate in 2015, and what you’re looking forward to eating next year! Here is to another year of delicious eats!
Well, I think I’m nearly over my jet lag. Exactly one week ago, I returned from a ten day trip to Israel. A FREE ten day trip to Israel. You see, if you’re Jewish, you’re eligible to go on a paid trip to the motherland – it’s your birthright. These trips started 15 years ago, and so far they’ve taken 500,000 people from 64 countries. Pretty impressive, no? But you have to go between the ages of 18-27, so this summer was pretty much my last chance to go. When I found a culinary themed trip put on by Israel Experts, I knew it’d be the perfect fit.
So let’s get some questions out of the way. Was it a Zionist, pro-Israel trip? Yes. It was led by three (smart, hilarious, kind) Israelis, who clearly have a lot of love and passion for their country. Every trip also does something called a Mifgash, or “encounter” in Hebrew, where they are joined for half of the trip by Israelis their own age. We were joined by 5 soldiers and 2 students. However, we also learned that just because these people love their country doesn’t mean they don’t disagree with decisions made by the government, and feel torn by the conflict in the area. And while we spent most of our time talking about Jewish life in Israel, we also talked a lot about the conflict, visited an Israeli Arab village, and learned about the wars and peace treaties that are very much a part of Israeli history.
Now let’s get on to the part you came here for: the food! Because it was a culinary trip, the focus was equally on history, religion, and food. While we didn’t get to do as much cooking as planned (we were originally supposed to cook for 300 soldiers on an active army base, but it being an active army base, plans change), we definitely learned a lot about the cuisine. Because the country is so young, their food is mostly a melting pot of the cultures that make it up.
Everyone we came into contact with, and even some who simply overheard us talking on the streets of various cities, had an opinion on where to get the best hummus in Israel. We tried tons of it – chunkier, smooth, topped with chickpeas and olive oil, topped with ground meat, topped with mushrooms – and talked about the different styles and varieties. My favorite was at a spot in Jerusalem called Rachmo, just near the Machne Yehuda market. It was smooth and creamy and had the perfect amounts of lemon and tahini, and then it was topped with seasoned ground meat (I’ll guess it was lamb) and all the fat that came with it. We dunked and swirled pieces of pita through this hummus, and I was sad when it was over.
Speaking of pita, I’ve never had such fresh pita in my life. My favorite variation on pita was in Jisr az-Zarqa, an Israeli Arab village on the coast. The village was only opened for tourism in the last year I believe, and some folks recently opened a guesthouse there. They also started an organization where they teach English to high school students. Our tour through the town was led by one of these kids, Mahmood, and he was great. After the tour, we went back to one of the organizer’s house, where we rolled out pita that had already been portioned by his wife. We then topped it with a mixture of za’atar and olive oil, and watched as she popped it into an incredibly hot oven. It came out light and fluffy and still perfectly dense, and the seasoning was perfect, especially when dipped in the labneh and hummus that accompanied the meal.
Other incredible delicious things that happened: A Druze cooking class, where we learned to make Sambusak (kind of like empanadas), stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, and tabbouleh. And where I first tried schug (or zhoug), which is a spicy condiment! Per the Israeli tradition, by the end of the meal our table was packed with plates.
Burika! This most amazing version of a breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had is kind of hard to describe, but I’m going to try. Wandering through the market in Tel Aviv with my friends was totally worth it, especially when you started to hear the beacon of the cook yelling “Burika! Burika! Burika!” This guy took a very thin piece of pastry dough, kind of like a thin crepe, smeared a spoonful of herbed mashed potato on it, and dropped half into a vat of boiling oil while holding the other half out of the oil, tossed in an egg, and closed it. He let it fry, getting crispy and letting the egg cook before removing it, crunching it up into a pita pocket, topping it with hot sauce (presumably harissa, but I’m not sure), fresh ripe tomatoes, onions, and cabbage, and serving it in a little parchment paper pouch (see photo near the top of the post).
I also discovered Malabi, and am working on getting a recipe that I can share with y’all. There are recipes on the internet, yes, but one of the trip guides said she had a good one, so I’m holding out. Malabi is a custard, a la panna cotta, topped with rose syrup, shredded coconut, and nuts (usually pistachio or peanuts). Some members of my group didn’t like this stuff, but my buddy Russell and I were happy not to have to share with too many others.
Frikaseh: an incredible sandwich I ate in Zfat, recommended by our guide Avigail. Think a middle eastern bahn mi: a fried baguette, stuffed with tuna fish, hard boiled egg, boiled potatoes, preserved lemon, fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Was it funky? Yes. Was each bite different from the one before it? Yes. Was it crunchy and refreshing on a hot day? Oh lord, yes.
A large group of us splurged on our night out in Jerusalem and went to a restaurant called Mona. Because we were a big group, we ended up doing a communal style tasting menu. We drank only Israeli wine (because when in Rome, right?), and ate incredible dishes like squid in curry, beef tartare, spare ribs, and salmon. Plus some exquisite desserts, the details of which I cannot quite remember. Thanks Israeli wine!
Speaking of Israeli wine, we visited two wineries while there (and toured one of them as well), and tasted some delicious wine. The favorite was definitely Barkan Winery. I know grape vines thrive in dry land like Israel, but it will always amaze me to drive through a desert and see as much agriculture as we did – grapes, olives, bananas, citrus, etc. It was really incredible.
Last but certainly not least, I want to talk about the halva. Halva has been a relatively recent discovery for me. I should say, rather, that I knew it existed, but didn’t realize how passionately I felt about it. It turned out that even the pre-packaged industrial halva is good in Israel. But the best stuff looked like a giant cake, with slices of the nutty, creamy, crumbly sweet missing. They would cut you off a giant slab, wrap it in parchment paper, and send you on your merry way. I found it difficult not to each huge amounts of this at once, and my friends are lucky that the two varieties I bought as gifts made it back to Portland safely. Now, to find fresh halva like this here in the northwest.
Overall it was a truly incredible trip. If you’ve ever thought about traveling to Israel, do it. I can’t wait to go back. Be adventurous in your eating. The good stories often hide in a place’s cuisine and recipes.