Yard Fresh Pt. 32

February 18th, 2016
In the past couple years since my friend Gillion gave me a vinegar mother I've gotten really into making them. In this photo I was straining the Riesling vinegar and more plum wine vinegar. Both super tasty.

In the past couple years since my friend Gilion gave me a vinegar mother I’ve gotten really into making my own yummy vinegars. In this photo taken a few weeks ago I was straining the Riesling vinegar and more plum wine vinegar. Both are super tasty.

Since the start of the year I’ve been full-time writing again. I did this for the better part of three years between 2006 and 2009 and at the end of that I said I’d never write full-time again. Well, times change, I’ve learned a few things, forgotten a bunch more and now I’m at it again.

The main difference between then and now work-wise is that I’m now working primarily on books — two under contract including the Tasty n Sons Cookbook with Sasquatch Books (out fall 2017) and a secret Tin House project (out spring 2017) as well as a novel (out sometime I hope!). In 2006 through 2009 I was mostly working on freelance food writing projects and a book toward the end — the first edition of Food Lover’s Guide to Portland.

What remains the same is that writing full-time is fucking hard and it’s easy to burn out if you work a more normal five day, eight-plus hours a day work week. I know that this may sound spoiled and/or crazy since working full-time for yourself writing books sounds so dreamy but I have really strong work ethic so in living the dream I pushed myself a little too hard going into this full-time writing thing again. In the evenings after work I ended up snapping at people and drinking a little too much too often and in general I was just moodier than I want to be. And exhausted — mentally and physically.

Now that I’ve realized eight-plus hours of writing five days in a row every week isn’t sustainable I’m figuring out how to manage my time a little better and give my brain and body breaks throughout the day. Things that have helped with the transition — I got a standing desk, I’ve been taking some mornings off, I’ve been taking more long walks throughout the day. I’m basically just being nicer to myself and changing my perception of what a proper work week is. Work smarter not harder. So true.

Oh, and food. Cooking has always been a form of therapy for me and when I don’t do it enough I feel off and not myself. I think it’s similar to how folks who work out regularly feel when they don’t work out enough. Here are some tasty treats that I’ve cooked and eaten in the past couple months. I hope you’ve been cooking some tasty things too. If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments if you care to share. Happy year of the fire monkey!

Tested these open-faced Monte Cristos for The Tasty Cookbook with anglaise soaked challah, gruyere and spiced maple syrup. Ridiculously good.

Tested these open-face Monte Cristos for The Tasty Cookbook with anglaise soaked challah, gruyere and spiced maple syrup. Ridiculously good.

Since I've been at my writing studio so much more lately I've been making more soups and stews that I can heat up in my electric hot pot there.  Kimchi Chijae is one of my all-time favorites. I use Lauryn Chun's  recipe from the Kimchi Cookbook.

Since I’ve been at my writing studio so much lately I’ve been making more soups and stews that I can heat up in my electric hot pot there. Kimchi Chijae is one of my all-time favorites. I like Lauryn Chun’s recipe for it in The Kimchi Cookbook.

Made with my homemade Choi's Kimchi recipe classic kimchi. So tasty.  I put a lot of brined shrimp in it this time.

Made with my homemade — from Choi’s Kimchi recipe — classic kimchi. So tasty. I put a lot of tiny salted shrimp in it this time.

Sandwiches of course are also great to take to work. I made this one with Edelweiss Sausage & Delicatessen's spicy paprika loaf and my homemade sour pickles.

Sandwiches of course are also great to take to work. I made this one with Edelweiss Market’s spicy paprika loaf and my homemade sour pickles.

I tested The Tasty Cookbook collards at home a couple weeks ago. They're so yummy and taste like they cooked for hours even though they only took 30 minute/ and I've borrowed my friend's pressure cooker for way too long. I need to return it and get one of my own.

I tested The Tasty Cookbook collards at home a couple weeks ago. They’re so yummy and taste like they cooked for hours even though they only took 30 minutes. I’ve borrowed my friend’s pressure cooker for way too long. I need to return it and finally get one of my own. Love them.

I also made this crazy good Mark Bittman pressure cooker black bean soup recently. The best black been soup I've ever made in THIRTY minutes from dry bean to rich, inky, spicy soup. If you have a pressure cooker find this recipe.

I also made this crazy good Mark Bittman pressure cooker black bean soup recently. The best black been soup I’ve ever made in THIRTY minutes from dry bean to rich, inky, spicy soup. If you have a pressure cooker find this recipe and make it. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Started the Toro Bravo cookbook limoncella at the end of January so it has another week before I strain it, add the simple syrup and then freeze it for two weeks before drinking. One of my favorite recipes from the book.

I started the Toro Bravo cookbook limoncello at the end of January so it has another week before I strain it, add the simple syrup and then freeze it for two weeks before drinking. One of my favorite recipes from the book.

In the beginning of January my boyfriend Jimbo and I went to Manzanita for a long weekend and it was lovely as always -- especially this simplest of breakfasts. Pomegranate is always such a treat. And The Little Apple is my favorite grocery on the Oregon Coast.

Early January my boyfriend Jimbo and I went to Manzanita for a long weekend and it was lovely as always — especially this simplest of breakfasts. Pomegranate is always such a treat. And The Little Apple is my favorite grocery on the Oregon Coast.

One of my favorite quick eats at home is doctored up boxed mac and cheese. I made this one with kimchi, lots of fish sauce, gochugaru and sesame for my best housemat in the world Jennifer and I. I want some now.

One of my favorite quick eats at home is doctored up boxed mac and cheese. I made this one with kimchi, lots of fish sauce, gochugaru and sesame for me and my best housemate in the world Jennifer. I want some now.

I made a loaded with okra and shrimp gumbo last month and the best part of it was cooking it the next morning with rice and eggs and cheese. I will be doing this for the rest of my life. Highly recommend it.

I made a gumbo loaded with okra and shrimp last month and the best part of it was cooking it the next morning with rice, eggs and cheese. I will be doing this for the rest of my life. Highly recommend it.

My brother Andy, sister-in-law Laura and I toasting via Skype with the Vanilla Porter that Andy and I brewed when I was home in Cincinnati for Christmas this Christmas Eve. They sent me a package of a few bottles of it as they always do. Crazy good. And so cute.

My brother Andy, sister-in-law Laura and I toasting via Skype with the vanilla porter that Andy and I brewed when I was home in Cincinnati for Christmas this Christmas Eve. They sent me a package with a few bottles of it as they always do. Crazy good. And so cute.

Andy bottling the vanilla porter a few weeks ago. Laura sent me a photo...

My brother bottling the vanilla porter a few weeks ago. Laura sent me a photo…

More home recipe testing for The Tasty Cookbook -- Kyle's Granola with homemade sweet labneh and caramelized apples. I'm not all that into cereals but this one is  awesome.

More home recipe testing for The Tasty Cookbook — Kyle's Granola with homemade sweet labneh and caramelized apples. I’m not all that into cereals but this one is awesome.

Making the labneh for it. Recipe testing till the break of dawn! Love it.

Making the labneh for it. Recipe testing till the break of dawn! Love it.

I've been making homemade fruit wines for years but 2015 was the first year I made Concord grape wine and it turns out it's pretty dang tasty. Not as good as the plum wine but yummy.

I’ve been making homemade fruit wines for years but 2015 was the first year I made Concord grape wine and it turns out it’s pretty dang tasty. Not as good as the plum wine but yummy.

My Grandma Amy came up with a very special recipe based on a detective series that she read and loved called Wolfe Eggs (named after Rex Stout's character Nero Wolfe) that we had and continue to make for holiday breakfasts and now they're going to be in a very exciting secret book project that I can't tell you about but will one fine day very soon. RIP Grandma Amy.

My Grandma Amy came up with a very special recipe that she called Wolfe Eggs inspired by a dish in a detective series that she read and loved. She named the dish after Rex Stout’s character Nero Wolfe — the obese gourmand of a detective. Growing up my grandma always made these for holiday breakfasts and we continue to make them. Now they’re going to be in someone near and dear to me’s very exciting secret book project that I can’t tell you about but will one fine day soon. RIP Grandma Amy.

Another tasty soup that I took to my writing studio -- Melissa Clark's Red Lentil Soup with Lemon in the New York Times. I love red lentils -- so yummy, pretty and quick to cook.

Another tasty soup that I took to my writing studio — Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon in the New York Times. I love red lentils — so yummy, pretty and quick to cook.

Pizza night with Jimbo's nephew Jonah, Jimbo's sister Betsy and her fiancee Sara last weekend. We made six pizzas for five humans.

Pizza night with Jimbo’s nephew Jonah, Jimbo’s sister and her fiancee last weekend. We made six pizzas for five humans so there was plennnnnnty of pizza for breakfast 😉

Eat, drink and be hairy!

Yard Fresh Pt. 31
Yard Fresh Pt. 30
Yard Fresh Pt. 29
Yard Fresh Pt. 28
Yard Fresh Pt. 27
Yard Fresh Pt. 26
Yard Fresh Pt. 25
Yard Fresh Pt. 24
Yard Fresh Pt. 23
Yard Fresh Pt. 22
Yard Fresh Pt. 21
Yard Fresh Pt. 20
Yard Fresh Pt. 19
Yard Fresh Pt. 18
Yard Fresh Pt. 17
Yard Fresh Pt. 16
Yard Fresh Pt. 15
Yard Fresh Pt. 14
Yard Fresh Pt. 13
Yard Fresh Pt. 12
Yard Fresh Pt. 11
Yard Fresh Pt. 10
Yard Fresh Pt. 9
Yard Fresh Pt. 8
Yard Fresh Pt. 7
Yard Fresh Pt. 6
Yard Fresh Pt. 5
Yard Fresh Pt. 4
Yard Fresh Pt. 3
Yard Fresh Pt. 2
Yard Fresh Pt. 1

Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party Pt. 4

January 12th, 2015

Loly with one of the crunchy delicious Toro fried anchovies.

I finally got to host our Toro Bravo cook the book party last night (check out the first, second and third here) and it was really nice to do it in my newly remodeled kitchen. My kitchen has been pretty much done since early November but there were a couple final details and now it’s complete! It’s a beauty and I’m going to post about it here soon. I couldn’t be happier with it. My friends Brian McVay, Clarence Jacobs and Rude Graves of St. Johns Design Build are so incredibly talented. And you’ll know they’re good people when I tell you this — I was genuinely sad to see them go when my kitchen was complete. I truly enjoyed the entire remodel process and having those awesome fellows in my home. I miss having them see me in my pajamas. Wink.

It was really, really fun to have a whole bunch of friends packed into my kitchen last night for our fourth eat, drink and be merry cook from book party for Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. We’ve now passed the halfway point having cooked 60-plus recipes from the book. I’m guessing we’ll complete the book after three more dinners. Quite the feat. We’ve even started talking about which book we’ll cook through next. Potentials discussed: Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, Jerusalem and the Pok Pok cookbook. I mentioned that I’d love to cook through a comprehensive Southeast Asian cookbook. Unfortunately I think Pok Pok requires a bit more pantry building than our group is up for.

Another sweet thing — Shane Welch founder of Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewery recently moved to Portland and he gifted us (he’s friends with my friend and contractor mentioned above — Brian McVay) some of his Bengali IPA for the party which is super tasty. Really sweet of him. We also poured a lot of cava, various Spanish wines and we drank some of my early plum wine that I pulled off over the weekend while racking it. So crisp and tasty.

Anyway, I’ll let the photos tell the tale as usual. Happy 2015! I hope you’ve been cooking and eating well. I bet you have.

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Toro Martini and Fried Anchovies, Fennel and Lemon with Romesco
Gazpacho
Charred Bread with Chanterelles in Sherry Cream
Chard and Eggs
Chicken and Clams Cataplana
Lamb Ragu with Eggplant
French Kisses and Pickled Beets and cheeses
Sherry Chicken Liver Mousse
Apple and Pear Clafoutis

NO ONE in Portland is carrying fresh anchovies at the moment so the super sweet John Gorham gave me a pound from Toro for the Fried Anchovies, Fennel and Lemon dish from the book.

They were deeeeelcious with Toro's romesco.

We started the night off right with my piping hot anchovies and chilled Toro Martinis. Not too shabby.

Next up was Nancy's super yummy Toro gazpacho.

Really nice to have so many friends around the kitchen table.

Alec charring the bread for...

Toro's Charred Bread with Chanterelles in Sherry Cream.

Dana cooking up Toro's...

Chard and Eggs.

Sara and I in our animal shirt finery -- giraffes and stags.

Loly and Faulkner cooking up Toro's Chicken and Clams Cataplana.

Soooooo good! With Olympic Provisions cured meats.

Left to right: Loly, Nancy, Faulkner and Jim. The best.

Super Tasty Six Point Bengali IPA. YUM!

Tom and Heather's (just engaged!!) deeeelicious Lamb Ragu with Eggplant.

Chris assembling Toro's French Kisses -- foei gras torchon stuffed brandy-soaked prunes. Perfect.

Tom overseeing. He approves.

Dana and Oliver's apple and pear clafoutis. Mmmmm.

Aaaand the final dessert plate -- Sara's sherry chicken liver mousse, Chris's French Kisses and Spanish cheeses. We are so lucky.

Cheers to 2015! I hope you are in good company and having a fine time of it.

Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party Pt. 3

June 19th, 2014

Alec serving up the Toro Moorish Meatballs that he and Sarah made.

We’ve now officially cooked through half of Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull and we’ve only had three dinners so far — the first one at Loly’s, the second at Tom’s and this last one at Dana and Oliver’s. The dinners have all been a lot of fun and I’m really grateful that my friend Chris Damcke came up with idea. Thank you Chris!

Last weekend’s dinner at Dana and Oliver’s was the lightest of them all in terms of what we ate/drank but that’s pretty absurd because we all consumed so much that we felt super sleepy at 9pm on a Saturday night. So much good food.

The next Toro book dinner will be at my house later in the summer once my kitchen is remodeled. I’m really looking forward to having a fire in the backyard for that one and putting my new gas Dynasty range to good use for it. Yes! I’m also looking forward to doing this cook the book thing with the next book when the time comes too — the Tasty Brunch Book that John and I are working on now. I see a lot of day drinking in our future.

Here’s what we cooked and ate from the book this time around. Really tasty as always.

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Casa Rita
White Wine Sangria (with plum wine)
Halibut Cheeks
Grilled Corn with Cilantro Pesto
Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
Hazelnut Ice Cream (with strawberry rhubarb compote)
Olive Oil Cake (with balsamic vinegar reduction)
Hand-Cut Noodles with Pimenton Dulce
Moorish Meatballs

Future Toro grilled corn and sauteed halibut cheeks...

Sara has nice cheeks! Toro's Halibut Cheeks with oil-cured Calabrian chiles and marinated olives.

My Toro Grilled Corn with Cilantro Pesto.

Loly and Faulkner's Hand-cut Noodles with Pimenton Dulce.

They also made this gluten-free version.

Alec and Sarah's Moorish Meatballs.

So much good food...

Dana and Oliver's Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins and mugolio that they bought at Pastaworks.

Chris's Toro Olive Oil Cake.

Loly, Sarah and Emily dishing it up.

Sarah and Alec's Hazelnut Ice Cream with a balsamic reduction.

Strawberry Rhubarb compote.

Chris and Boscoe mid-meal stretching.

All together now.

Every dog has its day. Thank you Boscoe for the great dinner party.

Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party Pt. 2

February 27th, 2014

Faulkner with Chris's Toro Oxtail Croquettes.

I didn’t think we could surpass the amount of food and drink cooked and consumed during our first Toro cook the book potluck last month but holy shit I was wrong. This past Sunday the original gang — minus and plus a few — gathered at my friend Tom’s house in Southeast Portland for part two and we put in a full EIGHT hours of cook/eat/drink. We cooked 16 recipes from the book (at the first one we made 11) and It was so much fun that I think everyone hurt at least a little the next day. I know I did. So worth it.

For this round Rebecca and Fred Gerendasy of Cooking Up A Story and Food. Farmer. Earth. came and filmed. It’ll be awhile before that airs — most likely early summer. They left after a few courses and there were six courses so I’m fairly certain we were all at our finest while they were there. Guess we’ll find out!

We’re going to keep having these parties until we cook through the entire book — Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. Here’s the menu from our second Toro Bravo cookbook party followed by photos from it. I can’t recommend this sort of dinner party enough. Leave any questions about it in the comments below and please, please let me know if you’ve done something similar yourself. I’d love to hear about it. Eat, drink and be merry!

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Jerez Negroni
Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Tortilla Espanola
Fennel Salad
Romesco
Butter Lettuce Salad
Pork Rillettes
Squash Dumplings
Braised Lamb with Apricots and Coriander
Squid Ink Pasta
Drunken Pork
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Sherry Cream
Oxtail Croquettes
Potatoes Bravas
Panna Cotta
Limoncello

Tom wet our whistles with Toro's Jerez Negroni.

And then he pan-fried up Toro's Bacon-Wrapped Dates.

Dana and Oliver's tasty Tortilla Espanolla with kale.

Sarah and Alec's Toro Fennel Salad went with.

Oliver prepping his Toro Drunken Pork.

Five hours later. Just kidding. He did lose some arm hair while grilling them though.

Rebecca and Fred filming Chris and Sarah forming the Oxtail Croquettes.

Alec frying them up.

Chris's Toro Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Sherry Cream. So good.

My Toro Squid Ink Pasta.

Lolybite.

Active kitchen.

Taking it all in. Literally.

Loly and Faulkner's Braised Lamb with Apricots and Coriander and Squash Dumplings

Focus!

Soooo much eating.

Oliver got the lucky cinnamon stick in the lamb braise!

Sara and Zo's Butter Lettuce Salad.

And their Toro Potatoes Bravas. Their Pork Rillettes were awesome too but didn't get a good photo.

Endless rounds of Toro food and drink.

The gnome got so drunk and full he pulled down his pants and fell asleep face down in the backyard.

If you decide to host a dinner party like this please, please let me know and send me photos! I’ll post them here. So fun. Eat, drink and be merry AND hairy!

Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party

January 16th, 2014

Toro Bravo Salt Cod Fritters window a la Sara and Zo!

I have the best friends. So grateful. Several weeks ago my friend Chris Damcke said we should have a potluck dinner party and invite everyone to cook and bring something from Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. I said that was a great idea and then pretty much left it at that because I felt too busy to organize it.

A couple weeks ago I got a call from my friend Loly inviting me to it at her place! She and Chris made it happen. Sooooo last weekend thirteen of us gathered at Loly’s with all sorts of tasty treats cooked from the book. We filled her kitchen, dinner table and our bellies with all sorts of deliciousness from Toro Bravo. It was so great that we decided to do it again next month — this time at Tom’s house. We’ve also decided to have these parties until we cook through the entire book.

I’ve never done this with any cookbook before but I hope to do more in the future. So fun! And I’m very proud to say that no one had any problems with any of the recipes — not a one. It was all so good and so fun.

Here’s the menu from our first Toro Bravo cookbook party followed by photos from it. I can’t recommend this sort of dinner party enough. Leave any questions about it in the comments below and please, please let me know if you’ve done something similar yourself. I’d love to hear about it. Eat, drink and be merry!

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Radicchio Salad
Potato Salad
Salt Cod Fritters
Chili Shrimp a la Plancha
Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade
Seared Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
Coppa Steak with Salbitxada
Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash
Pepino cocktail
Red Sangria
Panna Cotta with wine poached pears and Campari blood orange topping

Table FILLED with Toro Bravo cookbook food and drink!

So much goodness...

Ryan and Nancy on Toro's Chili Shrimp detail. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Chris checking Toro's cold-smoked Coppa. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Dana and Oliver putting the finishing touches on Toro's Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Me plating Toro's Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Sara and Zo frying up Toro's Salt Cod Fritters on Loly's front porch. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Loly and Faulkner post-Radicchio Salad prep. Photo by Chris Damcke.

Ryan and Nancy taking on the feat of trying all the Toro book foods.

The Chili Shrimp a la Plancha that they made. Mmmmm.

Tom's Toro Potato Salad with chorizo.

Ryan and Nancy's Seared Cauliflower with Salsa Verde from the book.

My Toro Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade.

Toro's Panna Cotta by Chris for dessert -- some with wine-poached pears and others with Campari blood orange syrup.

Wine cork Olympics post-dinner with Tom and Oliver.

If you decide to host a dinner party like this please, please let me know and send me photos! I’ll post them here. So fun. Eat, drink and be merry AND hairy!