Easy Appetizer: Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Happy National Appetizer Day!  (What? Really? There is such a thing? I had no idea until Sunday night when I saw a sign announcing it at Trader Joes, but since I had already been mentally composing this blog post about my favorite go-to appetizer, I thought it was kismet.)

I’ve always thought that as an adult, one should have a go to, meal, dessert, and appetizer in his or her cooking repertoire. Ideally the dishes should be easy, tasty, and just a little bit unique…  ( Mine are: endive bites, coconut oven fried chicken, rosemary thyme sugar cookies. ) Even if you don’t cook for yourself on a regular basis, you still need to be able to have those meals you can pull together to impress a date, the in-laws, or survive a work potluck or bake-sale.  These items don’t necessarily need to be cohesive, and they most certainly don’t need to be complicated… but having these go to meal components up your sleeve will most definitely come in handy.

Tangent: You might also want to consider adding a vegan dish to your repertoire.  Because lets face it, we all have vegan friends, and they like to eat delicious things too, and though they are choosing to miss out on things like crème fraiche, you also don’t want to be the friend who serves them things that taste like cardboard because you can’t figure out something delicious and plant based to make. Fact: Cooking vegan is NOT THAT HARD… and yet I know so many people who down right panic at the idea of eliminating meat, and dairy.  Last year I had two Vegan and gluten free friends over for dinner… we had a delightful meal of black rice, raw zucchini noodles and tahini dressing with roasted vegetables…(ok, confession, I rarely cook meat a home, because it grosses me out, and since I rarely cook it it makes me nervous… so when I’m at home I’m mostly a vegetarian… so I’m allowed to go off about how vegan cooking isn’t that hard… because  if you take eggs and cheese out of my diet… I pretty much live in a land of quinoa and roasted veggies…) and as we sat there, they told me about all the dinner party horror stories they had from people who just couldn’t quite get a grip on vegan cooking. Here is a hint… just because you are limiting your ingredients does not mean you have to limit the flavor.  Plants are delicious, seasonal plants are even more delicious… you can still use things like salt, and spices, seeds and a myriad of other things to make your food taste awesome.

Also, to all my vegan friends out there. Don’t freak out when you cook for non-vegan people. You don’t need to defend how you eat or what you made for me… and don’t sit around fretting about if I’m going to be satisfied with the meal, or if I am judging you… I will be satisfied, and I’m not judging you (and most other people probably aren’t either). Fact: you eat this way, and it satisfies you, Cooking for someone is a wonderfully nice thing, and educating someone on new ways of thinking and eating is pretty neat too. Just because I choose to eat eggs and cheese doesn’t mean I think you are crazy for choosing not to eat those things.  So just relax, keep doing what you do…

But I digress, and this IS supposed to be about appetizers.. and is, in fact, not a lecture on life skills and eating habits….  So onto Winter Endive Bites.

Here is what I love about endive bites. Everything.   They are ridiculously simple, but  seem a little bit fancy, so you kind of get extra bang for your buck. You can make them in about 5 minutes, put just about anything in them, and they act as their own cup, so they are a completely self contained nibble that works great for passed apps, or stationary h’orderves.  The endive is crunchy, so you automatically have texture built in, and the bitterness of the green is remarkably versatile.

You could come up with hundreds of different fillings to put in endive bites, but one thing to consider is texture, color, taste and overall presentation. (another favorite is roasted beets with walnuts and blue cheese… or blood oranges with fennel, parley and chévre) What I love most about this particular recipe is the marriage of sweet and savory. The persimmon has a little sweet nuttiness to it, and the pomegranate is simultaneously sweet and tart. The pistachios add some texture, and then the gremolata brings in a little zing.  There are a lot of flavors at work, but they all meld together to present this really gorgeous bite.

persimmons, cubed.

persimmons, cubed.

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Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate 

Serves 5-6

  • 2-3 heads of endive
  • seeds from ½ of a pomegranate
  • 2 persimmons
  • 1 handful of shelled pistachios (pulsed in a food processor a few times, or lightly smashed)
  • 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata*
  • olive oil (I recommend using a slightly fruity olive oil in this recipe. I used the 2013 olio nuovo Koroneiki olive oil from The Oregon Olive Mill… which was very ripe, and has a lot of green banana flavor. )
  •  Finishing salt to taste (obviously I use Jacobsen Sea Salt Cause it’s amazing.)
  1. Cut the bottoms off the endive and separate the leaves. Wash and dry the endive leaves and set aside.
  2. Cut the persimmon into small chunks and place in mixing bowl with pomegranate seeds and pistachio. Lightly mix together and then add 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata. Drizzle with olive oil. Taste, and add salt as needed.
  3. Scoop the mixture into endive cups, and serve immediately.

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*Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped.
  • Mix gremolata ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.

*Gremolata is one of my new favorite things. It is great in soups, on salads, mixed in with rice, on fish… the list goes on. For this recipe, I recommend making it separately and adding it to the rest of the filling, that way you can keep the excess gremolata to garnish other dishes throughout the week.

Note. The gremolata will last a few days in the refrigerator but due to the texture of the persimmons, the fruit mixture doesn’t keep as well.

A Truly Magical evening at Jacobsen Salt Co.

Before I even get started, let me just say that I kinda have a crush on Ben Jacobsen. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can get on to the really important things, like how magical* my Wednesday evening was.

 

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racks and racks of salt

 

(* I’m realizing right here and now as I compose this in my head that I’m probably going to say magical and amazing a whole lot in this post.  I looked up all the synonyms for magical, and it really doesn’t feel authentic for me to say things like fairylike, mystic, or paranormal… stupid thesaurus. I apologize in advance if you want to punch me in the face because I’m gushing about my magical evening. )

 

I woke up on Wednesday morning to sunlight streaming in my window. Both my cell phone and computer had died in the middle of the night so I had no idea what time it was (yes they were both situated in bed next to me, its fine I sleep alone, there is plenty of room) but I laid there for a while just basking in the fact that I had the day off, and I figured I probably couldn’t sleep through my morning yoga class even if I tried (well, ok I could, but I was pretty confident that even if I didn’t know what time it was, I hadn’t yet missed my class. I was correct).  I started to think about what I was going to do that day, and as I laid there looking at what was potentially the last really perfect Indian Summer day, I decided to drop everything and spontaneously head to the coast for a dinner at Jacobsen Salt Company.

 

I had been toying around with the idea for a little while, and I knew I would be going to at least one of the dinners there this fall, I just hadn’t decided which one. I had a million reasons why I hadn’t signed up for this dinner, but on Wednesday morning, none of them actually seemed legitimate (ok, maybe the budget reason was legit… I’m choosing to ignore that)  I was bummed I wasn’t going to any of the Feast Portland events over the weekend, and was craving a foodie adventure. So I rolled out of bed, found my computer cord, waited for baby-mac to charge, and promptly bought a ticket. Gotta love the power of the interwebs.

 

Over the past few weeks a few things have changed  a bit in my life. The largest thing  being my job (more about this at another time) but I’ve suddenly found myself working a lot less (hilarious that full time seems leisurely these days) and have been trying to focus on filling my free time with things that make me happy. Exercise, socializing, fun experiences… and lets face it. Amazing food and wine make me really, really happy. Throw in fun people, and pushing out of my comfort zone a little bit, with the spontaneity factor, and I’m pretty much blissed out.  So getting a ticket for a dinner with Chris Cosentino at a enchanting salt factory on the Oregon coast was really a no brainer.  (seriously, why did I wait until that morning? I have no idea… going to this dinner was perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve ever made… at least one of the most fun things I’ve done for myself in a long time)

 

Fall time always makes me feel a little introspective. With the afore mentioned free time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, evaluating, and self analysis. (sometimes this is good. Other times not so much, but at the moment, I think it is good to take a step back, and realize ways in which I want to grow) One thing I’ve really been sensitive to is trying to make a name for myself. Maybe not even really that… it’s more like I want to be memorable. At my former job I really struggled with this, partially because as an event planner it is pretty much your job to blend in and be behind the scenes. This was all good and fine at weddings, and private functions, but it got really frustrating at industry events and wine club pick ups, because I felt like I was meeting the same people over and over and over again, and each time they had no clue that we had met dozens of times before. A lot of that is just the industry, and some of it was me being a wall flower, but regardless, it started to wear on me a little bit. Not that I want to be the center of attention, but I think every person at least hopes to be memorable in some way.

 

I went through a lot of the same thing last year when I started dating my ex. He is a chef, and kind of a famous one, and once again, I would go out with him, and I would “meet” people whom I’ve met before, and now suddenly that we were together I was standing out.  At least at the time… flash forward to now, and I run into people that I met when we were together all over the place. They usually just look at me with no recognition, all the while I’m replaying conversations I had with them in my head. I’m trying not to take it personally… I have a really hard time with names, and I know that I meet a lot of people at the market, and I can’t always place where I know them from…  But at the end of the day, I don’t want to be forgettable, but I also want to stand out for who I am, and not for who I am with or where I work.

 

And I feel like in the last year I’ve finally gotten a handle on this. I know that most people actually associate me with where I work… but I’m pretty ok with that.  Red Hills Market is kind of the epicenter of wine country, and if people know who I am because I make their latte’s every day, or because I cater at their winery, I’m ok with that. Because for the first time since I joined this crazy/fun/unpredictable industry I feel like I’m actually a part of the community, and not just orbiting outside of it. And it feels nice to be making connections, and mostly making them on my own. (of course, I get home on Wednesday evening, and my ex, who is friends with Chris Cosentino calls me to ask about the dinner, and immediately says “well did you talk to Chris? Did you tell him that we know each other? Did he give you the time of day because you know me?”  Le sigh.  No, I did not name drop, and I knew that I  totally could have, and perhaps would have had a magical celebrity chef moment… but for me Wednesday night wasn’t about name dropping. It was about amazing food at an amazing place, and putting myself out there for who I was.)

 

Anyway, long tangent coming back around…  I had been at Jacobsen Salt Co. all of two seconds, and I step out of my car and the first thing I hear is “Oh hi Awkward Olive!”  And there is Jami Curl of St. Cupcake and Quinn  aka “sprinklefingers” greeting me with a smile and a hug. We had never actually met before, and up until that moment had only known each other through Instagram, so the whole thing was a little surreal.  I know lots of people have twitter meet ups (is there like a catchy term for that? I don’t tweet really, so I have no idea) Anyway, I always had a sneaking suspicion that if we ever met, we would be friends in real life. I should probably be more creeped out that I already felt like I had a connection and a real life relationship with this person whom I have only ever communicated with via photo comments (the fact that she isn’t creeped out that I’m a little bit obsessed with her son,  in a totally not creepy way, makes me think that we really actually get each other pretty well).  I find her to be really entertaining (follow her on instragram, for reals, you won’t regret it) and very relatable.  I knew within moments of stepping out of my car that I was among friends, and that the evening was going to be amazing, and it just kept getting better.  I met a bunch of fun new people, re-connected with some people I already knew, and had a blast putting myself out there.  At one point we were on a tour of the salt facility Jami turned to me and said “When we go into the room with the large pool, I want you to imagine that I have given Ben the gift of an otter, and its in the pool swimming on its back with a little shell clutched to its chest. It will make the tour a lot better.”  Yup I knew she was my kind of person.

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As we waited for the tour to commence, and dinner to be served we lingered by the water, sipped on pink bubbles (the wine kind, not the blowing kind) from Soter Vineyards… It was all pretty much heaven. I’ve been a fan of Soter for quite some time, and my old roommate used to work there, so last winter I became quite familiar with their wine. I also became much more familiar with the people working there, and find them all to be quite delightful. Hallie Whyte and I actually went to college together, but our paths never crossed very much, so its fun to have that Linfield connection with someone now. It’s kind of amazing to me how a school can be so small, and yet I’m still meeting people that I didn’t really know when we were engrossed in academia.  Anyway, I’m getting super off track… the wine, the bay, the facility, the people… to say it was anything less than magical would be a complete understatement.

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Starting off the tour

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Ben and Chris hanging out before dinner

Jacobsen Salt Co. is hands down one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. It is this tiny oyster farm converted into a salt factory, and it isn’t fancy, and yet it is the type of place that makes you want to drop everything, quit your life and somehow be a part of it.  (I love finding those types of places… don’t you?) My words aren’t really doing it justice right now, really you just have to go and experience it for yourself, preferably on a sunny day with pink bubbles… but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a pretty magical place any day of the week under any conditions with or without wine.  It also help that there are good people there.

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I met Ben a few years ago when he was just getting things started. He was making a delivery to Red Ridge Farms, and he had giant Rubbermade tubs full of lemon zest salt in the back of his car (before it was even available, back when he was schlepping sea water all the way to Portland to make his salt… it sounds hard.)  He was so charismatic, and so passionate about what he was doing… again, My type of people. How can you not be just drawn to people like that who are so passionate about what they do? (Le sigh, again. On the bright side, I am absolutely 100% passionate about where I work, just not what I do… I’m fine with this for now… I’m only 28, I think I have some time to figure things out, and my job does allow me to teach yoga, which is indeed a passion…) But Passionate people are where it’s at in my book.  Anyway, long story short, Ben is kind of adorable, and maybe the nicest person you will ever meet, and when I started working at RHM, I knew that I wanted him to come and do a salt tasting for the staff. Pretty much my first act as Front of House Manager, was to re-order salt, and get him on the books for our next staff meeting.  (It was SO fun!) I’m pretty sure just about everyone has the same thought/ reaction after hearing his story. Why aren’t more people making salt in Oregon/ Why wasn’t this my ingenious idea?  Regardless, the product is amazing, like truly truly amazing, and it only makes it that much better that the person behind the product with the vision is a cool person.

 

Ok, onto the food portion of the evening. DE-LISH.  I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have, or notes for that matter… Part of me wishes that I had notes about each bite, that I had written snippets about each course, and had squirreled away descriptors… I might kick myself for it later… How often do you get a meal prepared for you by Chris Cosentino? But to be perfectly honest, I was too busy basking in the whole experience. Yes, the food was a major part of that… but it was the evening overall that was so memorable, and for me the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The wine, the food, the setting, the company…

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Le Menu

When my ex called to ask me about name dropping he also was grilling me for details on the food. Apparently Chris told him he was one-upping one of his dishes, so naturally he wanted the scoop. I couldn’t tell you if the blood sausage on the oyster was hot or cold, or what it was served with… I could tell you that I would have probably eaten 15 more of them if given the chance.

 

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I don’t have a picture of the oysters, but I do have a picture of these oysters doubling as salt cellars.

 

 

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The Radish and sea urchin salad was everything I wanted it to be. Light, crisp, simple, yet rich. There was color, and texture, and complexity, and just overall yumminess.

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Probably my favorite dish of the night was the Heirloom tomato and Nduja bruschetta. Come on, you had me at spreadable sausage. Hello. Plus tomato season is just on its way out, and nothing tastes as much like summer as beautiful garden fresh tomatoes.

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Heriloom tomatoes and Nduja Bruschetta

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The next course was  a truly breathtaking assortment of surf-n-turf.  As Jami so perfectly put it “we are going to have the meat sweats after this” Indeed we did. I had 2-3 servings of steak, perfectly cooked scallops, and an assortment of pickled veg. Yes, pickled veg, AKA the way to my heart. I do love a good pickle.

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Smoked Meats, diver Scallops and Incanto Gardineria

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We finished up the food portion of the night with a salt roasted pear. I saw a sneak peek of this on instagram earlier in the day, and had therefore been thinking about it/ looking forward to it pretty much all day. It didn’t disappoint. It was perfectly balanced, not too sweet… oh and did I mention that there was foie gras? It was amazing. Like the last meal you might ever want to eat in your life amazing.

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Salt Roasted Pear, hazelnuts and Foie Gras

 

I failed to take any pictures of the flower arrangements, but they were breathtakingly put together by Field Works Flowers. Meg was lovely to sit across from, and I’m totally enthralled by her work.

 

After dinner, I lingered a bit longer, not willing to end the night with dessert. It’s almost like the whole night was out of  an enchanted fairy tale, because after dinner we strolled back down to the bay, and drank more wine, and listened to the ocean in the light from the full moon. Real life Oregon, sometimes it’s a f*ing fairy tale.  And sometimes in this fairy tale you can’t stop gigging because Jon Valls says things like “It’s the big F*ing dipper, yo!”  Eventually we made our way up to the house, and sat around the fire pit for a while. Everyone else was mostly talking about all the upcoming events/ work to be done for Feast Portland, major upcoming projects etc. This is the part of the evening, where I most likely put on my introverted hat and just sat back and observed everyone’s interactions. I know it makes me seem socially awkward/ uninterested but really its just how I process. I love observing people and how they interact, and I’m just a really good listener, so its easier for me to sit back and hear and see people interacting with each other, and just soak in all the goodness. I know this backfires on me all the time, because I tend not to ask a lot of engaging questions, or any questions for that matter because I feel like I’m getting to know people just by observing. And as a result it feels really un-genuine  for me to ask questions that I already know the answer to. (for example, its kind of impossible for me to make small talk with this incredibly gorgeous wine guy who comes into the market all the time, because I already know where he works, and what he does, and that they are harvesting. I also know that when he comes in 95% of the time he is going to get a breakfast sandwich and salt and vinegar chips… and because I know all of this is makes it really hard for me to ask things like “Oh have you started harvest yet?” because I already know the answer. This is a really really dumb hang up, because obviously if I’m asking the question he doesn’t know that I know the answer… same goes for every other situation in my life… This is why small talk is THE WORST. But also this is maybe why Speed Dating would be amazing, because I wouldn’t know anything about anyone, and would only have a few moments to interact and no time to get all observy of people. Yes, I said observy. Longest tangent of all time. To sum up, why won’t the sexy wine guy just ask me some random small talky question? And more importantly, why won’t the speed dating company get back to me? For reals, apparently no one in the Porland area between the ages of 28-40 is interested in speed dating, because I’ve been waiting for them to schedule an event for 3 months…) Jesus, I should probably stop writing while I’m maybe a head?  Ha, realistically I should just edit this down, but what fun would that be?

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The fire pit/ after party

I left reluctantly, not wanting the evening to end, but knowing that I had an hour and half drive a head of me, and a sassy bulldog awaiting me at home.  I also knew that I had committed to meet a friend at Pilaties class the next morning (like I said, dinner involved meat sweats. Exercise the next day was not optional).  I tore myself away from the fire, gave Ben a hug goodbye, and settled into my drive home, with pretty much a perma-smile on my face.  Good food, good wine, good people. = an absolutely perfect night.  A magical setting, some amazing new friends… I think I’m going to let myself be spontaneous a little more often. I’m also going to eat more spreadable salami. And maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get to spend some more incredible moments at Jacobsen Salt Co. AKA one of the most amazing places on earth.

 

 

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Lemon Zest Salt

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Freshly harvested salt

*I just re-read this, and the use of magical, enchanting etc is a little gross… but I can’t help it. I wrote this somewhat late at night, and really those are the words that best describe the evening.

Anchors Away: An engagement Party for the Ages

At long last, I have a new computer, my internet is working, and I finally figured out how to install Word onto my Mac (giant learning curve/ why are things so fancy?)

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Earlier this spring my BFF got engaged. It’s a little bit Sex and the Cityesque, as they have been dating for roughly seven years, and no one really expected Jason to pop the question. Well kudos to Jason, because he planned a surprise engagement in Thailand, and the wedding planning is now commencing. Kudos to Amber, who has decided that after all the weddings we have attended/ been in/ helped with, that she A) is not having a bridal party, and B) is not asking any of her friends to help with the planning execution of the event.  (what are we real grown ups or something?) *Side note, I planned weddings for a living, and I was absolutely ecstatic to be in/ help execute all the weddings of my friends that I have been in and helped execute. That being said, I am also ecstatic to know that come next August, I will have a mini-reunion with all of my college friends and will not be responsible for anything besides tackling anyone who might try to make an awkward/inappropriate toast at the wedding. Mainly, because I volunteered for that duty, because if anyone is going to be awkward, it might as well be me tackling them.

Anyway, the point to this story, is that since I am not in the wedding, nor will I be asked to help with it, I figured the least I could do was throw a beautiful engagement party celebrating my friends. The theme was easy peasy  (actually the Theme was “They are Tying the Knot”  but it was easy peasy for me to come up with… Jason owns a sail boat… Amber likes to sail on it. Done.) and everything else somewhat fell into place. I have been working a ton of hours lately, so thankfully I had a little bit of help getting the yard and garden in order,  My mother helped me make the table runner and napkins, my dear friend Janet made the granola for the parfait cups, and Laura swooped in from Seattle for the weekend, and helped me run errands, cut up fruit, and entertain the dog whilst I ran around like a crazy person putting the last minute details together.  I couldn’t have been happier with the results. I had this vision in my head of how I wanted everything to look, but most of my DIY projects usually end up slightly south of that vision. Maybe I’m getting better at crafting/ maybe I’m starting to lower my expectations, but everything turned out beautifully!

So here is to Amber and Jason. Thank You for letting me throw a party in your honor.  Thanks for making the trek out to McMinnville, And thank you for helping me drink the last bottle of prosecco. And Jason, thank you for not getting mad when I accidentally tried to make out with your fiancée during a very awkward end of party photo shoot.

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The Stripy Straws

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The Bubbly Drinks

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The Fruit Skewers with Raspberry Berets

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The Lemon Curd Parfait Cups

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The Bride & Groom

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The Table Spread

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The Lemonade Jars

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The Lemonade

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Anchors Away

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The Menu

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Napkins and Things

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Flowers and Table Scape

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Wild Flowers Tamed

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The Pre Party Scene

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A and J

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Greens Number 1/ Sparkle Squad

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Look, Boys came too

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The Katy and Katie Show

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All the Things

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Guest of Honor and Hostess

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The Far away buddies

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Matching Ladies

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Then this happened…

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Bunting!

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We really like each other

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Cause we are besties

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and we accidentally almost made out, so then we laughed and cried

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But then we got this precious photo, so it was all worth it.

Rhubarb Rosemary Gin and Tonics

 

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One of the most fun things about my house, is discovering the things that are coming up in the garden. This is my first spring here, so there are a number of surprises. One of my favorite things thus far, has been the two huge rhubarb plants in the back yard. I have no idea how old they are, and if they have a story (I’m sure they do, but it isn’t mine) and I’ve spent the last few weeks, harvesting, and prepping the rhubarb for some delicious thing. It isn’t the “best” rhubarb in the world, the stalks are a little gangly and woody, and they are mostly green-ish, but I still managed to get quite a harvest, and have put quite a bit in the freezer for future jams, bread, and pies.

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Yesterday I was feeling like I needed a domestic project though, and so I wandered out to the garden to see if there was anything interesting to harvest. I ended up picking a handful of rhubarb, and immediately came inside to start on a simple syrup. I wanted to create something fresh, and herbal, and decided that rosemary would pair wonderfully with the tartness of the rhubarb. I tend to lean away from using rosemary in conventional ways, because the flavor can be really overpowering, and generally speaking I think it gets overused… but give me a rosemary pairing that is a little outside of the box, and I’m all over it (rosemary thyme sugar cookies are my favorite things on the planet). Rhubarb rosemary gin and tonic anyone?

My  favorite part (or one of my favorite parts)  of my new job is playing bar tender, and coming up with new and unusual cocktails that have a fresh market flair to them. The lemon-basil vodka tonics have been a smashing success, and have a permanent home on the menu, and the Cucumber rosemary gin and tonics have had great reviews as well… Now if only the summer weather would stick around. Hello Oregon, we are ready for the refreshing cocktails!

As I simmered the rhubarb with sugar, water, rosemary and lemon I started to scheme all the tasty things I could do with the concoction. My immediate thought was of course the gin and tonic (because it sounds delicious, right?) but there was also a bottle of Prosecco in my fridge staring me down, and what better to pair with a bit of bubbles than a wonderfully pink and herbaceous syrup? (I’m actually drinking this right now, hello-wine Wednesday! its fabulous. I don’t usually drink in the middle of the day, but I had to take some photos for this post, and when in Rome/ when it is your weekend you drink the rhubarb rosemary bubbles for lunch).

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For those of you who have not cooked with rhubarb, it disintegrates into a stringy mush of swamp water fairly quickly. Don’t let this deter you… the end product is totally worth it. Once the syrup was fully infused with the rhubarb and rosemary flavor, I strained off solids, and the result was a beautiful pale pink liquid. No more swamp water, hello cocktail possibilities. (plus the rhubarb mush is totally delicious, and I would highly recommend eating it by the spoonful, spreading it on toast, or putting it in a crepe.)

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I’m totally obsessed with the blush color of the syrup, something about it just makes me feel very lady like… perfect for brunches, bridal showers, or just a Wednesday afternoon. The party-thrower/ hostess in me wanted to add a little more flair to the cocktails, so I froze some rosemary in my ice cubes. It is so simple, and presents amazingly, and can be done with any herb or edible flower. I love adding mint or lavender to ice cubes for lemonade, and borage blossoms and rose petals make a beautiful addition to any punch.

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Rhubarb Rosemary Simple Syrup:
Equal parts sugar and water (I used 2 cups of each)
roughly two cups of diced rhubarb
juice from 1/2 a lemon
4-5 small sprigs of rosemary.

Combine water, sugar, rosemary, rhubarb and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain out solids and save for some delicious snack.

I’d love to see what other delicious ideas people have for this syrup, and highly encourage you to share them here!

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Rhubarb Rosemary Gin and tonic:

2 oz gin (I used Ransom gin, my absolute favorite)
1 oz rhubarb rosemary simple syrup
tonic water to taste
garnish with lime wedge & sprig of rosemary.

Rhubarb Rosemary Prosecco Sparkler
1-2 oz of rhubarb rosemary simple syrup (or to taste)
top off with prosecco & a rosemary garnish.

 

Jay’s Mid-centuryModern Kitchen

So a few months ago, I applied for a Freelance position at The Kitchn.com I Just got the official word this week that I didn’t get it (not like I was holding my breath) but since I did have a lot of fun writing this sample kitchen tour/ the kitchen of my dear friend Jay is awesome, I wanted to share it on my blog.  I had so much fun writing this/ taking all the photos, and this whole project was a huge creative outlet for me over the winter when I was unemployed, bored, a little heartbroken, and in desperate need of a project. I hope you all enjoy this brief little glimpse into Jay’s kitchen.

Jay’s Eclectic Mid Century-Modern Kitchen

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Exposed brick walls, turquoise tile, bright Descoware pots, a mis-matched four-pane window and a vintage Vitamix are just a few of the quirky features/items you notice when you walk into Jay’s kitchen. He has spent the last few years tweaking this Mid-century modern space into a room that feels casual, and functional while keeping with the era of the house. Jay is a huge fan of clean lines and minimalism, but the kitchen has just the right amount of personality to make the vast brick house seem cheerful and inviting.

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When Jay moved into his home in McMinnville, Oregon the kitchen was the only area that needed a lot of work. The house was built in 1949, and the kitchen had a drop ceiling, florescent lights, and some interesting features (pink and yellow cabinets, gaudy wallpaper, and a washer and dryer just to name a few). With a fairly conservative budget (the entire house ended up needing to be re-piped, which slightly hindered his kitchen remodel plans) and a little bit of manual labor, Jay has transformed his once cavernous feeling kitchen into a wonderfully charismatic and functional space.

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While the rest of the house is very minimalistic, the kitchen has a lot of personal touches, and pops of color. Never keen on having the same items as everyone else, Jay has spent several years acquiring some great finds at antique stores and thrift shops. He’s left most of the cabinets exposed so the unique pieces can be truly appreciated. My favorite thrift store purchase of his is a metal filing cabinet that serves as a creative wine storage rack.  Jay has also replaced a lot of the original cabinetry with a wooden potting bench, which is his favorite (and dare I say, the most functional) item in the kitchen. It serves as a great prep area, is awesome for storage, and adds a genuine splash of personality to the room.Kitchn 24

 

I sat and chatted with Jay as he skittered around the kitchen prepping a salad and re-heating some tacos for us to enjoy. The kitchen feels really comfortable and homey… which is one of the reasons he spends quite a bit of time in there. He typically eats his meals at the kitchen table while reading vintage cookbooks (sometimes out loud to his dinner guests, which is ridiculously charming).

 

10 Questions for Jay

1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?

Basil! No joke. I always have basil in my home and think that most every dish is enhanced with a fresh herb. My go to dinner is a Caprese sandwich, roasted vegetables (usually broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms & kale- roasted at 450 until they have good color!) and a salad. I eat this at least 2-3 times per week. It’s simple, fresh and I still feel as though I’ve “cooked” without a ton of effort. I also get a lot of ideas from vintage (and current) cookbooks. I’m not a recipe-driven cook, but I love reading about food trends from different decades. Just yesterday I picked up a vintage hors d’oeuvres book at an antique store.


2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?

Salt jars. I have three of them full of kosher salt strategically placed around the kitchen (one by the stove, one near a prep area and one on the little dining table). There’s something very satisfying about salting food with your fingers rather than a shaker. And, the jars, all with wood tops are really cool.
3. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked in this kitchen?

Quite recently my closest friend came over for home-made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I learned of the soup recipe while listening to Tom Douglas on The Splendid Table radio show. When the host asked Tom what kitchen gadget he couldn’t live without, he noted an immersion blender. He explained that he never really saw the use for one, but is now a believer. I thought: “I have an immersion blender. This sounds delicious. I’m going to make it tonight” Let’s just say the immersion blender couldn’t be found (probably still packed from the move), a food processor was used, tomato soup ended up everywhere, sandwiches burnt and the wine was delicious.
4. The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen?

Not having an oven hood.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Fewer lights. The fixtures I chose have three spotlights each and I installed five of them. It’s not a big kitchen. I have no idea what I was thinking.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:

A double convection oven.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?

I’d like to install some sort of shelving or cabinetry next to the fridge, and eventually I’d like to put in a new floor.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?

Fresh, not complicated, open-minded.

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9.Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:

Use kosher salt.


10. What are you cooking this week?

Caprese sandwich, roasted vegetables, salad, soft-boiled eggs… I may also make peanut bread for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oven-Roasted Sausages, Dinner Parties, and Winter Comfort Foods

I think the new year should start in April… that ways we will start making all these fitness and health resolutions when we are starting to wrap up on cooking the hearty comforting winter foods… I’m on a running kick lately, and it feels great, and I’m trying to follow it up with the diet half (lots of greens, whole grains, etc.) but on these chilly winter weekends, all I want to do is make a stew with giant hunks of bread and stringy cheeses. I want root vegetables all mashed together, brown butter sauce, pastas, and casseroles, and dishes that will warm me from the inside out. This is why last weekend I threw a dinner party and made a wonderfully satisfying dish of sausages apples and pears.

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A few friends and I started a supper club, where once a month we have to try a completely new recipe. I volunteered to host the first round, and when I stumbled across this recipe from The Splendid Table, I knew it would be just the thing.

I did my research, and read all of the reader comments before actually cooking the dish. (and yes, I did brown the sausages before putting them in the oven, and I also left the skin on the fruit).  I also added on a side dish of olive oil mashed potatoes.  I’m kind of having a torrid affair with butter lately, but EVOO is my soul mate, especially when it comes to mashed potatoes. I think it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish, that even the highest quality of butters cannot.

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I also served the mascarpone meyer lemon gelato that I wrote about here. It was an epically delicious meal. Especially since Jay brought some amazing camembert cheese, local salami, and some caprese bites to start off. Janet brought a yummy salad, and some home-made  madeleines. I’m quite surprised we all didn’t immediately fall into a food coma… especially since we took a break for hot-tubing between dinner and dessert.

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The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

We are still toying with names for the group.  Maybe “Our Splendid Table” or my personal favorite “TB&J” (Tayler, Bulldog ,Jay/Janet). Whatever we decide to call ourselves, I’m sure there will be many amazing culinary adventures in our future.