Eagle Point, OR

Before I met Patrick, I lived alone for many years. I was accustom to my own company. I filled my spare time with books and baking and strolls to the market and simply putzing around the house. Friends, too, of course, but I relished coming home to my little apartment at the end of a night out or holing up every once in a while. Now I’m out of that habit. For the first time since before we kicked off the trip, I was absolutely alone for more than 24 hours over the weekend. I’m chicken-sitting, and Patrick is visiting his family. It’s been lovely and strange to be surrounded by so much quiet, to not have to collaborate on the day’s plans.

snap peas, gardenin

It’s not lonesome.

I read a huge stack of foodie magazines. I pulled weeds. I took a morning hike. I made dinner out of half an avocado and a handful of fresh garden peas, all sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt. Peaceful.

fresh eggs, organic eggs, beautiful eggs

But, I find I talk to myself. And to the chickens.

Sparkles the Chicken, Speckled Sussex, Chickens.

heritage chickens

Advertisements

Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches

We’ve been on a sandwich kick. A gooey, oozy sandwich kick. A piled-high-and-hearty kick. In Philadelphia we tried two different cheese steaks, one at Sonny’s Famous Steaks and another at Dalessandro’s. Then in Chicago we stopped by Portillo’s and, on the advice of a trusted friend, ordered the Italian Beef, with, hot, add mozz, dipped. What we received was perfectly seasoned sliced beef topped with spicy-hot pickled peppers and melted cheese, all nestled in a crusty roll, then dipped – the whole thing dipped – into au jus. It was a succulent seven-napkin meal.

Out on our own, we found ourselves craving these hulking sandwiches. For an impromptu Minneapolis backyard get-together we made them with thick New York steaks from the butcher shop down the street. In our most recent version, we used London Broil. These are not traditional Philly or Chicago ‘wiches, so we named them Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches after the view from our window.

Devil's Tower, WY

steak sandwich, philly cheese steak

Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches

1 lb London Broil or steak of your choice, seasoned with salt & pepper

4 shallots, sliced

2 C sliced mushrooms

1 Tbs olive oil

1 green pepper, sliced

½ lb provolone or mozzarella

1 baguette or 4 hoagie rolls

Pepperoncini, to taste, if desired

Iceberg lettuce, shredded

1. Cook steak over grill or in a cast iron pan until rare. Thinly slice and set aside.

2. Slowly caramelize shallots over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are rich and brown, about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms to the pan and heat until they release their moisture. If they get a little brown, all the better. Add olive oil and peppers and cook until everything is tender. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Remove veggies from pan and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat bread. Cut baguette into 4 equal pieces and split.

3. Add meat to pan and divide into four separate piles.  Place slices of cheese on top of each pile. Add 2-3 Tbs of water to pan and cover, letting the cheese get gooey and melty.

4. Scoop the cheesy steak into each baguette or roll. Top with onion, pepper and mushroom mixture.  Add iceberg lettuce or pepperoncini, if desired. If there are any pan juices, pour them over the top of each sandwich. Devour.

London Broil, steak sandwich

steak sandwich

Penne with Kale, Walnuts, Chicken and Pesto

The houses here are hunched down in gullies or stand weather-beaten in brown fields, all with steeply pitched roofs that speak of long, harsh winters. We drove through our second snowstorm of the week – the spring I gushed about has not made it to New England. Icicles still adorn the roadways. State parks and campgrounds are closed, and finding campsites will be a challenge the next few days as we pass through the Adirondack Mountains. Last night we parked just off Vermont Hwy 125, with a view of the bridge that will take us across the southern end of Lake Champlain into New York State.

White Mountains, NH

Kale and walnuts are a new favorite combination. I recently made an easy side dish of steamed kale quickly sautéed with chopped walnuts, olive oil and garlic. This is another take on that idea. And, yes, adding more nuts and cheese to a pesto dish may sound like too much of a good thing…but it works.

Toasting Walnuts

Penne with Kale, Walnuts, Chicken and Pesto

½ lb dry penne pasta

1 large bunch kale, stemmed, chopped

½ C walnuts, chopped

1 Tbs olive oil

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 C chicken broth

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 big spoonfuls prepared pesto, to taste

½ C Parmesan or manchego, shredded

Cook pasta according to package directions. Stir in kale and let cook for the last 5 minutes. (Use more kale than you think you need! A big bunch cooks down to nothing.) Drain.

Meanwhile, heat walnuts, olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes until fragrant.  Set aside. Add chicken breasts, broth, lemon juice and garlic to pan. Cover and steam until cooked through. Shred chicken.

Toss together pasta, chicken and pesto. Top with walnuts and cheese.

Penne Kale Walnuts Chicken Pesto

Food & Farmers: Polyface Farms

A peek inside my freezer right now will reveal hints of delicious meals to come. Stacked next to my flour and cornmeal are packages of ground beef, cube steak and lots of pork. Last week, Patrick and I visited Polyface farm in the rolling hillsides near Staunton, Virginia, and met our meat.

Polyface Farm, organic pork, Joel Salatin

If you read Omnivore’s Dilemma or saw Food Inc. you’ll remember Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm as one of the most innovative beyond-organic farms in the country. Though the farm sells beef, pork, chicken and eggs, Salatin really considers himself a grass farmer, concerned with the health and biodiversity of his land.

Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin

Cows rotate through small sections of pasture, munching on a “salad bar” of diverse grasses and clovers and leaving behind natural fertilizer in the form of manure. A few days later, chickens roll through in mobile coops. They break apart the manure, gorging on grubs and picking at grasses and seeds. Pigs pitch in aerating the soil and turning straw bedding into fertile compost. The result? Rich, healthy soil and diverse pasture with no chemical inputs, PLUS pasture-fed beef PLUS eggs PLUS pork. That’s a lot of productivity from one piece of land. It’s the exact opposite of mono-crops or feedlots where cows stand around in barren, muddy fields.

Continue reading

Cabbage and Mushroom Galette

Does the word “cabbage” inspire thoughts of culinary greatness? No? I didn’t think so. This galette will change how you think of cabbage. Tangy, hearty and yet almost silky in texture, a cabbage and mushroom filling gets wrapped in an amazingly flaky pastry crust for a meal that’s much more impressive than the title implies.

cabbage and mushroom galette

This is the second Smitten Kitchen vegetarian recipe I’ve adulterated with bacon. (The first was this soup.) Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against vegetarian recipes, but we had a lot of bacon. The original recipe also called for a chopped hard-boiled egg in the filling, which I skipped because we were out of eggs. Next time, I think I’ll crack an egg onto the center of the galette during the last 5 minutes of baking.

cabbage and mushroom galette

cabbage and mushroom filling

I see myself making this crust often in the future – in addition to savory dinners, I think it will be delicious for a peach or apricot galette. Maybe with some sweetened ricotta, too? I’d already started making this recipe when I realized I didn’t bring a rolling pin with me in the Minnie; luckily my Klean Kanteen water bottle did the trick!

galette crust

Continue reading

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

If you have a can of pumpkin puree leftover from Thanksgiving baking, I urge you to give this soup a try. Hearty, comforting and a tad spicy, it’s not overly pumpkin-y. This recipe is adapted from The Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food bloggers and author of a new cookbook coming out in 2012. My version is more rustic, thick with chunks of tomatoes and beans, and fresh chiles and chipotle powder to lend a southwest twist. Continue reading

Snow Day Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower

Winter descended on New Mexico last week. We encountered snow as we drove into the hills north of Santa Fe; six inches of powder covered the ground at Hyde Memorial State Park where we camped for a few days.

Hyde Memorial State Park

A snowy hike left us hungry for something comforting and warm, and Cheesy Cauliflower fit the bill. I’d like to say we ate this with a big, healthy green salad, but the truth is we devoured the gooey goodness on it’s own – we were in a rush to meet some fellow RVers for wine and a game of dominos! The thermometer read 11 degrees when we got “home” that night. Continue reading

Totally Flexible Farro Salad

Nutty, toothsome farro is one of my all-time favorite grains, and I love farro salads because they’re so versatile. I’ve been making a lot of these in the Minnie because they come together quickly and allow me to use whatever veggies I have on hand.

Following are some basic proportions to create a dish packed with flavor and texture. Tailor these ingredient suggestions to your personal taste. To create a heartier one-dish meal, I add a shredded chicken or a link of quality sausage.

Continue reading

Food & Farmers: Fish Stories

I consider myself a fairly savvy grocery shopper.  Whether I’m grabbing produce or canned goods, dairy or snacks, I can look for the USDA organic seal, or scrutinize ingredient statements to make educated decisions. There are brands I trust and labeling regulations I understand. But, when it comes to seafood, I’m at a loss. Often, fish is displayed with little information beyond variety and price. Even when I know where a particular scallop or fillet came from or how it was harvested, I’m not sure how to interpret those details – farmed is bad? Line caught is good. Bottom trawling is out. Imported? Local?

“It’s not black or white,” agrees Laura Anderson, owner of Local Ocean Seafoods, a Newport, Oregon-based fish market and restaurant. I had the chance to get some advice from Anderson on how to make the best choices. Anderson is a third-generation fisherman with an impressive list of credentials – a Master’s in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University, extensive work as an independent Marine Resource Management Consultant to organizations such as Oregon SeaGrant, Environmental Defense and the Oregon Salmon Commission, and Peace Corps volunteer working on costal management in the Philippines. She founded Local Ocean Seafoods in 2002 with the mission to “give people the best seafood experience of their lives.”

Continue reading

How to Make a Frozen Pizza

  1. Arrive in camp around 6pm. Agree to make a frozen pizza because it is hot and you are feeling lazy and vaguely cranky and just want to read.
  2. Guiltily think about all the fresh vegetables you’ve acquired over the past few days, and consider how long they’ll last.
  3. Decide to add a big salad to the dinner menu.
  4. Heat a pot of water to boil tiny red potatoes unearthed from your parent’s garden.
  5. When searching for herbs in the fridge, grumble a little when the mozzarella falls off the shelf. Set it on the counter and forget about it. Continue reading