Last winter on the Southern Oregon Coast left me with a bitter, angry, vitamin-D-deprived, taste in my mouth. This winter, I was ready; knowing March is what it is in these parts, I stocked up on canned tomatoes, frozen berries, and lots of citrus to bring brightness to the dark, damp days.
But now, as I’m looking out over my sun-soaked overgrown backyard and reminiscing about the last couple days of dandelion dotted winery roads, iced coffee cravings, and chasing Sig around a dirt field, I’m wondering what happened to the anticipated dreary weather. The hemp-laden Nature God in charge of Oregon must be making up for last year – or Al Gore was right!
While Rob had to travel this weekend for work (actually down to Cali), I decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time – nothing. By nothing, I mean quite a few things actually, but all things I don’t do very often, including spending patient and slowed-down time focusing on food. And I was able to share these fun moments with my dog, like a true Oregonian.
Friday brought a delicious breakfast of a poached egg over left over beer-braised wheat berries with blue cheese. Enough protein and energy for our next outing: sea stone collecting on the beach. Years ago, Rob took me to this beautiful beach where the wind blows harder, colder, and stronger that Chicago would be jealous. So much so that it gave me a “cold nerve” in my ear, thus straining my neck to pain so bad, I accidentally flung a teapot across the room when I turned the wrong way. Nonetheless, it’s still a beautiful beach. So, I brought my goose down winter coat, and my 1080 ear protection preparing for the worst. As Sig and I happily strolled along the beach, picking up gorgeous, rock-cycle-influenced rocks (yes, Sig was picking them up too, realized what I was doing and wanted to help out), I found myself taking off layer upon layer. The amazingly unordinary weather fought my silly winter clothes, and won. By the time we were back to the car, both human and dog were panting.
After a quick water break, lunchtime was upon us. I drove a further bit south to a wonderful little coffee shop, where I did something unfathomable: I sat, drank coffee, ate lunch, and read. I had a perfect view of the car and could see Sig doing a gopher dance, popping up to look through one window, then quickly dropping down only to appear in another window a few seconds later. With attention shared between my Kinfolk magazine, the unmarried surprisingly flirtatious older couple at the table next to me, and betting on which window Sig would be smiling through next, the afternoon was, well, perfect.
Driving home was one of the first times we felt relaxed in a long time – I drove more slowly than usual, and Sig sang the zzz’s.
The evening meal was the perfect top-off to the already Swedish-massage-like day: Chinook Salmon Terrine with Lemon Butter Toasts. Smooth, creamy, salty, and tangy and paired with one of my favorite Willamette chardonnays, I thanked the day and fell asleep in bliss.
Next adventure: a Saturday trip to Eugene. After a spicy red pepper and bacon breakfast burrito, Sig and I were off – by far the longest car ride he’s ever had. His excitement was overflowing. Almost crossing the line between cute and annoying. But after a desperately needed trip to Trader Joes, a momentary weakness overcome at Pottery Barn, and a quick walk, we were both ready to go home; but not without a stop at one of Oregon’s plopped-down-along-the-side-of-the-road-because-the-soil-is-amazing-everywhere wineries.
The sun was so bright yesterday Sig kept jumping from seat to seat in our Explorer, trying to find the coolest spot. His waterproof double coat was definitely not meant for 70-degree winter weather. As I drove past fields of agriculture, I pulled into the cutest barn-style tasting room, my mouth watering anticipating what treats were to come. There was a Border Collie obediently running along side his owner, immediately sending Sig into a you-will-be-my-new-best-friend-if-only-I-could-sniff-you frenzy. Meanwhile, completely ignoring the pubescent territorial sheep angrily bah-ing at us invading his space. Leaving him to gopher at the farm animals (yes, I just turned gopher into a verb), I indulged in one of my favorite things: tasting wine. It was good; a perfect break to a second perfect day.
Our drive home consisted of Sig’s sideways, head-tilted glances as I belted David Gray around the windy pine-lined road, leaving him thankfully exhausted. Remembering Friday night’s meal, I wanted another Jill-type dinner, but also craved a bit of comfort. Thus, I vamped up a favorite college-days meal: Herbed Cheesy Bread with Spinach and Fennel Salad with Cheese “Croutons.” After 4 slices of that tangy, cheesy, spicy bread, I was more than content. Both Sig and I were asleep by eight.
Today continued our Jill and Sig adventure story; however, like every adventure story, there must be a little bit of drama. With another beautiful day on our hands, I spent my time on Sunday brunch: Brown Sugar Caramelized Acorn Squash with Rosemary Maple Bacon and Cardamom Infused Coffee. Being that it was Sunday after all, and there were chores to be done, Sig and I decided to take some time to soak up the sun after much cleaning and laundry. As I sat, I could hear his collar tags jingle with each leap, bounce, and jaunt around the fruit flies coming out early for a spring-like tease. That is, until I couldn’t hear his playful jingle anymore. Looking around the corner of our yard, I realized the worse: the gate had been left open, and Sig has escaped.
Now it’s my time to really thank the Oregon Nature God (or Al Gore), as if it were pouring rain, windy, and cold, I would be even more of an angry pet owner chasing my dog around the wild fauna-filled field across from our house. If it weren’t for the very distracting smell of deer scat, I’d probably still be out there chasing.
Sig is relaxing now. With the sun setting on my keyboard, I’m back to doing the same: enjoying the fleeting warmth, typing more slowly than my normal work cadence, and thoughtfully contemplating another my-favorite-type of meal for dinner. Despite his Great Escape, it’s actually his birthday today, and also despite the unintended near heart attack, I made him some homemade doggie treats to celebrate. As the kitchen air still lingers with peanut butter and barley flour, our adventure story is ending with the same note it started on: lots of good food and, well, lots of nothing.
- 1 can unsalted Chinook Salmon in oil (it’s a pantry staple in the Pacific Northwest)
- 2 tbsp grainy mustard
- 1 tsp rosemary
- ½ tsp mint
- 1 oz. goat cheese
- ½ tsp raw agave nectar
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (just from about ¼ a lemon)
- 2-3 cabbage leaves
- olive oil for drizzling
Lemon Butter Toasts
- 6-8 slices rustic French bread
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- zest of one lemon, dried (spread on a piece of parchment paper, and bake for about 15 minutes at 300, or microwave for 30-40 seconds on high)
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using a mortar and pestle, combine the mustard, rosemary, mint, goat cheese, agave, lemon juice, and s&p, until combined. It should be the consistency of a sauce. Set aside.
Drain the canned salmon and flake apart with a fork. Set aside. Take the cabbage leaves and line the inside of the ramekin until the cabbage just comes above the edges. Working in layers, put the salmon on the bottom, and press down until packed. Then, pour in a thin layer of mustard sauce. Then salmon, pack, mustard, etc. until the last layer is salmon. Drizzle with olive oil and cracked pepper, and cover with aluminum foil.
Put foil-covered ramekins in a square baking dish, and fill dish halfway with hot water (cooking the terrines in a water bath keeps them evenly cooking, as well as creates steam for moisture). Cook in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove, or cut open the foil, and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together the butter, dried lemon zest, and salt in a small dish. Toast the French bread slices (bottom layer of oven, or separate oven if you are so lucky), and while still warm, spread the dried lemon butter on one of the faces.
When terrine is done, serve with a small spreading knife, and spread salmon on the toasts. Serve with a half-oaked chardonnay.