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Vitamin D and Civilization

20 Jul

It’s amazing what Vitamin D and civilization will do for a girl.  While there are many things I love about Coos Bay, the Southern California sun and, yes, a Starbucks on every corner, does add to an already wonderful vacation.

We started off with a night camping in Napa.  It was a beautiful campsite with a view of Clear Lake and vineyards off in the distance.  Sig showed his guard-dog nature lowly growling at the nearby treacherous wildlife (most likely a squirrel, chipmunk, or maybe a frog).  Dinner consisted of a rack of lamb, quinoa, and sautéed kale with fennel and scallions all cooked over a Coleman stove.

Overboard, yes.  Ridiculous, slightly, but – and here comes the whiney voice – I kind of had a high bar to meet hearing my Eagle Scout husband’s campfire cooking stories of bacon-wrapped game hens and baked beans cooked in a hollowed out pineapple.  To quote my mom, “Where were the hotdogs?!”

After a grueling 111-degree drive through the central valley I-5 corridor, we arrived at my parents’ house for a long, and well-needed vacation.

We partook in a fabulous birthday jaunt to Hollywood to celebrate in style, including personalized fusion drinks at the Library Bar, and antique bowling next to Zach Braff and Donald Faison (yes, I just name-dropped).  I ate lamb belly for the first time; it had the soft, buttery texture of braised pork belly with the lamb grassiness that is so unique yet specific.  It was fantastic paired with couscous, but was certainly trumped by chatting with Zach Braff (yep, did it again).  The next day we drove through Rodeo Drive, but for Rob’s fear of immediate bankruptcy, we didn’t stop, and then spent the rest of the day lazily lying around from having stayed up late partying with Zach Braff (third time’s the charm).  The weekend ended with homemade birthday rib-eye steaks, Mom’s grilled onions, and scalloped potatoes, all favorites in the Tamminen and O’Donnell household.

Movie stars, I mean, Mom, Jenn, and me at the Library Bar in Hollywood.

After such a crazy school year, right now, I am mostly enjoying long walks around the lake with Sig, casually sitting on the kitchen counters chatting with Mom, reconnecting with great friends, and comfortably wearing tank tops.  My mom and I have taken turns cooking, and I think we make a great team.  The heat has lent to lighter dishes, such as seared Ahi, tortellini salad, and one of which I’ve included below.  You can’t come to California without eating a fish taco, and I’ve tried my hand at many versions, never really getting it perfectly right.  The SoCal inspiration worked – I think I did it this time.  You be the judge.

There’s still another week left in my vacation; I’m sure there’s more relaxing times, and more delicious dishes to come.  I’m off to work on my tan with a Starbucks in hand!  Happy summer!

Halibut Tacos (serves 4-6)…. sorry, in all the cooking fun I forgot to take a picture.  But I promise it still tastes amazing!  

  • 2 lbs fresh Halibut (1/8-1/4 lb for each taco)
  • 1 head green cabbage, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp good mayo
  • juice 2 limes
  • about 1 tsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp Agave
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • few tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • few dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • s&p
  • Corn or flour tortillas (or both!)
  • Extra limes and cilantro for garnish

 To cook the halibut, heat the grill to med-high heat.  Put the halibut on aluminum foil, and prepare with a few tablespoons of olive oil (because halibut can dry out), juice of 1 lime, the white whine, a few dashes of Tabasco sauce, a few springs of cilantro (no need to chop them) and s&p. 

Fold over the sides of the aluminum to make a vented pouch for the fish.  Put on the grill – no need to flip – until just cooked (fish should flake easily, but still show shininess and moisture), about 8-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the aioli sauce.  Mix the mayo, juice of 1 lime, garlic, cilantro, paprika, and s&p to taste.  Make sure the mixture combines smoothly, and remember, the longer it sits, the better it tastes.

If you wish, heat up the tortillas in the oven. 

When the fish is done, slice it into chunks that easily fit in the tortilla, about 1 inch by 4 inches.  Put a healthy shmear of the sauce on the tortilla, then place the fish on the sauce.  Top with the cabbage, and a tiny sprinkling of cinnamon (it is AMAZING what the cinnamon adds to this dish – may sound strange, but trust me, it’s fantastic).  Garnish with whole cilantro leaves, and lime wedges.

Enjoy with margaritas!!!

*******

If anyone wants a the lamb-dish recipe, just let me know… it’s a rough recipe (meaning not precise due to camping circumstances), but it, too, was very tasty.  Maybe even better than a hot dog. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Jill and Sig’s Excellent Adventure

4 Mar

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.

Chinook Salmon Terrine with Lemon Butter Toasts (makes 2 small ramekins)

  • 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
  • s&p
  • 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.

Enjoy! 

Food for the Sole

18 Jan

I think I’ve mentioned before the different types of “days” we would have that caused kids to rejoice, parents to groan, and school to inevitably be cancelled.  Last year, we had the typical Snow Day.  That was followed in the spring with a Tsunami Day.  In California, we had a Fire Day and occasionally kept the kids inside for recess due to bad air conditions.  I thought that about capped off the tank of the types of “days” causing school closures; that is, until 8pm last night.

Our school district has a wonderfully effective automated alert system used for any type of information that masses of Coos Bay folk should need to know.  However, when I saw “Coos Bay School District” pop up on my caller ID last night, my thought immediately went to what any normal person would feel when work was calling their house way past the 9-5; I’m half-way through dinner, and not enough sips of a drink in to honestly say I couldn’t drive back in to help out with whatever circumstance arose.  But immediately when I answer I hear the familiar automated voice of our Business Director canceling school tomorrow due to, you ready for this, wind.  Wind?  Yes, wind.

Initially, the feeling of ecstatic yay-I-get-to-sleep-in-and-watch-the-Today-Show-!! jubilation came jumping out as I gloated to my husband (and replayed the message on speaker while dancing around the kitchen).  I even called my mom to relay the fun news.  A Wind Day!  I think she even called me a “Lucky Duck.”

But then, as what seems to be happening more and more lately, and at an alarmingly rate, the adult in me kicks in.  Wind?  We live on the Southern Oregon Coast, where hurricane 50+ mph winds is just a stormy winter Tuesday for us.  This was different.  One of the worst storms in years was about to hit the Pacific Northwest, putting Seattle under a blizzard and giving Coastal towns the jolt of a lifetime: 90 mph winds and heavy rain were expected – enough to keep little Siglet from walking in a straight line outside, enough to make us prepare a safe room incase the windows blew out, and definitely enough to close schools.

I know wind – my family had the fortunate experiences of living in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas, all giving us their share of tornadoes – one even on our moving day.  But for some reason, I didn’t feel prepared for this storm.  I know how the Arctic winds howl off the ocean in these parts, and even on a “good” day it can knock you off your feet and chill you to the bone.

When Rob and I went to bed last night, we knew it wouldn’t be pretty.  What neither of us expected was to feel the constant vibrations, shaking, and deafening jolts of winds and rains so harsh and angry that not even earthquakes can compare.  The shaking of an earthquake stops, eventually.  But these gusts of wind just kept on coming with a fast-ball-wind-up to smack our little house daring it to stand a chance.  The neighbor’s forgotten trashcan made hollow noises on the street, like a kid smacking a plastic toy on the wood floor.  The sound of the wind was completely anticipated, yet shocking, like violent waves of an ocean crashing into rocks.  By the morning time, after a night of on-and-off-jolted-out-of-I-finally-relaxed-sleep shenanigans, the wind was more like waves of nausea.

Rob got up and went to work – it was another military realization (for me) that while my profession was put on hold for safety for a day, his was more than expected to perform.  After a power outage that swept the Oregon Coast (Sig and I tried to take a nap in the daytime darkness, but it ended up being last night, round 2), I remembered the thing that Rob and I were so enjoying last night before our wind day preparations began: Dinner.

Our fishmonger had some beautiful Petrale Sole, and I splurged a bit to get some.  Even Rob was excited.  I thought about our usual Sole dishes – Sole Meuniere, Baked Sole, Stuffed Sole, or just plain pan seared with tarter sauce – they all sounded good.  But one thing sounded better: Cioppino.  It was a cold night, we knew a storm was coming, and the spicy warming fish soup just sounded perfect.

And it was.  This might be in the top ten.  I actually didn’t use any other fish that is usually called for in Cioppino because, 1) Rob won’t eat it, and 2) I wanted the subtle taste of the Sole to stand out.  I even left the pieces whole when putting them into the soup to let them delicately break as they saw fit, leaving big fresh pieces the stars among the humble veg and slurpable broth.  Topped with a simple but flavorful tarragon and caper aioli, the flavors were fantastic.

During a day like today, when turning off the outside and getting some sleep was not an option, I was so (so, so, so, so) glad there were leftovers.  Even as I write, the rain is constant and the wind is relentless, but at least Sig is taking a nap by the fire (actually, he’s so exhausted that his head is literally hanging off the edge of the couch… poor guy).  And I got my Cioppino.  Talk about comfort food.  Lucky me.

Sole Cioppino with Tarragon Caper Aioli
(serves 4)

  • ½ lb. Petrale or Dover Sole
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, diced (save about 1 tbsp of the frawns)
  • 1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped or broken up with your hands (discard can juice)
  • ½ c full bodied white wine (I used a buttery Chardonnay)
  • 2 c water
  • ½ a lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • s&p

 Tarragon Caper Aioli
(makes a large ½ c)

  • 3 large tbsp good mayo
  • zest of a whole lemon
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • a couple dashes of Tabasco Sauce
  • 3 tsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 2 full sprigs of tarragon, chopped
  • about 1 tbsp fennel frawns, chopped
  • s&p

 First, make the aioli – combine all ingredients in a small bowl and taste for seasoning.  Set aside (the longer this sits, the more married the flavors will become, which is a good thing). 

For the Cioppino, heat the butter in a large shallow pot over med-high heat.  Add the butter and a pinch of salt, and sauté until translucent.  Then, add in the fennel and celery, a pinch of salt, and sauté until soft.  Add the garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant, about 1 minute.  Pour in the wine, and let it simmer and reduce for about 2 minutes.  Add in the red pepper flakes and bay leaves, as well as the juice of ½ a lemon, and pour in the water.  Also, cut the half of the lemon just used into quarters.  Add the lemon quarters to the pot.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover for about 5 minutes (this is an important step – it really creates a light and flavorful broth). 

After about 5 minutes, uncover the pot and add in the tomatoes, and simmer again, covered for another 5 minutes.  The soup should be chunky, but still have the presence of broth.  Taste for seasoning. 

Add in the whole Sole pieces – really nestle them into the soup, and cover again for about 3 minutes, until the Sole is cooked through.  Since Sole filets are very delicate and thin, they cook fast and will start to naturally break apart in the soup. 

Ladle into big bowls, and top with a dollop of the aioli.  Inhale the spicy, herby, sea-watery scent, and Enjoy!! 

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