Sunday, February 21, 2010


ever since i had that amazing bolognese with orecchiette at caiola's back in november, i can't get it out of my head. i have to admit, before this dish i sort of thought bologease was just red sauce with ground meat. this dinner at caiola's changed everything for me. friday night, already in bed, i decided to make it this weekend. so i grabbed my copy of how to cook everything, and just like i thought, bitty had a very approachable bolognese recipe.

so yesterday i woke with plans of visiting the first winter farmers market and having a little lunch with jen, andrew and the kids. seth and i planned to incorporate a little exercise into our day and we ended up walking through the entire city, stopping here and there for little bits of food. the weather was amazing and it turned out to be one of those special portland days where i keep asking myself how i can be so lucky as to live in such a wonderful little city with such an amazing quality of life. i will narrate it through the dish i made for dinner.

meat sauce, bolognese-style by mark bittman

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced (from fresh approach)
1 carrot, peeled and minced (from winter farmer's market, fish bowl farms)
i celery stalk, minced (i omitted this)
1/4 cup minced bacon or pancetta (from micucci -- i just realized i used a 1/4 pound of pancetta! well more pancetta is never a bad thing)
1/2 pound ground pork (from farmer's market, sumner valley farms)
1/2 pound lean ground beef (from fresh approach -- for some reason, didn't occur to me to buy it at farmer's market)
3/4 cup dry white wine or juice form tomatoes
1 (28- or 35-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, drained reserve juice if needed instead of wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock (used my own homemade chicken stock)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup cream, half-and-half, or milk (used MOOMilk)
freshly grated parmesan cheese

put the olive oil in large, deep skillet or sauce-pan. turn the heat to medium-low and, a minute later, add the onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta. cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
add the ground meat and cook, stirring and breaking up any clumps, until all traces of red are gone, about 5 minutes. add the wine or tomato juice, raise the heat a bit, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.
crush the tomatoes with a fork or your hands and add them to the pot; stir, then add the stock. turn the heat to low and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes and any clumps of meat that remain. after an hour or so, add salt and pepper. cook for at least another hour, until much of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is very thick.
add the cream, half-and-half, or milk and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. serve immediately with any dried or fresh pasta, passing grated parmesan, if you like, at the table.

seth has no qualms about carbo-loading so he asked me to also make garlic bread. normally if i were making pasta i would refuse,but i was feeling pretty indulgent, so i agreed. i really like to get a little demi baguette for garlic bread, because we just don't need that much bread for the two of us. we found one at standard baking co. i must say, my garlic bread is some of the best i have ever had. the trick is a lot of butter! for a demi baguette, i use about 2 tablespoons of butter and 2-3 cloves of garlic. i let it come to room temp (or gently microwave it) and spread it all over a baguette sliced length wise. then i sprinkle a little finely grated parmsean cheese on it and stick it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.
at standard baking co. we also picked up some dessert: 1 madeline and a chocolate cork. the madeline was a perfect rendition of this cake like cookie and the chocolate cork was rich and fudgey and a total treat!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

sala thai

on tuesday night seth and i ventured to outer washington for a little thai food at sala thai. the restaurant is cute and kitschy with plants and decor hanging from the ceiling. as it was a tuesday night, sala thai was pretty quiet.

we started out with thai iced teas for both of us, seth wanted a cup of tom khar gai, and i ordered the pan fried pork dumplings. the thai iced tea hit the spot and the menu even suggested the iced tea as a good way to cut the heat of the food, if you didn't want a beer.
the broth of the tom khar gai was very tasty and fragrant of lemon grass and coconut. but the only ingredients in the soup had were chicken and scallions, which was a letdown because we were hoping for some vegetables. to be fair, when rechecking the menu, it clearly states "chicken soup with coconut milk, lemon juice and chopped scallions" so i guess we can only blame ourselves.

the pan fried pork dumplings were by far the highlight of the meal. they were stuffed with a mild pork filling, pan fried to a beautiful crisp, and topped with little bits of fried garlic. i tried to scoop up as many bits of garlic onto my dumpling before dipping it into a slightly sweet tamarind sauce.

for our main course we ordered seafood rad pik off the specials menu and yellow curry with chicken from the curry offerings. The seafood rad pik consisted of lightly battered shrimp, scallops, and squid, sautéed with mixed vegetables and a special sauce, all served over a bed of iceberg lettuce with cucumbers and tomatoes around the edge of the plate. the special sauce was fruity and reminded me a lot of duck sauce and i can't remember if there were any vegetables in the dish other than the cucumbers and tomatoes. at $14.99 it was one of the most expensive items on the menu and it was a very big serving. i thought the bed of lettuce was kind of strange and even though we ordered it as hot and spicy it was quite mild. with all this said it was still good. while i was getting pretty full, seth polished off every bit of seafood. he left a few cucumbers though.

the yellow curry with chicken had pineapple, green peppers, summer squash and basil leaves and was creamy, aromatic, and slightly sweet with a very nice heat. which was a surprise because it was listed as a mild curry. so the seafood rad pik was more mild than we expected and this was more spicy than we expected. i would have preferred that both dishes has the heat of the curry. i really love thai curries and this was a good curry. it had all the things i look for in a curry, like the creamy sauce playing off the acidity of the pineapple.

our service was at times slow for how empty the restaurant was, but out waitress was friendly and kept our waters full. all in all i think sala thai was good, but standard. all the food was flavorful, but other than the dumplings, nothing stood out. and while sala thai was relatively inexpensive, i thought it was pretty pricey for thai (again, to be fair we did order one of the most expensive items on the menu). it's also quite far from our apartment in the west end. if it was excellent thai, i would make the trip across town to eat here, but there are plenty of comparable thai restaurants closer to my home.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


i have an magazine problem. i'm totally addicted to magazines. almost all the magazines i subscribe to are cooking magazines and i keep each issue. so in addition to my cook book collection i literally have thousands of recipes in my house.
the big problem with this addiction is that its at odds with my desire to be a greener person. so with all these recipes at my fingertips i decided to cut back on the number of magazines i subscribe to and try to cook some of these dishes.
tonight i did just that. last night i picked a main dish and a dessert out of food and wine magazine from february 2008, bought all the ingredients today, and cooked them up this evening. here is what i made:
three-lentil dal
the flavor of this was great and tasted very authentically indian. i made the mistake of substituting green split peas for the toor dal, and they cooked a lot slower than the yellow split peas and red lentils. and i would have liked more tomatoes in the dish. but it is something that i will definitely make again, probably as a double batch so i could freeze some for a future meal. tonight i served it with a simple green salad and called it dinner.
the bulk food isle at whole foods came in quite handy for this dish as i was able to buy the yellow split peas, red lentils, and cumin seeds there. i love the bulk isle for spices because you can buy just what you need and not spend a fortune on spices.
milk-chocolate pots de creme
we have yet to sample the finished product of this decadent dessert but we licked the blender and the chocolaty custard was super rich and delicious. i'm gonna serve it with a little home made whipped cream. should be great!