Fish sauce and I are having a moment. It’s not an ingredient we cooked with growing up, but it’s suddenly finding it’s way into more and more of my meals. It started with Molly telling me how much she and her beau loved it on roasted brussels sprouts. That was such a hit that I added fish sauce to my new favorite cauliflower recipe (which I also roast in the oven, rather than stir-frying on the stovetop. My cast iron skillet and I are also having a moment), making it even more delicious. Then I tried a recipe I can’t wait to share from Hal’s favorite lady chef that showed me how well fish sauce plays with chicken. And in a really fish sauce focused evening, Hal and I took a Vietnamese Street Food cooking class that featured the savor/salty/sweet taste in every single dish (except dessert)–Sugar Cane Shrimp, Caramelized Pork Belly Banh Mi, Banh Hoi, and Che Thai. And dang was it good. But my very favorite way to use my new very favorite ingredient is in Shutterbean’s Thai beef with basil.
After my first visit to Portland, Oregon, I was a starry-eyed amateur: I loved every single bite and there was still so much more to taste. Now that I’ve gorged myself four times in PDX, I understand that being starry-eyed is the way to be: there is an overwhelming amount of delicious food and there will always be more to discover. So how does a person begin to digest all that Portland has to offer? The following list of traveler’s tips are my attempt, after serious contemplation and a few handfuls of Zantac, to give some guidance to my fellow hungry tourists on how best to stuff oneself in the City of Roses.
For a short time when I was a little girl, parfaits struck me as the absolute height of dessert sophistication. I’m not sure if I actually had one out somewhere or just saw them in a cookbook or movie (one of the soda fountain scenes from the Music Man, maybe?), but they struck me as so fancy, and I wanted to make my own. My “recipe” was layers of vanilla ice cream and crushed up Oreos, and I’m here to tell you it was delicious. And gave me just the spiffy feeling I was looking for. Unfortunately, my zealous eating meant spoon scratches on our tallest drinking glasses, so my mom put a stop to my parfaits (don’t be sorry for me–I just moved to a regular old bowl of vanilla topped with crushed Oreos. Joie and I ate an astonishing amount of ice cream back in our youth). I can’t say that I had that back in the day parfait love in mind when I first decided to make these pumpkin mousse treats, but as soon as I dipped my spoon into the layers the memory came back. Luckily, we seem to have scratch proof glasses, so this dessert is staying on the holiday roster.
As I was scrolling through the side dish recipes in our index, it struck me that Jessica and I are big fans of salads with nuts, cheese, and veggies. No iceberg or romaine for us! Check out this rockstar list of combinations: sweet potatoes+kale+cheddar+almonds, butternut squash+parmesan+walnuts, kale+goat cheese+pecans, brussels sprouts+asiago+walnuts. Today, I’m adding another knockout band of flavors to our favorite salads: cauliflower+cheddar+walnuts (and grapes).
The first meal Hal ever made for me, for our fourth date, was short ribs. I was on my way back from VA after Thanksgiving, and when Hal texted to say he was making short ribs in his slow cooker, I was very much impressed by the idea of a gent with that kind of kitchen equipment. When he later confessed that the slow cooker was in fact purchased just the day before for this specific recipe, I was a total goner. To go along with the short ribs he made mashed potatoes and carrots, and we started dinner with raw oysters (a bold move, but, as it turns out, also an effective one). When we were deciding what to make for our first married Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to go back to that first homemade dinner, and so we celebrated my favorite Hallmark holiday with oysters–grilled on the stove, à la Cochon–and short ribs. Not in our now shared slow cooker, but braised in a dutch oven.
My hands-down favorite, absolute best, tip-top recipe resources are my friends and family. Aren’t we all a thousand times more likely to try a recipe from a trusted friend than something random from blogs, cookbooks, or food magazines? Maybe it depends on the palates of one’s friends. Luckily, my people have darn good taste.
Inspired by Laura’s awesome example, I made a resolution to post a picture to Instgram every day this year. It’s a small thing, maybe, but I’ve found it to be a really good exercise to take the time to look for something that I think is beautiful or that makes me smile each day. And on the days when nothing really pops up and presents itself (Laura warned me that there would be many a time when I’d contemplate just saying to heck with it and snapping a pic of a box of cereal), I of course turn to my food for inspiration. Which usually works, except. There are some meals that will just never be Insta-worthy. Food that might be delicious, but is visually blah…or even on that boarderline of gross looking. The awesome lentil bolognaise recipe I recently discovered is fantastic example of this–the original post even calls is “deficient in the looks department,” and to say it looks like a pile of mud would almost be a disservice to mud. But boy is it tasty.