Fall Vegetable Clever
(mid november. number 44.)
The inspiration for this meal came during a breakfast I had sometime in October. There was a mango in my kitchen that I'd been particularly precious about. Finally, one night, I picked it up and squeezed. It was time to eat the damn mango. The next morning.
I thought for a while as I bedded down about how I would eat this mango. What would do it justice? I rarely have exotic (as in, not able to grow in Oregon) or expensive fruit (if it's not in season/free due to abundance, I generally don't eat it) lying around. But here was this perfect mango at the peak of its ripeness.
I ended up toasting some frozen bread (leftover boule from Ken's, that we had from the October SR at Wealth Underground), buttering it generously, slicing/piling on the drippingly syrupy mango, crackling black pepper on the whole mess, tossing Malden sea salt flakes on it, and then drizzling the whole deal with ginger syrup. It was an intense celebration of that singular mango.
The idea behind this meal was to do an intense celebration of seasonal, lesser-appreciated ingredients or combinations.
New York Sour
A cocktail we recently discovered and just had to share. Perhaps "nicer" than our low budget operation is usually known to serve. Rye whiskey, with house-made sour mix, and a red wine float (we used a chilean malbec- recommended by an earnest wine steward).
Onions, shallots, white wine, our own stock, celeriac, saffron, our own creme fraîche, and cream. Drizzled with walnut oil and topped with celery leaves.
A signature item of mine, yet sorely underrepresented at Secret Restaurant Portland. They have been put on the menu often throughout the years, but are sometimes forgotten, ruined (I think a pan of them fell off of the top of the fridge once), or barely there (instead of croutons on a caesar that was awesome but people probably just crunched through 'em).
Black Pepper Soda
Sofie has been dreaming of this soda for two years. She created it by making clear simple syrup, and for two days infusing them with tea strainers filled w/ black peppercorns. Then pepper was then taken out and smashed with a mortar and pestle, and re-infused/re-strained. They were served in little jam jars with a black pepper/sugar rim.
Radishes a la Creme
Credit to David Tanis. His new book 'One Good Dish' is wonderful, and this dish is featured on its cover. In addition to the mango toast moment, knowing this book was coming out, even before we'd laid our hands on it, helped inspire this meal. So, we figured that featuring something from it would be appropriate.
Beautiful radishes from Winter Green Farm, sliced extremely thin, dropped into a bath of water/white wine vinegar/lemon. Drained, dressed with Malden sea salt flakes, cracked black pepper, and (our own) creme fraîche, drizzled with grassy olive oil. A sublime and elegant way to eat radishes.
We ate what were possibly the best turnips the world has ever known at John Taboada's Navarre (in my humble opinion, the best restaurant in Portland, still). Sofie suggested calling them up and asking how to make them. So I did just that. And, of course, they were extremely nice and forthcoming with information. Slow roasted with butter, then cooked in a pan with brown sugar, butter, and mustard. Served with a sizable sprinkling of marjoram leaves (SG). I think we turned a few people's heads who normally go through life being like "turnips, WHAT?"
Smoked Brussels Sprouts
Did we just spearhead the new vegetarian slow-food-movement Thanksgiving centerpiece? Maaayybe. We roasted/steamed two giant brussels sprout stalks, painted them with a simple marinade of olive oil/balsamic vinegar/salt/pepper, then smoked them in The Hungry Gardener (Vern Nelson)'s giant smoker (with his exquisite selection of barks with which to smoke).
This came from a spontaneous late night snack when chanterelles were just lying around, which sounds ridiculous. O, the pacific Northwest in autumn.
Rosemary Como rolls from Grand Central (Sofie works there- so, yes, we served bread that wasn't made by us or from Kens or from Fressen, a thing we have claimed in the past), with Gena Maries' cream cheese (the BEST cream cheese) enhanced with roasted garlic and marjoram/thyme/savory (all S.G.) slathered on them, then thin & crispy roasted potatoes (S.G.), and chanterelle mushrooms softened in rosemary (S.G.) butter, then grilled on a hot cast iron and stuffed in!
Quince from The Hungry Gardener, cooked in butter and lemon juice. Wrapped, rustic style, in Sofie's secret best pie crust recipe. Black pepper cracked on the crust, under the filling. Closest to the mango-moment as we got.
Another round of Kurakhaveci Mehmet Efendi, the Turkish coffee roaster I discovered when I traveled to Turkey last year.