Not-the-Mexican Pipeline Porter.

November 23, 2008 at 5:18 am (Uncategorized) ()

Pipeline Porter, Kona Brewing Co.

I uttered a sentence tonight that may have to go down in History. Most people who know me will gasp at the following verbiage the flowed from my lips:

“I love this Beer.”

Now, maybe it was the Bloody Marys speaking on my behalf, or maybe it was the lonely solitude this Saturday night, but WOW. I love this Beer.

It’s not that I don’t like beer. I really do, and furthermore, I have a very high regard for the brewing craft. It’s right up there with cooking! And winemaking. And fine, artisan cheese made from local milk. It’s really quite an art and I respect that. Heck, my one and only claim to the Fame of Publication on the writing front is an article about Brewpubs!

But my dirty little secret (ok, one of them) is that I seem to have a slight allergy to hops. I discovered this in college, back in Missoula, MT, trying to slam back as many pints at Charlie B‘s as humanly possible (for a 5’4″ lightweight) and feeling a terrible burn in the back of my throat with each swig. Finally I gave up on the brewsky and that’s when wine saved the day.

I took a beer hiatus for a very long time, until I went to Mexico and fell in love all over again with beer: Coronas at sunset, late afternoon…whenever, really. I didn’t have that acid reflux feeling anymore! I could drink beer again, and I was stoked, muyyyyy feliz. I eventually branched out and found that most Cervezas Mexicanas did not give me the familiar burn, so I went on a bit of a bender and had, wow, at least one per day, setting a record for most of my adult life.

I thought I was in the clear for beer in general, that my “disease” had been miraculously cured (like so many other things) by Mexico, Zicatela Beach, and the Mexican Pipeline. Until I arrived home, that is. Now, it’s probably clear by now that after this little 4 month skydiving-partying down-on-the-beach extravaganza that I did not need any more beer, but once I got back to the states, I was, for the first time in years, excited to drink Microbrews! At home, in Oregon, one of the Microbrew Capitols of the World!¬† Yes, I was. And so, there I was, belly up to the bar, waiting to sample the latest offerings from a local pub. One sip in, it felt a little strong. Whoa, nelly. Two sips in, there it was, the darned acid gurgling in my throat.

And so it was. Like so many other things–skydiving, mezcal, love–beer was, in fact better at the beach. Apparently, I had not been cured.

Some time later, I found myself back in Mexico. Again–miraculously–I could drink the beer (and seriously, can you really hold a candle to a cold beer on a hot afternoon? I, to this day, think not.), skydive the skies, shoot the mezcal, love the latinos (wow, this is starting to sound like Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break, Mexico…really, there was more substance to my trip than that, I swear), and have the time of my life on Playa Zicatela.

And yet again, back in the states, I could not drink the beer. I determined some time later that I probably had a hop allergy, which would explain why so many micro-brews bothered me. They tend to be higher in hops than your run-of-the-mill Chela Mexicana. Since microbrews are about all I would dare to sample in my little NW neck of the woods, it makes sense that any beer I drank in the US would adversely affect me. So, I steered clear.

Then, casually, Anna and her mom Wendy offered me a Kona Coffee Porter “chaser” with my Bloody Mary at a Happy Hour back in September. Why not?, I said, apparently feeling adventurous enough to double-fist and try a beer. The contrast of the coffee undertones with the sweet-tart-tomatoey-ness of the Bloody was, well, perfect. I sat, and I waited for the familiar burn, tingle to hit the back of my throat. And I waited. One more sip of the BM, and I waited.

Nothing. It never came.

There was a Gringo Beer I could drink! And it isn’t just any beer, either, let me tell ya. It is dark and rich and dreamy. It tastes of coffee. Good coffee. It is hearty and perfect enough for a crisp, chilly day, with no lingering, heavy aftertaste. It is Pipeline Porter from Kona Brewing Co. in Hawaii. The review from the United Nations of Beer calls it a “beginner’s beer”; whatever, I call it a Small Miracle.

For whatever reason, this epiphany slipped my mind and I forgot about the Pipeline Porter, until today, that is. After a snowy hike near Mt. Hood, I somehow remembered the wonderfulness of the wowie from Maui and told Ryan that we MUST go buy some now. And so we did. Then I remembered that it sure did taste good with a Bloody Mary, so we had those too, then listened to old rap, felt pretty old, and drank another Pipeline without the Bloody. It was just as good on it’s own and as it turns out, has a low level of hops and isn’t too carbonated…which lets me indulge. And I do say indulge, because this stuff is like dessert, almost.

And coming from me, as you know, that’s a compliment. It’s that good.

Without Mexico, it turns out, I can still have my Pipeline. And drink it too.

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The Crustless Wonder

November 20, 2008 at 4:58 am (From the Cabin Kitchen) (, , )

My new favorite place in Hood River is the Good News Gardening Cafe. It actually has baked goods! A nice, large selection, more than just appallingly dry, blah scones and run-of-the-mill muffins (typical coffeehouse fare here), and I discovered today that they also make a pretty wonderful quiche too.

Now, normally I am not drawn to quiche. It always seems to disappoint, with raw-tasting shortening-laced crust and rubbery eggs, peppered with overcooked, watery vegetables. Today, however, I saw the most beautiful specimens displayed in the pastry case. There they were, innocently waiting next to their sweeter compadres on one of those iron display racks that gave these unassuming savory pies the appearance of levitation. I could see through the Pyrex baking dish that the crust look browned! And maybe flaky! And there were four different kinds! One with Turkey and Bacon–Lordy me–and one with Roasted Vegetables and leeks, and that version with Bacon…I didn’t even bother to ask about the fourth. I mean, Roasted Vegetables and Bacon? Please, say no more.

I went for it, and ordered quiche for the first time in I don’t-know-how-long for my late breakfast/early lunch, the Roasted Vegetable with Bacon, and it was incredible. Those quiches, in my opinion, do not need that rack to levitate–I’m pretty sure that their celestial qualities alone would do the job just fine.

Since I do not have a quiche recipe in my repetoire that could measure up to this Crusted Wonder–not yet anyway–I am going to share with you today my favorite breakfast, The Crustless Wonder, otherwise known as Frittata.

The Frittata is essentially a pastry deficient quiche. You start it in the pan, saute all of the veggies and meat if you are using, and then add the beaten eggs and let it cook for a few minutes.Then, you put it in the oven and finish it off. It really couldn’t be easier. It is my go-to recipe when I can’t be arsed to make individual omelets or fried eggs, and have a crowd to feed. And the best part? The leftovers taste really good for several days, unlike most egg dishes that don’t fare well in the fridge, so if you don’t have a crowd you can eat it the next day wrapped in a tortilla.

Frittata, Master Recipe

You need to use a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet; the oven finish is critical to the Frittata’s success. The beauty of the frittata is that you can put anything you want in it–veggies of all kinds, sausage, ham, turkey, tofu…the combinations are infinite, really. I once used leftover mashed potatoes and it was surprisingly good.

2-3 T. butter

1/2 small yellow or red onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 small red or yukon gold potato, holes poked and microwaved until just soft, halved and then sliced crosswise

About 1 c. chopped veggies,etc: red pepper, sundried tomatoes, green olives, kalamata olives, broccoli…whatever you have

Fresh herbs, just a small handful. Please, I beg you…No dried herbs. Except dill, that one is ok.

Cooked bacon, sausage, chicken, turkey…again, whatever you have. Or go meatless.

Cheese…sense a theme here? Yes, whatever you have. (cream cheese in chunks is one of my favorites)

6 large eggs, beaten with about 2 T. milk. Or half-n-half. I once used soy creamer because that’s what I had…and it worked.

Preheat oven to 350, rack in the center. Melt butter over medium heat in an Ovenproof skillet (cast iron is my personal favorite), then add onion and garlic, sauteeing until soft. Throw in your veggies and herbs if you have any, and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Then add the meat and stir to combine. Turn up the heat a little, and then add the eggs all at once and DO NOT STIR. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then the cheeses, and cook until the edges are starting to get puffy and pull away from the sides. At this point, put it in the oven and let it cook until nice and puffy and lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven. Now, you can leave it in the pan and slice into wedges, serving with Chimichurri, salsa, sour cream, whatever. This is perfectly fine. OR, you can take a knife, run it around the Frittata to loosen it, then place a cutting board on the pan and flip it over. Then, take another cutting board or large plate, and place it on the bottom of the Frittata and flip it again, making it right-side-up once more, giving it some presentation pizazz.

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Hippie Enchiladas

November 18, 2008 at 8:28 pm (From the Cabin Kitchen) (, , , )

My stepmom was a genuine Hippie, no one could argue that. I met her when I was an impressionable 20 year old, the first year she and my Dad started dating. We became fast friends, and I have to say, she became one of the Great Influencers of my life. She also became–over time–one of the ties that bound our family together, working what I called her Social Services Superpowers on us, a highly receptive audience.

Doris was a bona fide Hippie. She had all one length salt and pepper hair, parted down the middle with no bangs. She wore full on hippie skirts, tie-dye, and smelled of patchouli. But the physicality of her being is not at all what made her a hippie. It was just who she was, way deep down.

She was the kind of person that believed in and listened to her dreams (and yours if you wanted to talk; she might also do a quick Tarot Card reading on you, but that’s another post altogether) and followed her heart up to last day of her life. She came out west with her 3 young kids because a dream told her to. The dream told her to live near Mt. Baker in Washington State. As a girl from Cleveland unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, she had never heard of Mt. Baker but knew she needed to live there.

And so she ended up living on a Commune in the 1970’s in the Okanagon Valley in Washington, where she was known as Sun Woman. Later she would be one of the organizers and Camp Cook at the first Rainbow Gathering.

She eventually moved the family to Seattle, where her kids came of age in the Grunge Era (Alice in Chains played at my stepsister’s 16th birthday party–in their basement!) and were definitely non-Hippies despite having grown up on a Commune. She still went to Barter Fairs, was a gifted musician (that’s how she met my Dad), bought organic food long before it was cool or mainstream, and got my whole family hooked on good, strong coffee. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

In so many ways, Doris inspired. She was ecclectic, eccentric, and a little crazy. Many times when at her house, you would have to double check if it was a Beethoven CD playing, or if she was sitting at the piano herself; she was a concert pianist and in her day at age 16 was the youngest member of the Cleveland Symphony. She was also an amazing cook, and some of my favorite recipes of all time are adapted from hers.

In the last years of her life, before she knew she was sick, she and my Dad bought the quintessential hippie mobile–a big yellow school bus–and hit the road. They ended up in the Southwest, living at a hot springs resort in New Mexico in their big bus, that eventually ended up with a blue and purple paint job.

This recipe is dear to my heart, and not just for nostalgic reasons alone. These are some of the best enchiladas ever. My brother and I fondly termed them “Hippie Enchiladas”. (Someday I’ll share the recipe for Hippie Ham with you as well. But for now, enjoy this classic from the Hippie Archives).

Hippie Enchiladas, adapted from Doris ‘Sun Woman’ Vanderpool’s recipe.

Note: The key to these Enchiladas is that they must be “Swimming in sauce”. And that is straight from the Hippie’s mouth. Do not be tempted to cheat or skimp on the sauce! Unless you can find a good quality canned authentic Mexican enchilada sauce, make it from scratch. It’s easy!

For easiest assembly have everything ready to go– Mise en Place–and it will all go a little more smoothly.

For the Sauce:

3 T. butter

1 medium yellow onion, medium dice

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2-3 T. chili¬† powder, depending on the spiciness/flavor of yours (don’t be scared!)

1 T. ground cumin

1 t. ground coriander

1 T. good quality dried oregano, preferably Mexican (shop locally, buy Juanita’s!)

dash of cayenne pepper

2 T. flour

1 c. chicken stock

1.5 14-oz cans tomato sauce (Muir Glen lined cans are the best; can also use their Chunky Tomato Sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat butter in a saute pan or medium skillet; add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the spices and oregano, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir for another 30 seconds (you are making a roux, Mexi-style) and then add the chicken stock, stirring constantly to combine. Once it looks bubbly, add the tomato sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes until thickened. If it seems too thick–you don’t want it to be pasta sauce-ish– add a bit more stock. Adjust seasonings, then set aside. I tend to like mine on the spicy side, but that’s just me.

For the Enchiladas:

6-8 flour tortillas, NOT the ginormous ones. I’ve also used the corn/flour blend (Diane’s), but if you want to shop locally, use La Rosa’s Spelt Tortillas, made in Gresham.

6-10 canned green chiles. If you can get a big 28-oz can, it’s a better deal.

1 large bunch green onions, chopped, green parts and all

1 large bunch cilantro, chopped, stems and all (but not the whole stem, only down to where the leaves end)

8-oz grated sharp cheddar, or monterey jack.

Crumbled Feta or Mexican Cotija

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Ladle about 1 cup of reserved sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish (do not use metal!). Spoon about 2 T. of sauce (very, very important…remember the ‘swimming’?) in the center of the a tortilla (holding it in a flat hand). Place a whole green chile on top of the sauce, then top with a handful of cilantro (don’t skimp), green onions, cheddar and feta. Carefully roll up into an open-ended burrito–it will be full! Place seam-side down in pan, scrunching it up tightly to one end. Repeat with as many tortillas as will fit, with a moderate amount of scrunching; depending on how big your rolls are, you will get 6-8. I once got 9, but it was way too crowded.

Top with all of the sauce you have leftover, taking care to cover all of the tortillas with at least a thin layer so they don’t dry out. Sprinkle a handful of grated cheese, then all of the leftover cilantro and green onions as a lovely garnish. Cover with foil, and bake for about 20 minutes or until starting to bubble. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until top cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Serve hot, with sour cream, hot sauce, green salsa, whatever you fancy. And of course, a Margarita is always in order with enchiladas. Or a Dos Equis.

This photo was taken on my own private ‘Latin Night’ at Sheep Hill Lookout in September 2006. I had an airline-sized bottle of Tequila–the inspiration for the theme of the evening; that and the Latin music serendipitously playing on the radio–so I made a margarita and these enchiladas. Everything somehow tastes better when you have limited resources (i.e. no electricity, limited amounts of cheese)! I did use a cast-iron skillet because that is all I had. I am sure at that point the extra iron in my veins was probably welcome.

Hippie Enchiladas, at 8500'

Hippie Enchiladas, at 8500'

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Five Fabulous Fall Things

November 17, 2008 at 9:21 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m having a hard time believing that it’s mid-November. Not only because the past year just flew by, but also because of the weather. I was just outside in a t-shirt. And the forecast is sun, sun, sun all week. Now, we all know that I am not a big fan of winter, so the fact that it is uncharacteristically not Winterly here yet is practically a dream come true for me!

So, these days call for the following activities that will be but a distant memory once we are enveloped in snow:

1) Raking leaves

2) Mountain biking at 4,000′

3) Sitting at a picnic table with a good book and a cup of cocoa, wrapped in a warm sweater.

4) Firing up the grill

5) Outdoor Happy Hour with Anna, which can include a Blood Mary, or Lemon Drop maybe, and watching chickens run around the yard.

I am sure there are many more fun Fall things to do, but that’s all I can think of for now. Sure, winter will come, and these things will be replaced by other activities, but for now, I am enjoying these crunchy leaves, crisp apples, and warm drinks.

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The Place Where it All Happens.

November 17, 2008 at 6:24 pm (Uncategorized)

The thing about inspiration is that you never know where you are going to find it. Or if.

For me, inspiration has always been something free and easy to come by, often found on the surface of the most ordinary things. That is, until last year.

Maybe I should have seen it coming, maybe signs were glaringly obvious and staring me right in the face. For someone whose words have always flowed out of them like a river in flood, not having the words or the ideas was implausible. Of course they would come. Of course I would wake up one day with the script already half written, events recorded and memorialized. Life, documented and journaled, just how I like it to be.

That day never came, and neither did the words. It’s not that the events did not take place, and it’s not that they didn’t need carefully chosen adjectives to justify their existence. They did, and still do. Life goes on, whether we chronicle it or not.

As I sit here, in the Little Log Cabin on this November day, I wait for those words. I wait for the satisfaction of not just thinking of events in terms of how I would write about them, but I am holding out for the feeling of being inspired. Of being consumed by the need to express that feeling–so much so that the words come faster than the thoughts, that the keys can’t keep up and I am left slightly dizzy from the effort.

I am true believer in new beginnings. There is so much inspiration outside my window, within these walls, inside myself. Finding it isn’t what is difficult. Truly seeing it for what it is is the hard part.

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