Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Artichoke Experience: My first dinner in a new kitchen.

So you're a hockey fan and your favorite team has already been eliminated from the finals.  If you're like me, that means your favorite time of the year is over, right?  WRONG!  Why?  Because its the end of May and its ARTICHOKE season.

Artichokes are a fascinating item.  They are a member of the Asteraceae family along with thistles, sunflowers, asters, and gerber daisies and it is actually the flower of the plant that you are eating.  Since I now live in a zone 8 climate, I can't wait to grow some, they actually get really gorgeous when you let them bloom:
Source: Wikimedia commons.

I have to admit that before today, I'd never had one, other than in dips and canned ones in salads, but as of tonight I am in instant convert.  Blatantly ripping off of Ms. T, I used this recipe and roasted some artichokes this very evening.  (I put them directly in the oven with the foil on, but I should have put them in a dish because they dripped all over my brand new oven and caused the whole place to be smoky.)
Ugh these granite counter tops are ugly.

The whole meal was very filling, but I have to admit I started with some impressively large artichokes, so you might need more than one per person.  Each one of mine was about the size of a softball.  Zach described eating them as being "like the crab legs of vegetables."  In a way they really are like eating crab legs.  Time consuming, messy and they do leave a lot of "bones".  But, served with a side of walnut quinoa (recipe follows) and garlic butter to dip, my first artichoke experience won't be my last!

You can really only eat the bottom of each section and then the center.  Be sure to cut off more of the tips toward the center than I did, it got a little sharp in there.  

Mr. Z chowing down on his artichoke and quinoa.  

And now for the Quinoa Recipe, which is very easy and fast becoming my favorite side dish:

1 1/2 c. Quinoa (Red is fine, so is white)
2 c. Broth
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c. walnuts. chopped
butter or olive oil

Sautee the onion in some butter or olive oil. Near the end add the walnuts and toast them.  Turn up the heat and add the broth.  Bring it to a boil and add the previously rinsed quinoa.  Cook according to package directions, approximately 15 minutes.  Serve and Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Portland to a Pittsburgher

Here I am in Portland.  I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm a fugitive or a refugee.  Sometimes it feels like one, sometimes the other.  I ran away from everything and everyone I knew...but then again everything here is so nice I feel like maybe I ESCAPED....

New Living Room. New Sneakers.  Had to buy something comfy to walk in.  They're for skateboarding.  Good to know, I guess but its not like running shoes would be any less poser-y since I don't run either.

Its the same country though...what could be different? Many, many things.

It rains here. Shocking, I know.  One should expect these things when moving to a subtropical rainforest.  Its been raining since I arrived.  My Pittsburgh connections tell me that its been raining nonstop for a week there, too.  But I know its not raining like this.  Every hour or two the sky opens up, raining so hard I always expect it to flood.  It certainly would flood if it rained that hard in Pittsburgh.  When it stops raining, the streets are dry within fifteen minutes.  Where does it all go?

My first answer to that question would be "inside trees".  The trees here are so large, even in the city they cover the sidewalk with shade(that is, if it were ever sunny, of course).  I remember walking down bare sidewalks in the Pittsburgh summer praying for a tree.  That will never happen here.  A canopy stretches up and over you nearly everywhere you go.  A layer of moss covers everything.  Trunks, walls, random other things.

Your Typical Oregon Retaining Wall.

The very next thing you might notice upon arrival (if you were painfully, painfully allergic to dairy) is that non-dairy options are everywhere. In fact, options are everywhere. Meat-free.  You can get vegan anything anywhere. There's a vegan-only food cart.  A gluten-free one.  Coconut milk ice cream.  Gluten-free beer!  There are other fun food options such as an Asian soup-bar where you order broth, grab up some raw meat or veggies from a bar and cook yourself a soup right there in the restaurant.  Another place had elk burgers.  A cucumber (instead of a lemon) came in my water at the Lebanese restaurant.

Why so many options?  Because everyone likes to eat, and everyone is so nice.  Happy.  Smiling. Takin' it eeeeasy.  They want to give you things and talk to you.  Someone, perhaps Chuck Palahnuik (but maybe not), said something about this being the "serial killer capital of the world".  It definitely has that serial killer-y feeling.  Maybe its just because I'm not used to it, but people being nice to me always feels wrong.  Also I think there are a lot of serial killers here.

Its the second highest "year round" waterfall in the USA.  Sounds impressive until you see the difference between it and the first one (Yosemite Falls).  Raining SO hard I only could snap 2 pictures at the risk of damaging my camera.

Things to do abound.  A two hour trip yesterday involved going to Multnomah Falls.  This week we are driving to the Oregon Coast.   But I miss each and every one of you.  For real.