Friday, April 6, 2018

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It felt good to get back in the kitchen yesterday, if only for a few minutes to make a late afternoon lunch of linguini with white clam sauce. I'm still pretty frustrated with my home kitchen and the quality of ingredients available to the general public. I guess the curse of the restaurant trade is still strong.

Linguini with White Clam Sauce
Linguini with white clam sauce is pretty much a classic dish and I don't stray far from my idea of what it should be. For me, it's a simple pasta in a loose beurre blanc. Start the pasta water to boil and then steam 24 steamer clams in a cup to a cup and a half or so of high acid white wine, in this case, Coelho Pinot Gris from my winery. These little guys steam open, covered, in 4-5 minutes.

Steamer Clams Steamed
Remove the clams from the steaming liquid and let cool until you can just handle them. Pour the clam juice into a glass measure so that you can see the grit as it settles to the bottom. Pick the clams, reserve them warm, and pour any liquid into the glass measure.

Rinse the clam pan well to remove any grit, then fire it with a bit of olive oil on high flame. Add 1/2 cup of pancetta in small dice and let it cook until almost crisp. Add to the pan one large shallot, minced, four cloves of garlic, minced, one and a half teaspoons each of fresh thyme and fresh sage, finely chopped, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook until the shallots go translucent but not so long that the garlic burns.

Carefully pour the reserved clam juice into the pan, making sure that any accumulated grit stays behind. Cook on high flame until the sauce comes down by two thirds.

Sauce Coming Down
Finish cooking the pasta and transfer to a bowl. Remove the sauce from the flame and stir in the reserved clams, 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, and four tablespoons of cold butter, stirring rapidly to emulsify. Pour over the pasta and mix. Serves two to four people.

Waiting to Finish the Sauce

Friday, March 30, 2018

Durant Cellars

Yesterday turned out to be the sort of beautiful Oregon spring day that needs to be taken advantage of, because you never know when the rain shows up again. We could have stayed at the house and done yard work, but the yard work will be there. Because it was a spectacular day, Ann wanted to go up into the Dundee Hills and gaze out at Mt. Hood while drinking some Chardonnay.

Fifteen minutes later, we were in the tasting room at Durant Vineyards. I hadn't been there before and I hadn't tasted their wine under their label. They sell fruit to a lot of people and I have had a lot wine made from their grapes.

Mt. Hood Over Annie's Shoulder

Ewes and Tiny Lambs in the Vineyard
At one point, a four-wheeler came up beside the vineyard and one of the baby lambs started to run for it baaing all the while, like it was expecting a particularly good lamb treat from the driver. Then mom started bellowing at the baby, which after several particularly pointed bleats from mom, decided to return to her side. I know she was using that lamb's first and middle names as she was calling it. Kids!

Lots of Tiny Lambs Frolicking

Delicious 2015 "Lark" Chardonnay
I was surprised to see their vines budding up in the hills. Down on the valley floor in Amity, ours were still super tight when I left work on Tuesday.

Venerable Moss-Covered Vine with Buds

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Miller Woods

We've been holed up this winter trying to get ourselves back outdoors, but it has been a struggle with life just seeming to get in the way. We still don't have the dog situation figured out to let us hike further afield, so we're having to make do locally, hence our return trip to Miller Woods which is 10 minutes or so from the house.

We made the 4.5-mile loop on a day that was overcast, about 42 degrees, with a nippy wind in the exposed areas. It hasn't been all that wet this winter, so for the most part, the paths were passable with minimal mud.

Distinctive Form of Oregon White Oak, Quercus garryana

Serenaded by a California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica

Willows Blooming by Creek

Much Hiking Through Planted Trees
There are no leaves on most plants now, giving us much better sight lines that when we were last here in October. Despite the lack of leaves, spring is starting to spring with a few flowers here and there, a lot of buds, and an overall greening. I'm on a steep learning curve about western flora and fauna now. Everything looks similar, but at the same time, very different. We're no longer in Virginia.

Slender Toothwort, Cardamine nuttallii

Methuselah's Beard, Usnea longissima

Striking Indian Plum Blooms, Oemleria cerasiformis
Deer. There must be deer everywhere here if the vast quantities of tracks are to be believed. Annie, who always walks ahead of me, scared two small does back in my direction. I barely had time to get the camera around on them as they came pogoing by, like some big jack rabbits. I am guessing that these are blacktail deer, an offshoot of mule deer, not so much from the not-so-diagnostic black tails without the bounding white flag of the whitetail, but more so from the way that they tried to escape us, bouncing and shifting course with each bounce just like a scared mulie.

Blacktail Deer Starting to Bound

Blacktail Deer in Full Bound

Pretty Good Deer Habitat, Tracks Everywhere

Didn't Know Hills Had Official Summits

Lovely Oregon Grape Foliage, Mahonia aquifolium

Drifts of Naturalized Daffodils


The Little Pond Near the Parking Area
Here's a case in point in the whole feeling like an alien on the west coast thing. It's very early spring and in boggy ground, I expect to find skunk cabbage. What I don't expect is bright yellow blooms. On the east coast, the local skunk cabbage has a mottled cranberry pitcher plant-like bloom.

Skunk Cabbage in Bloom, Lysochiton americanus

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day: Cape Meares OR

Having come from the restaurant business, Valentine's Day has always been a thorn in my side. It's day on which Ann has wanted me to pay some special attention to her and it has heretofore been the busiest workday of my year, serving hundreds of couples celebrating the day. This year would be our first Valentine's Day together, ever.

And so I wanted to do something special. I made us some pastrami sandwiches on rye, grabbed a bottle of cold Prosecco, and we headed for the coast with the idea to go see the lighthouse at Cape Meares in Tillamook County, the county just northwest of ours. I wasn't sure that the weather would cooperate, but then, this is Oregon in the winter.

While the forecast was for partly cloudy weather with almost no chance of rain, it certainly rained for big stretches of the drive out Highway 18 in the direction of Lincoln City. By the time we hit the coast range, we could see light snow at elevation. At Grand Ronde, we turned northwest to cut through the mountains and to join Highway 101 at Hebo, where we headed north for downtown Tillamook. It was sprinkling on and off along 101 and pretty misty as we were leaving Tillamook headed west for Netarts and the coast.

The sun had just popped out by the time we reached Netarts and turned north for Oceanside and Cape Meares at the end of the road just beyond. Just as soon as we grabbed our mini-picnic out of the truck, it started raining fairly hard, so we retreated back to eat lunch in the truck. Fifteen minutes later, the sun was out again, but all afternoon, we watched raincloud after raincloud blow in off the Pacific and unload somewhere along the shore.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Three Arches Rocks from Short Beach, Oceanside

Quite the Welcome Sign to Cape Meares
From the parking lot at Cape Meares, you can look down a straight trail and see the lighthouse. In the other direction are located the restrooms and the Octopus Tree, a very old Sitka Spruce with no central trunk. It's much more impressive in person than it is in the photo with no frame of reference for how big it is.

The Octopus Tree

Annie Contemplating Cape Lookout

Gorgeous Panorama Looking South

We Retreated to the Truck for Prosecco and Lunch

From the Overlook Looking North

Panorama Looking North

Watching the Waves Pound the Rocks

Full Grown Spruces Atop the Cliffs

Yet Another Rock
It's hard to appreciate how much swell there is in the Pacific here until you see it crash into a rock and send spray 40 feet in the air.

I've seen a bunch of Fresnel lenses (I admit to being fascinated by the optics/physics behind them) in my life, but this is the first time I've seen one with red glass. It turns out that this is the only one on the mainland and there is another in Hawaii.

Unique Red and White Fresnel Lens

Another View of the Lens

Another Look at the Rocks

Dramatic Backdrop for Sitka Spruce Cones

Pink and Green Sedum oreganum

Three Arches Rocks, Rainstorm Behind

Oceanside From Cape Meares

Annie Looking Out to Sea

One Parting Shot

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Friends for Dinner

We're finally settling in to the point where we can start entertaining again. So, Annie invited Valerie and Michael over to dinner. Michael's our insurance agent and Valerie and Ann had connected via a women's group to which they both belong. Long story short, Ann invited them over and let me run with a menu, mostly. She wanted to reprise the mushroom crostini that we had at New Year's Eve and I decided to keep dinner itself very simple: focaccia, an arugula salad, and porchetta. And a little plate to accompany a bottle of Port for dessert.

Thanks to Valerie for taking some of the photos below and giving me permission to use them here. Go have a look at her blog, V. Estelle Travel. It was so awesome to have someone else take pictures for once, but it looks like we both forgot to take people shots and bottle shots! Oh well, you'll have to trust us that a good time happened!

Chanterelle, Shiitake, Leek, and Taleggio Crostini
I couldn't find dried porcini to make the crostini, so I went with fresh chanterelles, which given all the rain we have had, were in really good shape. We had a bottle of Prosecco with the crostini.

Grinding Pork Trimmings for Sausage
I'm still looking for a good supplier of pork. Alas, the best I have found so far is from Carlton Farms out where we used to live in Yamhill, but it is definitely not the Berkshire and Ossabaw x Berkshire I was used to working with in Virginia.

"Porchetta" Ready for the Oven
I would really have preferred to make my porchetta with a suckling pig or a side of pork belly, but that would have been overkill for a dinner for four. So I faked it by butterflying a top loin and stuffing with a fennel sausage that I ground from rib and belly trimmings.

Slicing the Porchetta

Focaccia and Barbaresco
Focaccia has got to be the world's simplest bread to make. I started it first thing in the morning with a very tiny amount of yeast and cold water and let it rise all day. The first rise took about seven hours. We served Barbaresco with dinner and Michael and Valerie brought a wonderfully rustic Chianti Classico that we had as a second bottle.

Annie Making the Salad Dressing

Arugula with Clementines, Red Onion, Pine Nuts, and Ricotta Salata

Valerie's Plate with Salsa Verde on the Porchetta
I love a sharp salsa verde with pork to help offset the fat. This was parsley, anchovy, garlic, capers, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, all chopped together by hand for texture.

Blue Cheese, Candied Hazelnuts, Dates, Pinot Noir Syrup
For dessert, I had a bottle of Port that I helped blend at the winery and so I threw together a really simple port plate of Gorgonzola-like local blue cheese, local hazelnuts that I candied earlier in the afternoon, a pitted Medjool date, crostini from my focaccia, and a red wine syrup that I made from over-the-hill remnants of Pinot Noir from the tasting room.

This was the first time, other than Thanksgiving, that I have really cooked a nice meal start to finish since I left the restaurant back in August. It felt really good to get back in the saddle again and I really enjoyed getting head down in the kitchen again to knock out all the components of this dinner. It's not like the restaurant where we would have premade batches of salsa verde, salad dressing, candied nuts, crostini, or red wine syrup ready to hand. In that sense, it was an awful lot of fun to create a dinner totally from scratch. And an awful lot of fun to share it with Michael and Valerie.

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It felt good to get back in the kitchen yesterday, if only for a few minutes to make a late afternoon lunch of linguini with white clam sauc...