weekend wanderings

‘Lucifer’ hedge

A little drive to St Helens took me by this “hedge” of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’. I usually prefer it as a single specimen, but must admit that a long line of it massed along the meridian was a show stopper.

dragon bike

On the way home, I stopped to take a picture of this motorbike-cum-dragon. It was a poor day for picture taking, but I have passed by this so many times with no camera on hand that I decided to just go for it.

The Benson hotel

On Sunday, Din took the whole family to brunch at the London Grill in the venerable old Benson Hotel. As we gathered in the lobby, I was mesmerized by the floral arrangements, wondering where they ever found Oriental lilies of such a saturated orange.

oops…they’re fake

Closer inspection told the tale: fake flowers, all. HPSO members are spoiled by the massive flower arrangements of the real thing gracing every one of our meetings. Brunch did not disappoint, however. The wood paneled, clubby restaurant puts out five or six tables groaning under the weight of every conceivable edible that might be taken in at that hour of the day.

PHReed in the Pearl

Walking it off, we found ourselves in The Pearl District, checking out the new digs of PH Reed. That back pot contains black bamboo that tops out at about 12′.

more PH Reed

At the other side of the alcove bracketing the new shop sits another grouping of the same pots, different plantings. The new iteration of this home furnishings and accessories shop is much smaller than their last venue. It has served to focus their selections and makes for a pleasing experience. Good to remember that bigger is not always better. Should probably have kept that in mind when loading up on eggs benedict and hazelnut torte.

can she bake a cherry pie?

quick as a cat can wink its eye

pie cherry tree

This pie cherry tree looked like a goner when we first moved here. R can’t stand to see anything die, so he did a lot of pruning and staking and babying. Last year we had our first cherry pie. This year it has gifted us with a regular crop.

bowl of cherries

To fill a one quart freezer bag it takes four cups of fruit, one heaping cup of sugar (the cherries are very tart) and two tablespoons of minute tapioca mixed together before stirring in. To some, I added a few drops of almond extract. Others got the zest of a lemon. Many cooks swear by gadgets like cherry pitters and apple corers, but I find that my fingers are the handiest gadgets around.

pie filling ready for the freezer

Here they are, all zipped up and ready to be popped into the freezer. There is limited space in there, and I can’t imagine having more than four cherry pies in a year. The birds and the raccoons are happy that we left some for them. We came upon two raccoons feasting on cherries. They were so absorbed that they barely noticed us…either that or the word has gotten out that this is a no-kill zone, no matter how annoying the critters become. More about that next time, but now I would like to direct you to Wendy’s blog for more ways to enjoy the season’ bounty.

sugar snap peas

sugar snap peas

These are by far my most successful crop (R is the head food gardener around here). Maybe it’s the “Oregon” in the name: Oregon Sugar Pod II. Whatever, one half whisky barrel is usually devoted to them. I think next year I will plant more so that I can freeze some. They put out just enough that I can use them in something about every third day. My favorite dish so far was a stir fry with a little bit of sausage, the last of the bok choy, onions and garlic sauted in sesame oil with a splash of soy sauce.

Wendy posts wonderful garden-to-table recipes every Saturday. I’m jumping the gun (or dragging my feet, depending upon how you look at it) because we’re heading for Sunriver in the morning. My camera is all charged up and ready to go, so I hope to have fun shots to share when we get back. Have a great weekend!

stinging nettles…to eat!


Nettles have been showing up on chi chi menus of late. These are growing along the roadside, giving them two strikes against them: 1) they are about to bloom. Nettles must be harvested before they flower. Once flowers form, harmful crystals form within the leaves that can irritate the urinary tract. 2) the roadside location means that they have been polluted by exhaust. We have plenty of nettles out in our woods, where they get less sun so are still early enough in their evolution to serve a culinary purpose. If you have ever tangled with a patch of nettles, you know that it can be a painful experience. The stinging hairs are on the underside of the leaves. Be sure to cover up and wear gloves if you want to harvest some nettles. Cooking removes the sting. Sauté, steam, boil or simply soak in water for 20 minutes and they are ready to be used just as you would spinach, chard or kale. The water left behind makes a good fertilizer.

more nettles

I can’t say that the taste differential between a quiche made with nettles and one using plain old spinach is outstanding, but there is something sort of charming about harvesting foodstuffs in the wild. The chefs around town obviously think it adds cachet to the whole “NW Style” thing.

got your Easter chicks?

chick sign

This sign out in front of Linnton Feed and Seed on Highway 30 announces the arrival of the chicks.

dog by fire

Step inside, and it is like being transported back to simpler times. The staff is free to bring their dogs to work. This guy is planked out in front of the pellet stove when he is not wagging a greeting.

seed potatoes and onion sets

The seed potatoes and onion sets take up a good deal of floor space this time of year. Come fall, cover crop seed is available by the scoop or in large quantities.


When we moved to the country, I began buying eggs from a neighbor. Store-bought eggs just won’t cut it with us any more. These eggs have yolks that are saffron-hued, and stand up in the pan in a way that only Dolly Parton could describe. When my neighborhood source became less dependable, I discovered that the eggs went fast at farmers’ markets. Get there more than an hour or so after opening and they were likely to be gone. Now I just stop by the feed and seed, drop off my empty cartons and pick up eggs supplied by area farmers. I haven’t the temperament for keeping chickens myself, but if it came to either that or super market eggs…I might consider it…there is that much difference.

veggie starts

Tempting racks of veggie starts, bales of hay and bagged supplements line the parking lot. Get your garden goodies here! Oh, and Happy Easter!

meyer lemon marmalade

finished marmalade

When Meyer lemons show up in the market, I get all atwitter (no, I do not mean that I start sending short messages into the ether). Almost anything calling for lemons will be that much better if the lemons are Meyers. I started with 8 lemons, which I put through a fruit & veggie wash. I do this with most produce, as even organics can have picked up poisons from the air. Ream juice into a strainer set over a large, wide pot. Quarter the rind and scoop out most of the pith, then cut into strips and add to juice. Tie up all the pith, flesh and seeds into a cheesecloth bag and suspend to rest on mixture in pot. Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 2 hours. Squeeze all of the juice out of the cheesecloth bag. Put 6 cups of sugar into an ovenproof bowl and heat in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 minutes. Add warmed sugar to the pot and stir over low heat until it has completely dissolved. Increase heat and boil rapidly without stirring 15 to 20 minutes (220 degrees). Allow to cool for a few minutes so that the peel will be suspended rather than rising to the top. At this point, I stirred in toasted walnut chunks. Process for 10 minutes.

I gave a jar of this to a friend in her Christmas basket, and she said “Oh…you have made conserve.” I’m sure I read at some point that adding nuts to preserves makes them into conserves, but in culling through various cookbooks to come up with this hybrid recipe, it seemed that it was the addition of liquor that transformed preserves into conserves. Even that was not consistent, as one recipe for orange and whisky marmalade failed to make the leap. I blended a recipe from Harrods Cookery Book for lime marmalade with a Seville orange marmalade recipe from The Oregonian and added the nuts of my own volition. The nuts fail to make much of an impression on crunchy things like toast, but spread it on a scone or biscuit and oh, mama.

thank you

Little did I know, when I began blogging, that a world of cyberfriends awaited. I appreciate each and every one of you for you own interesting blogs, your helpful, funny and insightful comments and the feeling of connection to a larger world I get every time I log on. Here’s a little piece I wrote for for the Ventura County Reporter when my daughter was editor. It is a little snide, based upon an antipathy for turkey…but I hope it will give you a chuckle without detracting from your appreciation for the bird.


A Turkey by Any Other Name


I cried the first time it fell to me to prepare a Thanksgiving feast. My distress had nothing to do with feelings of culinary inadequacy. It was the naked vulnerability of the bird, stripped of its plumage, shivering in my sink. How could I possibly further assault the poor fowl by stuffing its cavities with however delectable a mixture of bread cubes, herbs, etc., augmented by a fine dice of its own organs? Worse than that, my recipe called for inserting a puree of other tasty ingredients beneath its skin. It would require a couple of glasses of sherry to stiffen my resolve. Even then, it was only the prospect of a house full of people expecting traditional fare and a festive mood that spurred me to action. The occasion, by all accounts, was a success, right down to my children dressed as pilgrims. Fortunately, it was a large gathering. In the spirit of reciprocity, it would be years before I need face a repeat of the ordeal.

Now, with the burgeoning of specialty groceries and deli’s, a squeamish cook has options undreamed of even a few years ago. Tofurkey has been around for some time, but its appeal is more to the politically motivated menu planners amongst us. I don’t care for the real thing all that much, even when it is served up pre-carved with a side of cranberry relish. Still, the holiday spirit seems ill served by a fake bird fashioned from soybean curd.

Goose conjures up images of Ingmar Bergman in his nostalgically extravagant phase. The romance of the idea of goose as a main course quickly fades as the subject shrinks before your eyes, while the roasting pan fills with grease (more Eraserhead than Franny and Alexander). Only Babbette could pull off this Feast. But wait. Here is where the new-age markets come in. Staffed by Babbette Wannabe’s, they have cooked up all kinds of exotic alternatives to the same old meal. What kind of magic they work behind the scenes remains a mystery, but somehow the goose is picture-perfect.

Or you might opt for quail: de-boned, stuffed and rearranged into a tidy little package with a sprig of sage for garnish. It will take two of them, even with all the side dishes from the family archives, to satisfy a normal appetite. Capons might be a better choice for hearty eaters…or even game hens.

The heights of gourmet inventiveness are scaled with the advent of the “turducken” (careful how you parse that word). It sounds like a feat of genetic engineering, but instead owes its creation to the splicing skills of the meat department’s own Dr Frankenstein. What, exactly, is it?  Here again, a lot of de-boning is involved: first a chicken is placed inside a duck, inside a turkey. The turkey is allowed to keep its legs and wings, so the final product looks pretty much like the real McCoy. Since there are no bones to contend with, you needn’t have a skilled carver in the crowd. Just slice crossways, and each serving yields a cross section of all three meats. To be sure that all meat involved is organic and free-range, you can order one from Whole Foods. Cajun versions with cornbread or seafood jambalaya stuffing are available over the Internet for $78.

Be forewarned that the cooking time for such a concoction is about 8 hours. I am told that the typical turducken will serve 12 to 14 people, but that is allowing each diner a one to one and a half pound portion. I don’t personally know anyone who can down that much protein in a sitting, but the meat coordinator at Whole Foods (yes, there really is such a person) apparently travels in heftier circles. If you are committed to the do-it-yourself approach and are skilled at wielding a hammer (Paul Prudhomme’s recipe on the web required the use of this unusual kitchen tool for the de-boning process) you can log on and pull up recipes. Hats off to you for your courage and dedication.

But what is the fascination with winged creatures? Give me a nice crown roast any day. It makes a perfect crater to fill with stuffing (isn’t that what the Thanksgiving meal is all about?). Once you pull it from the oven and trim it with those frilly little paper cuffs, what could be more celebratory? What I like best about it is its complete lack of resemblance to the beast from which it came, sparing the need for endless glasses of sherry if I happen to be the cook.

butternut squash

butternut squash

The local one-stop shopping center has big bins of squash of all kinds for 79 cents each. R bought one squash plant in the spring for $2.50. Early on, the deer nipped off the blossoms as they came along. Exactly two escaped, one of which got drilled by slugs. This is the one squash to reach maturity, making it a very expensive specimen. Wendy has a great recipe for butternut squash soup on her Garden to Table Challenge post this week, but since I am charged with bringing two pumpkin pies to Thanksgiving dinner, this guy will get blended with the pumpkin pulp to that end.

Having experimented with a number of pumpkin pie recipes over the years, here is the one that wins out:

  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1T golden brown sugar
  • 1T cornstarch
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 1t ginger (I use fresh grated)
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/4t allspice

combine above ingredients and whisk to remove lumps, then blend in:

  • 16 oz pumpkin
  • 3/4C whipping cream
  • 1/2C sour cream
  • 3 lg eggs

glaze the bottom of a 9″ pie crust with melted currant or apricot jelly
bake in 350 degree oven for about 55 minutes.

Guess I will have to hit the Farmers’ Market to try that soup.

r&r art sale party

Have I told you that R is a painter? Well, he is. We decided that the house in town should have a last hurrah before it passes into new hands and becomes something else. So, for those of you who live around here…maybe you can drop by and we can put faces to all the words that have passed between us. To far-flung friends: there are website links in the following invitation. We will have to continue to exist in each others’ imaginations.


rites of spring

Richard White invites you to view new work:
paintings and furniture

2107 NW 22nd Avenue at the corner of 22nd and Wilson
3-7pm Sunday, November 14, 2010
wine and nibbles provided

If you can’t make it to the event, please visit the website or call Richard at  503 248 9670  to set up an appointment for a private showing.

I will also be showing my collection of handmade designer pillows.

‘bubbles’ pillow

hope to see you there,

everything will be for sale, including the house and garden



I always think of rhubarb as a spring thing, but ours is still looking mighty fine (if you ignore that one dead looking stalk in the center), so I combined it with apples, a little crystalized ginger, a tablespoon of instant tapioca stirred into a heaping half-cup of sugar and some dry-roasted slivered almonds baked into a pie. It was yummy. The fun thing about Wendy’s Garden to Table Challenge is the way it brings together like-minded gardeners finding creative ways to use the bounty. I’ve found some new blogs to love and some tips for producing unique dishes with produce. Plus, it is always a treat to check in with Wendy. I highly recommend it. It happens every Saturday.