Every summer, I look forward to cooking with my husband and my good friend DB for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. This year marked our fourth year together, cooking for roughly 40 people, and I think we even manged to top last year’s dinner which was quite a feat.
My husband, being a chef, puts together the menu. DB and I just trade our time and culinary skills for beers and burgers afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, considering all the sampling we do as we cook. I never turn down an opportunity to sneak bites of foie gras torchon!
The dinner takes place in an urban garden called Tabor Tilth. Connie, the owner, is extremely knowledgable and even has interns who live with her so they can learn the secrets of success urban gardening. She has everything from elderflowers to mulberries to tabacco growing in her yard. For a more in-depth look at Tabor Tilth, check out my post from 2 years ago.
While Connie is serious about what she does, the whimsical aspect of her house never fails to entertain me. These are some of the cool things I spotted in her kitchen this year. (The fact that she raises meat rabbits makes her rabbit art all the more fun to me.)
Anyways, fun art aside, this post is dedicated to the snacks we served as our dinner guests started to arrive and began their guided tour of the garden. My husband tries to incorporate fruit into the dinner as much as possible, as well as making use of items that Connie grows, so this dinner is really an ode to fresh seasonal produce.
One of the snacks I was in charge of was the lamb tartare. While beef tartare is a dish most people are familiar with, many people are squeamish about other meats used in place of beef. Over the years, I’ve eaten everything from venison heart tartare to water buffalo tartare so I’m well versed in variations to this dish. Lamb is especially delicious because it has a light gamey flavor and is nice and tender.
We served our version on lamb’s quarter from the garden and topped it with Jacobsen’s sea salt, foraged here in Oregon, and a touch of extra virgin olive oil.
The most unexpected appetizer we served was our fig leaf mojito. A few years ago my husband made a fig leaf ice cream (that was crazy good!), so I wasn’t too surprised that he planned to utilize the leaves again.
He made a simple syrup with the leaves and then we added fresh lime juice, rum and chopped mint to the concoction. It was the perfect boozy refreshment for a 97-degree day!
All of the appetizers were devoured as soon as they were presented. I barely had time to snap the pictures before anxious servers hustled the platters away to hungry — and happy — guests.
More pictures to come — just wait till you see the rabbit boudin blanc we served up!
- Lamb sirloin, cleaned of fat and sinew, minced by hand
- Shallots, finely minced
- Capers, finely minced
- Cornichons, finely minced
- Fresh chives and fresh parsley, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mix minced lamb with capers, shallots and cornichons. Dump contents onto a cutting board and run your knife through the mixture a few more times. This will help everything get well-incorporated and chop the meat even a little finer. Taste. Add more of any one item if needed.
Add fresh lemon juice, herbs and salt and pepper. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil just until meat is a little moist.
Garnish with large flake sea salt and a touch of EVO.