It’s been cold and dreary in Portland this week and with every increasingly strong gust of wind, it’s becoming very clear that winter is approaching. A few weekends ago, the wind was so relentless that it took down trees all over town. We were lucky to only lose a 14-foot branch from the fir tree in our backyard. After talking to some of my co-workers, it sounds like we fared pretty well.
Since then, the wind has died down but the rain has not. Being a daily bike commuter means I come home every evening drenched, peeling off my soaked rain jacket, rain pants and booties.
It’s days like these that call for soup — something both warming in temperature and in spiciness.
It is really easy for me to get stuck in a breakfast rut — often it’s a “peanut butter toast with honey or jam” rut. I’ll branch out into oatmeal, quinoatmeal or other more hearty things for a while, but, in the end, my old ways win out and it’s back to my trusty favorites.
The only break in my habit tends to be the weekends. Finally I have the time and motivation to create something a little more involved. This breakfast is one I whipped up a few weekends ago. It was so good I’ve brought it back for several encores.
I think the part I love the most is how the flavors in the pork sausage combine with the sweet potato in such a perfect “tastes like fall” type of way. The sausage is actually one I made myself — much easier than it may sound — and contains onions, shredded apples and sage. It seems like pork, apples and sage should be their own holy trinity, especially this time of year. It’s really hard to go wrong with that combination!
The hash doesn’t play second fiddle though — its crispy in parts and slightly sweet from the caramelized sweet potato and onion. Take all that, put an egg on it (in true Portland style) and dig in to a breakfast so good you’ll wonder why you didn’t make it sooner.
Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.
Conversations at my job vary among a few recurring themes: crazy customers, how much we hate chicken, how we’d kill for a glass of wine, and food. While the first three conversations could practically be played on repeat, the fourth is constantly changing.
We talk about what we’re eating, what restaurants we’ve been to lately, what we ate for dinner the night before and what we’re going to eat as soon as we get home. Food talk starts when we open and continues until the office is closed and is often accompanied by photos and/or shared samples.
The two most obsessed eaters seem to be me and my co-worker Breezy. We both used to work in kitchens around town and we spend a lot of time between phone calls chatting about recipes, techniques and ingredients. This is pretty handy because it’s nice to have someone to bounce food ideas off of when I’m in need of inspiration.
It started on a whim (“hmmm…never made that before…”) and turned into an all-out obsession (“must make more!”). Months later, my infatuation is still going strong and even though I’m no longer using tomatoes from my garden, I have happily discovered it still tastes great using high quality canned tomatoes.
If you’re not familiar, shakshuka is a spicy stewed tomato dish, usually made with onions, chilies and cumin. Most versions boast a simmered-to-perfection egg and the best versions (in my opinion) also include a nice salty cheese. While the egg certainly makes it seem more “breakfast-y,” this one-pot wonder makes a great lunch or dinner as well.
It’s also a fun dish to play around with, adding or subtracting ingredients depending on what’s in season — or by what’s in your fridge. My favorite batches this summer included sautéed zucchini and summer squash and lots of kale. I’ve even thrown cooked farro or quinoa in at the end to bulk it up.
I was getting ready to post about a fantastic braised shortrib pie that I made on a recent rainy day when suddenly the weather here in Portland did a swift about-face. While braising beef sounded good a week ago when it was blustery and cold, the sun is now blazing and we’re enjoying 80 degree weather with only more blue skies on the horizon.
So I decided instead to revisit a recipe that I made a month or so ago, when I was too swamped with summer’s craziness to edit the pictures, let alone write a post about it. And since I’ve still seen plenty of pretty produce in the markets, there’s time left to fit this in before the cold is upon us!
This dish came about because my friends at Gourmandistan posted their zucchini pancake recipe (accompanied by their recipe for a fried corn relish) and it all sounded too good to pass up. My parents had just handed off several zucchini and summer squash from their garden and I’m a sucker for anything with fresh corn so Michelle and Steve’s post was a basically a double whammy of perfectly timed temptation.
Deep inside, I know that autumn has officially arrived. The weather has cooled off considerably here in Portland and the markets are full of squash and new crop apples. But my mind — and stomach — aren’t quite ready to let go of summer.
And one of my favorite things about the late summer months in Oregon are the perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes.
I can even tell you a story about how great these tomatoes are. Growing up I hated tomatoes. Oh sure, I loved marinara sauce but fresh tomatoes were not a part of my diet. I picked them off of hamburgers and out of sandwiches for years. Even in college I gave serious side-eye to people who ate cherry tomatoes by the handful. I just didn’t get it.
Then I moved to Oregon and started cooking at a little family run restaurant in the industrial/art area of NW Portland (now the luxe Pearl District). I remember walking to the Farmers Market with the head chef/owner and watching as she bought a flat of pristine sungolds.