Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup & Holder’s Last Hurrah

 

Sweet potato, ginger and coconut milk soup

Sweet potato, ginger and coconut milk soup

My friend Oliver and I have a tradition  — every Wednesday we cook dinner and watch TV together. Throughout the years, we have made it through the many seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias. More recently we have veered toward trashier things like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and even went so far as to watch the Real World when it filmed in Portland.

A year or so ago we found ourselves in a lull between episodes of something and decided to check out The Killing, which we had both heard good things about. The show follows two Seattle detectives, Linden and Holder, as they solve the mystery of Rosie, a 17-year-old missing girl.

We were instantly hooked, until we realized the show was only planned to be two seasons long. Cue instant distress and sadness. This show was too good, too engrossing, too suspenseful not to continue!

And then the Netflix Gods, the same ones that brought back the final season of Arrested Development, blessed us with a surprise third season of The Killing. Even better, we were further surprised with an unexpected fourth season. Linden and Holder were coming back to us!

Last week, full of bittersweet excitement, we watched the last three episodes. While our emotions were riding an adrenaline roller coaster, our hunger was being soothed by a bowl of the most delicious sweet potato soup I’ve ever eaten.

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Roasted delicata squash boats bear delicious cargo

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

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.

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I can’t quit you: My summer love affair with shakshuka

Homemade shakshuka: adding spice to my life!

Homemade shakshuka: adding spice to my life!

This summer was the Summer of Shakshuka.

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.

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Zucchini pancakes with fried corn & sungolds, for when summer continues to linger…

Zucchini Pancake with Roasted Corn, Sungolds

A rainbow of happy vegetables!

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.

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Chilled tomato soup for the last dregs of summer

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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.

Beautiful Oregon sungolds

Beautiful Oregon sungolds

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When you gotta lotta burrata… make cheesy salads

…and write even cheesier blog post titles!

Burrata Salad with Strawberries, Radicchio and Nasturtium Leaves

Burrata Salad with Strawberries, Radicchio and Nasturtium Leaves

I can only stop thinking about food for so long — so I’m taking a break from posting about Alaska to show you some of the fabulous things I ate before I left Portland.

A week before my flight back home, my husband decided to make me dinner. It was a wonderfully delicious meal, starting with a salad of cherries, radicchio and burrata cheese. The salad was dressed simply in a combination of Agrumato extra virgin lemon olive oil and some aged balsamic vinegar I bought in Modena, Italy years ago. The bottle isn’t looking so pretty but I promise you, the vinegar inside is like candy.

This was the only major purchase I made on this trip -- I was about 23 years old and saved $100 for the bottle.

This was the only major purchase I made on my third trip to Italy — I was about 23 years old, fresh out of culinary school and saved $100 for the bottle. Twelve years later, it’s still delicious!

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