Then there was our three-day road trip to Napa. We knew we needed to make the most of our time since we had no idea when we’d ever be back — this is always our excuse for gorging ourselves — so we planned to get in as many meals as our stomachs would allow.
We left Portland at 5 am on a Friday morning on a mission to drive nearly non-stop to San Francisco. I say nearly because we made a pit stop in Redding for my very first In-N-Out burger. Hours later, we suffered through an excruciatingly good meal at Incanto, followed by a two-course brunch at SPQR the following morning.
From there we went to Yountville where we pillaged the paté case at the Fatted Calf, a lovely charcuterie shop, before venturing on to our hours-long dinner at the French Laundry. The very next morning we hit up Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc for brunch, stopped at the Bouchon bakery for sweet treats and then started our 10-hour drive back home.
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 in agrodolce sauce, pepitas, pearl onions and sultanas.
Being married to a chef has its ups and downs. The upside is pretty obvious — he makes amazing, creative and delicious food. But considering I rarely see him (this would be the downside), I’m certainly not dining on homemade, perfectly plated 10-course meals all week long.
In fact, most nights I do all of the cooking, leaving him a plate of food for when he gets home around midnight. Even on the days when he’s off work — in the industry this is almost always Sundays and Mondays for chefs — he is often too exhausted to cook (yet another reason I’m endlessly grateful for the kick ass taco cart right by our house).
However, over the past few weeks he has been wooing me with fantastic Monday night meals. One of my recent favorites included a plate full of tender delicata squash in agrodolce sauce (an Italian version of sweet and sour made with sugar and vinegar), beets with pickled peppers and ricotta salata and hand torn pasta in a Parmesan brodo. Yeah. It’s serious.
The original dish — I subbed pearl onions for his cipollino. These are certainly more of a “statement” onion…
A simple dinner for two…
While everything was incredible, my favorite dish of the evening was the delicata. The tang from the agrodolce wonderfully balanced the sweetness of the squash, and the sultanas and pepitas added a bit of autumn swagger. It was also a pleasant change to the overly sweet squash recipes that are ubiquitous this time of year.
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.
Baby hasselback potatoes with burrata, crispy chicken skin and fried garlic
I love cute food. I can’t help it — give me tiny one-bite appetizers or adorable mini anything and I will love it. There’s just something about a petite portion of food that is so pleasing.
And early summer is great time to find produce to aid with this mission. There are tiny spring onions, mini patty pan squashes and the smallest new potatoes that taste like butter. A week or so ago, I was woo-ed into buying some little red potatoes and after having roasted a batch or two, I was looking for something new to try.
I had a ball of burrata cheese in my fridge, crispy chicken skin from a recently roasted bird, and thanks to this recipe, things started to come together.