Lamb tartare, foie gras and other tasty treats…

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

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.)

Bunnies of Tabor Tilth

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.

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Homemade Tamales: Good things come to those who wait

Homemade tamales with chicken, queso fresco & pico de gallo

Homemade tamales with chicken, queso fresco & pico de gallo

Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly trying my hand at making some of my favorite Mexican dishes at home. My homemade tortillas and sopes were so successful that I soon started dreaming about tamales, something I had never considered making from scratch.

Just as I was thinking about them, my husband (who must have been reading my mind) brought me home two bags of fresh masa from Three Sisters Nixtamal, a Portland company that specializes in masa and tortillas. We had some leftover chicken, a wheel of queso fresco and all the makings for pico de gallo so I figured my project would come together lickety split.

However, this is one of those times when taking a few minutes to do some research really pays off — it turns out I was woefully unprepared for the project I was about to begin! Luckily I found this article, which had oodles of helpful advice and saved me from certain tamale doom.

First off, I had no idea that (unlike when making tortillas, pupusas or sopes), the dough for tamales is not straight masa mixed with water. Instead you need to whip the masa with a fat, most often lard, resulting in a fluffy aerated mixture.

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Wild About Game: The meatiest culinary event in the NW!

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’re well aware that I work as a meat distributor. You might even know that every year the company I work for hosts a huge meaty gathering where our vendors and other friends (think people involved with salt, cheese, and alcohol) get to mingle with our chefs. Four and a half hours later, everyone — staff included — is full of beer and booze and practically shaking from the meat sweats.

This year I even gave away two tickets to the event on my Facebook page. I would say it was a huge success — I’m pretty sure I saw the winner and his guest still hanging out at the after party bonfire around midnight.

What can I say? We know how to have a good time!

Anyways here’s some pictures I took of the day event to give you an idea of how deliciously awesome it was:

Winning dish of WAG 2013

The grand prize winning dish of the cooking competition. Guinea fowl leg stuffed with guinea fowl sausage, plum sauce, pea tendrils and carrots. By Chef Aaron Barnett of St. Jacks, Portland, OR.

Mt Hood

The view of Mt. Hood from the Timberline Lodge

Foie gras ice cream in sugar cones

Foie gras ice cream in sugar cones, by Chef Chris Carriker of 23 Hoyt, Portland.

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