Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party Pt. 6

March 31st, 2017

The only problem with this photo is that Sarah Taft who took it isn’t in it and neither is Sarah Ryan-Knox because she left before we took it. Well, a lot of folks aren’t in the photo who’ve participated in our cook the Toro Bravo book dinner parties throughout the years but it’s hard to get everyone together. So fun.

The time has come for us to literally and figuratively close the book on our cooking the Toro Bravo cookbook parties. Over the years, since the book came out from McSweeney’s in the fall of 2013, we’ve had six big and raucous dinner parties at the homes of a very special group of hungry, good cook friends where we all cooked different dishes from the book. You can check them out here, here, here, and here. I didn’t post the fifth dinner from fall 2015 and I’ll do that soon too.

We looked through the Toro book’s table of contents at the end of our grand finale Toro book dinner party last weekend, and it turns out that we cooked about 85% of the book. None of us are completists in life, so we feel pretty dang good about cooking all of those awesome recipes and not cooking every single recipe.

The biggest holes were in the Charcuterie and Cocktails chapters and meat dishes throughout the book. The first because those recipes take a good amount of time and special equipment (although our group tackled the Coppa Steak twice, the Pork Rillettes, and the Sherry Chicken Liver Mousse), the second because that’s a lot of cocktails for six dinner parties (we made the Toro Martini, Venus 75, Jerez Negroni, Casa Rita and White Sangria), and the meat dishes because we have a few vegetarians and pescatarians amongst us (we made the Harira Lamb and Lentil Stew, Coppa Steak, Drunken Pork, Moorish Meatballs and Chicken and Clams Cataplana). I might have left a few out of those lists but that’s most of them.

So, we ate, drank and were quite merry, as always, and I’m posting a bunch of the photos here for you. We’ll probably do one more Toro party, that’s not strictly recipes but that includes the Paella and Rabbit Fideos, this summer because that sounds like a lot of fun. After that, we’re going to do a one night only James Beard cook from the book night — everyone will choose a dish from whatever cookbook of his they’d like.

After that I’m really hoping that the group chooses Hello! My Name is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites from Portland’s Tasty Restaurants, which comes out August 15th, as its next cook from the book cookbook. More than a little biased. I love that we can have brunch and dinner parties with that one.

If you want to watch a fun video that Rebecca and Fred Gerendasy of Cooking up a Story did of our dinner party series you can check it out here. Love that they captured it.

Alright, without further ado, photos from the night.

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Toro’s White Sangria made with my Concord grape wine
Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade
Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Tapenade
Octopus a la Plancha
Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
Butter Lettuce Salad
Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash
Coppa Steak with Salbitxada
Panna Cotta two ways
Limoncello
*We also had really yummy Olympia Provisions ham, pork rillettes, chorizo and sopressata that Josh and Sarah brought. Josh is Olympia Provisions’ plant manager.

We started off the night with Toro’s White Sangria that I made with my homemade Concord grape wine. It was really citrusy and yummy with sliced oranges and kiwi. Tastes like summer.

Next up we had my Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade. I made these for our first Toro cookbook dinner at Loly and Faulkner’s so it was fun to make them again at their place for the final one. This is one of my favorite recipes from the book. So simple and delicious.

A little closer…

Josh’s Olympia Provisions spread. It wasn’t from the Toro book obviously but it was a super tasty addition. Pork rillettes, manchego, soppressata, ham, chorizo +++.

Tom working hard on his Bacon-Wrapped Dates 😉 And I love that I captured Alec in the mirror.

Most of Alec’s Toro Tapenade on charred bread got snapped up before I got a photo. Love the Toro Tapenade!!

Loly with one of Tom’s yummmmmy Bacon-Wrapped Dates.

Faulkner and Loly cooking up there Octopus a la Plancha. We are the luckiest. I ate two of these and had a hard time stopping myself from eating more. There was so much more food to come.

Loly with the finished dish.

Dana cooking up another one of my favorites — Toro’s Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins. If you love spinach I HIGHLY recommend making this dish at home.

My niece’s first grade class is doing the Flat Stanley project right now so she sent me her Stanley from Cincinnati and I brought him with. He had a few too many of the Toro sangrias and not enough food to start so we let him doze on the Toro book for a bit.

Chris who was the ringleader for most of these dinners made the Coppa Steak again. It was awesome! Perfectly smoked, tender and juicy. Alec made the Salbitxada to top it with.

Dana and Oliver made the Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash. Mmmmm.

Loly and Faulkner’s tasty Butter Lettuce Salad. Nice to have some fresh crisp greens in the middle of the feast.

Mid-way through the night we took a walk around Columbia Park to get some fresh air and walk off a little of the food. Beautiful spring night.

Once the Coppa had rested Chris carved it up. Perfectly pink and delicious.

Izzy kitty enjoyed the festivities too.

Eating, drinking, and more eating, drinking. Good times.

With dessert we did a Toro Limoncello taste-off from a couple batches — mine and Loly and Faulkner’s. Both were awesome.

Some of Faulkner and other’s instant photos from the dinner.

Chris’s Toro Panna Cotta. Really good as always. The one in the pie dish is topped with red wine braised pears and apples with cinnamon, cloves and star anise. The individual ones are with his blood orange Campari topping. YUM! Great way to finish the meal.

Cheers to you for reading this! Maybe you’ll put together one of these for a cookbook too? I highly recommend it. So fun. Happy Friday!

Yard Fresh Pt. 32

February 18th, 2016
In the past couple years since my friend Gillion gave me a vinegar mother I've gotten really into making them. In this photo I was straining the Riesling vinegar and more plum wine vinegar. Both super tasty.

In the past couple years since my friend Gilion gave me a vinegar mother I’ve gotten really into making my own yummy vinegars. In this photo taken a few weeks ago I was straining the Riesling vinegar and more plum wine vinegar. Both are super tasty.

Since the start of the year I’ve been full-time writing again. I did this for the better part of three years between 2006 and 2009 and at the end of that I said I’d never write full-time again. Well, times change, I’ve learned a few things, forgotten a bunch more and now I’m at it again.

The main difference between then and now work-wise is that I’m now working primarily on books — two under contract including the Tasty n Sons Cookbook with Sasquatch Books (out fall 2017) and a secret Tin House project (out spring 2017) as well as a novel (out sometime I hope!). In 2006 through 2009 I was mostly working on freelance food writing projects and a book toward the end — the first edition of Food Lover’s Guide to Portland.

What remains the same is that writing full-time is fucking hard and it’s easy to burn out if you work a more normal five day, eight-plus hours a day work week. I know that this may sound spoiled and/or crazy since working full-time for yourself writing books sounds so dreamy but I have really strong work ethic so in living the dream I pushed myself a little too hard going into this full-time writing thing again. In the evenings after work I ended up snapping at people and drinking a little too much too often and in general I was just moodier than I want to be. And exhausted — mentally and physically.

Now that I’ve realized eight-plus hours of writing five days in a row every week isn’t sustainable I’m figuring out how to manage my time a little better and give my brain and body breaks throughout the day. Things that have helped with the transition — I got a standing desk, I’ve been taking some mornings off, I’ve been taking more long walks throughout the day. I’m basically just being nicer to myself and changing my perception of what a proper work week is. Work smarter not harder. So true.

Oh, and food. Cooking has always been a form of therapy for me and when I don’t do it enough I feel off and not myself. I think it’s similar to how folks who work out regularly feel when they don’t work out enough. Here are some tasty treats that I’ve cooked and eaten in the past couple months. I hope you’ve been cooking some tasty things too. If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments if you care to share. Happy year of the fire monkey!

Tested these open-faced Monte Cristos for The Tasty Cookbook with anglaise soaked challah, gruyere and spiced maple syrup. Ridiculously good.

Tested these open-face Monte Cristos for The Tasty Cookbook with anglaise soaked challah, gruyere and spiced maple syrup. Ridiculously good.

Since I've been at my writing studio so much more lately I've been making more soups and stews that I can heat up in my electric hot pot there.  Kimchi Chijae is one of my all-time favorites. I use Lauryn Chun's  recipe from the Kimchi Cookbook.

Since I’ve been at my writing studio so much lately I’ve been making more soups and stews that I can heat up in my electric hot pot there. Kimchi Chijae is one of my all-time favorites. I like Lauryn Chun’s recipe for it in The Kimchi Cookbook.

Made with my homemade Choi's Kimchi recipe classic kimchi. So tasty.  I put a lot of brined shrimp in it this time.

Made with my homemade — from Choi’s Kimchi recipe — classic kimchi. So tasty. I put a lot of tiny salted shrimp in it this time.

Sandwiches of course are also great to take to work. I made this one with Edelweiss Sausage & Delicatessen's spicy paprika loaf and my homemade sour pickles.

Sandwiches of course are also great to take to work. I made this one with Edelweiss Market’s spicy paprika loaf and my homemade sour pickles.

I tested The Tasty Cookbook collards at home a couple weeks ago. They're so yummy and taste like they cooked for hours even though they only took 30 minute/ and I've borrowed my friend's pressure cooker for way too long. I need to return it and get one of my own.

I tested The Tasty Cookbook collards at home a couple weeks ago. They’re so yummy and taste like they cooked for hours even though they only took 30 minutes. I’ve borrowed my friend’s pressure cooker for way too long. I need to return it and finally get one of my own. Love them.

I also made this crazy good Mark Bittman pressure cooker black bean soup recently. The best black been soup I've ever made in THIRTY minutes from dry bean to rich, inky, spicy soup. If you have a pressure cooker find this recipe.

I also made this crazy good Mark Bittman pressure cooker black bean soup recently. The best black been soup I’ve ever made in THIRTY minutes from dry bean to rich, inky, spicy soup. If you have a pressure cooker find this recipe and make it. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Started the Toro Bravo cookbook limoncella at the end of January so it has another week before I strain it, add the simple syrup and then freeze it for two weeks before drinking. One of my favorite recipes from the book.

I started the Toro Bravo cookbook limoncello at the end of January so it has another week before I strain it, add the simple syrup and then freeze it for two weeks before drinking. One of my favorite recipes from the book.

In the beginning of January my boyfriend Jimbo and I went to Manzanita for a long weekend and it was lovely as always -- especially this simplest of breakfasts. Pomegranate is always such a treat. And The Little Apple is my favorite grocery on the Oregon Coast.

Early January my boyfriend Jimbo and I went to Manzanita for a long weekend and it was lovely as always — especially this simplest of breakfasts. Pomegranate is always such a treat. And The Little Apple is my favorite grocery on the Oregon Coast.

One of my favorite quick eats at home is doctored up boxed mac and cheese. I made this one with kimchi, lots of fish sauce, gochugaru and sesame for my best housemat in the world Jennifer and I. I want some now.

One of my favorite quick eats at home is doctored up boxed mac and cheese. I made this one with kimchi, lots of fish sauce, gochugaru and sesame for me and my best housemate in the world Jennifer. I want some now.

I made a loaded with okra and shrimp gumbo last month and the best part of it was cooking it the next morning with rice and eggs and cheese. I will be doing this for the rest of my life. Highly recommend it.

I made a gumbo loaded with okra and shrimp last month and the best part of it was cooking it the next morning with rice, eggs and cheese. I will be doing this for the rest of my life. Highly recommend it.

My brother Andy, sister-in-law Laura and I toasting via Skype with the Vanilla Porter that Andy and I brewed when I was home in Cincinnati for Christmas this Christmas Eve. They sent me a package of a few bottles of it as they always do. Crazy good. And so cute.

My brother Andy, sister-in-law Laura and I toasting via Skype with the vanilla porter that Andy and I brewed when I was home in Cincinnati for Christmas this Christmas Eve. They sent me a package with a few bottles of it as they always do. Crazy good. And so cute.

Andy bottling the vanilla porter a few weeks ago. Laura sent me a photo...

My brother bottling the vanilla porter a few weeks ago. Laura sent me a photo…

More home recipe testing for The Tasty Cookbook -- Kyle's Granola with homemade sweet labneh and caramelized apples. I'm not all that into cereals but this one is  awesome.

More home recipe testing for The Tasty Cookbook — Kyle's Granola with homemade sweet labneh and caramelized apples. I’m not all that into cereals but this one is awesome.

Making the labneh for it. Recipe testing till the break of dawn! Love it.

Making the labneh for it. Recipe testing till the break of dawn! Love it.

I've been making homemade fruit wines for years but 2015 was the first year I made Concord grape wine and it turns out it's pretty dang tasty. Not as good as the plum wine but yummy.

I’ve been making homemade fruit wines for years but 2015 was the first year I made Concord grape wine and it turns out it’s pretty dang tasty. Not as good as the plum wine but yummy.

My Grandma Amy came up with a very special recipe based on a detective series that she read and loved called Wolfe Eggs (named after Rex Stout's character Nero Wolfe) that we had and continue to make for holiday breakfasts and now they're going to be in a very exciting secret book project that I can't tell you about but will one fine day very soon. RIP Grandma Amy.

My Grandma Amy came up with a very special recipe that she called Wolfe Eggs inspired by a dish in a detective series that she read and loved. She named the dish after Rex Stout’s character Nero Wolfe — the obese gourmand of a detective. Growing up my grandma always made these for holiday breakfasts and we continue to make them. Now they’re going to be in someone near and dear to me’s very exciting secret book project that I can’t tell you about but will one fine day soon. RIP Grandma Amy.

Another tasty soup that I took to my writing studio -- Melissa Clark's Red Lentil Soup with Lemon in the New York Times. I love red lentils -- so yummy, pretty and quick to cook.

Another tasty soup that I took to my writing studio — Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon in the New York Times. I love red lentils — so yummy, pretty and quick to cook.

Pizza night with Jimbo's nephew Jonah, Jimbo's sister Betsy and her fiancee Sara last weekend. We made six pizzas for five humans.

Pizza night with Jimbo’s nephew Jonah, Jimbo’s sister and her fiancee last weekend. We made six pizzas for five humans so there was plennnnnnty of pizza for breakfast 😉

Eat, drink and be hairy!

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Yard Fresh Pt. 31

June 19th, 2015
My new batch of miso salted in and in the crock! The oldest I have now that's still fermenting is 5 years old.

My new batch of miso! The oldest I have now that’s still fermenting is 5 years old.

Well, well, well, it’s been a year since I did one of these installments. Time flies when you’re having fun and I’ve been having a lot of fun lately. Candle both ends as usual. The last Yard Fresh I wrote in May 2014 right when my kitchen was going into remodel surgery. That seems like years ago — so many parties and dinner parties and cooking fun has transpired in it since. I am so grateful to my good friends at St. Johns Design Build for making my kitchen dreams come true. I couldn’t love my kitchen more or recommend these fellows more highly for any home remodel project.

I’ll get to the food photos in a second but here’s a quick recap. of the past few months. I got to do my very first writing residency for my novel at The Sou’wester in April and it was awesome. I cranked out 3,000 words a day on average and even managed to cook and eat all kinds of tasty treats that you’ll see below. I also got to go to San Francisco in early May to interview one of my food heroes Mark Bittman for a magazine I’ve subscribed to and loved for years. That interview won’t publish for awhile and I’ll be sure to let you know when it does.

For now, I’m still loving my work at Hawthorne Books which recently merged with Dzanc Books, working on my novel one day a week, we just finished the Tasty Cookbook proposal (we originally proposed a brunch book but now it’s AM plus PM dishes mmmm) and our agent is sending it out, I’m working on a hard cider book with someone near and dear, we’re about to set the date for the 6th Annual Portland Fermentation Festival this fall and get cracking on that again, I’m doing all kinds of fun things with Team Gorham as always, and I’m working on something with the fine folks at Inkshares this summer. Sheesh. That’s a lot.

This summer I plan to be the river rat that I always am when the days are long and this time around it will often be with my sweet, sweet fellow Jimbo. That makes me very happy. I also plan to camp and cook outside a lot and use my pie irons often. We’re going to the Outer Banks with my family in a month. I have 200 bottles of homemade plum wine to bottle this year from the Brooks Plum tree in the front yard. And, you know, drink. Friends make the world go round so I will be playing in the sun with them a whole heck of a lot in upcoming months.

Hope you’ve been working on good projects, having fun with friends and family and cooking and eating delicious food. I harvested my garlic one month early this year — so hot these days! — and now I have flashy trout’s back lettuce and kale and soon tomatoes, chiles, zukes etc. SUMMMMMMMMMER! Love to you and hope you have an incredible summer. Do all the fun things as much as you can. Summer is magic and it always goes fast.

I didn't actually cook this buuuuut isn't it pretty?! My super talented friend Tom Humphrey designed it and John G and I and his team worked our arses off putting this FIFTY page book proposal together. Going out to publishers this week!

I didn’t actually cook this buuuuut isn’t it pretty?! My super talented friend Tom Humphrey designed it and John G and I and his team worked our arses off putting this FIFTY page book proposal together. Going out to publishers this week!

Potato taco time! My friend Raquel's late mom Anna taught me how to make these. These mean summer and love to me.

Potato taco time! My friend Raquel’s late mom Anna taught me how to make these. These mean summer and love to me.

Potato tacos at night aaaaand potato tostadas in the morning! With soyrizo and eggs. Yummmmm.

Potato tacos at night aaaand potato tostadas in the morning! With soyrizo and eggs. Yummmmm.

Plum wine bottling and drinking with my housey and friend. And the White Wolf. Only 25 more gallons to go!

Plum wine bottling and drinking with my housey and friend. And the White Wolf. Only 25 more gallons to go!

Plum wine in Grolsch bottles and getting fizzzzzzy.

Plum wine in Grolsch bottles and getting fizzzzzzy.

Flashy Trout's Back lettuce from Territorial Seed. Have twenty this size in the backyard. Salad Dayzzzzz

Flashy Trout’s Back lettuce from Territorial Seed. Have twenty this size in the backyard. Salad Dayzzzzz

Straining my homemade vinegars -- plum wine vin and grapefruit. My friend Gilion gave me the vinegar mother and I've made a bunch of these and pineapple vinegar so far. Love them.

Straining my homemade vinegars — plum wine vin and grapefruit. My friend Gilion gave me the vinegar mother and I’ve made a bunch of these and pineapple vinegar so far. Love them.

Nettle pesto fixings -- olive oil, toasted hazelnuts, asiago, olive oil. Added bonus: flash boil the nettles for the pesto and you get nettle tea too.

Nettle pesto fixings — olive oil, toasted hazelnuts, asiago, olive oil. Added bonus: flash boil the nettles for the pesto and you get nettle tea too.

Nettle pesto orzo with home canned tuna and pickled peppers.

Nettle pesto orzo with home canned tuna and pickled peppers.

Beach Bloody Mary and oyster bar with friends. And TINY TABASCO!

Beach Bloody Mary and oyster bar with friends. And TINY TABASCO!

Backyard garlic harvest one month early this year.

Backyard garlic harvest one month early this year.

Razor clam deviled eggs!! Sou'wester owner Thandi brought the clams to my trailer and I made us these with preserved lemon, pimenton and lots and lots of olive oil. One of my best deviled eggs to date and I LOVE deviled eggs. Dreamy.

Razor clam deviled eggs!! Sou’wester owner Thandi brought the clams to my trailer and I made us these with preserved lemon, pimenton and lots and lots of olive oil. One of my best deviled eggs to date and I LOVE deviled eggs. Dreamy.

Mr. Bittman's wacky good Manchurian Tofu and Cauliflower from his latest cookbook How to Cook Everything Faster which I love and have cooked a ton from.

Mr. Bittman’s wacky good Manchurian Tofu and Cauliflower from his latest cookbook How to Cook Everything Faster which I love and have cooked a ton from.

Leftover mac and cheese from Dig A Pony with my kimchi and eggs. I want this now!

Leftover mac and cheese from Dig A Pony with my kimchi and eggs. I want this now!

I'll leave you with this picture of spring/summer happiness: solo early eve Sazerac on my trailer stoop at the Sou'wester. Life is sweet.

I’ll leave you with this picture of spring/summer happiness: solo early eve Sazerac on my trailer stoop at the Sou’wester. Life is sweet.

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Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party Pt. 4

January 12th, 2015

Loly with one of the crunchy delicious Toro fried anchovies.

I finally got to host our Toro Bravo cook the book party last night (check out the first, second and third here) and it was really nice to do it in my newly remodeled kitchen. My kitchen has been pretty much done since early November but there were a couple final details and now it’s complete! It’s a beauty and I’m going to post about it here soon. I couldn’t be happier with it. My friends Brian McVay, Clarence Jacobs and Rude Graves of St. Johns Design Build are so incredibly talented. And you’ll know they’re good people when I tell you this — I was genuinely sad to see them go when my kitchen was complete. I truly enjoyed the entire remodel process and having those awesome fellows in my home. I miss having them see me in my pajamas. Wink.

It was really, really fun to have a whole bunch of friends packed into my kitchen last night for our fourth eat, drink and be merry cook from book party for Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. We’ve now passed the halfway point having cooked 60-plus recipes from the book. I’m guessing we’ll complete the book after three more dinners. Quite the feat. We’ve even started talking about which book we’ll cook through next. Potentials discussed: Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, Jerusalem and the Pok Pok cookbook. I mentioned that I’d love to cook through a comprehensive Southeast Asian cookbook. Unfortunately I think Pok Pok requires a bit more pantry building than our group is up for.

Another sweet thing — Shane Welch founder of Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewery recently moved to Portland and he gifted us (he’s friends with my friend and contractor mentioned above — Brian McVay) some of his Bengali IPA for the party which is super tasty. Really sweet of him. We also poured a lot of cava, various Spanish wines and we drank some of my early plum wine that I pulled off over the weekend while racking it. So crisp and tasty.

Anyway, I’ll let the photos tell the tale as usual. Happy 2015! I hope you’ve been cooking and eating well. I bet you have.

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Toro Martini and Fried Anchovies, Fennel and Lemon with Romesco
Gazpacho
Charred Bread with Chanterelles in Sherry Cream
Chard and Eggs
Chicken and Clams Cataplana
Lamb Ragu with Eggplant
French Kisses and Pickled Beets and cheeses
Sherry Chicken Liver Mousse
Apple and Pear Clafoutis

NO ONE in Portland is carrying fresh anchovies at the moment so the super sweet John Gorham gave me a pound from Toro for the Fried Anchovies, Fennel and Lemon dish from the book.

They were deeeeelcious with Toro's romesco.

We started the night off right with my piping hot anchovies and chilled Toro Martinis. Not too shabby.

Next up was Nancy's super yummy Toro gazpacho.

Really nice to have so many friends around the kitchen table.

Alec charring the bread for...

Toro's Charred Bread with Chanterelles in Sherry Cream.

Dana cooking up Toro's...

Chard and Eggs.

Sara and I in our animal shirt finery -- giraffes and stags.

Loly and Faulkner cooking up Toro's Chicken and Clams Cataplana.

Soooooo good! With Olympic Provisions cured meats.

Left to right: Loly, Nancy, Faulkner and Jim. The best.

Super Tasty Six Point Bengali IPA. YUM!

Tom and Heather's (just engaged!!) deeeelicious Lamb Ragu with Eggplant.

Chris assembling Toro's French Kisses -- foei gras torchon stuffed brandy-soaked prunes. Perfect.

Tom overseeing. He approves.

Dana and Oliver's apple and pear clafoutis. Mmmmm.

Aaaand the final dessert plate -- Sara's sherry chicken liver mousse, Chris's French Kisses and Spanish cheeses. We are so lucky.

Cheers to 2015! I hope you are in good company and having a fine time of it.

Yard Fresh Pt. 29

January 2nd, 2014

I had a big party for my 37th and this kimchi jjigae is one of the things I cooked for it. Really, really tasty.

It’s been a crazy fall and winter with the launch of the Toro Bravo cookbook, our book tour, local events and media and everything else in my life. I really couldn’t be happier these days. 2013 was a big, beautiful year for me — following a very rough 2012 — in fact it was one of the best of my life, if not the best. There’s a term that I learned recently that pretty much sums that up — post-traumatic growth.

Despite the wild ride and burning the candle on both ends I still managed to cook and eat a lot of good food at home and at friends’ and family’s homes and I’m including some of those things here. I hope that you’ve enjoyed a great closing of 2013 and start to 2014 too — food-wise and beyond. Food is one of the great pleasures of life if you let it be — especially if you treasure it and share that magic with those in your life. The love you have is the love you give. Cook something delicious for someone that you love today. Cheers to 2014!

I also made a huge batch of kimchi bacon fried rice for the party. Breakfast the next day...

Citrusy golden beet salad for my friend Michelle's birthday.

Jacques Pepin's delicious Provencal beef stew -- Beef Daube Arlesienne -- loaded with nicoise olives, capers and tomatoes.

Super yummy garlic cheese grits, bacon and eggs breakfast.

Garlic cheese grits, kimchi, bacon and eggs.

Future Toro Bravo limoncello from the book.

I used the juice of those lemons for lemon curd and lemon syrup from Linda's Ziedrich's book.

Aaaaand Grand Central's lemon bars that a friend said were the best he'd ever had. Really tasty.

Toro's crepes with berry syrup and maple yogurt sauce.

Eggs wtih salami, olives, cheese and homemade hot sauce.

Christmas family food tradition -- olives stuffed with cream cheese and roasted almonds.

Toro's Jerez Negroni in the book. Cheers to 2014!

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Essential Pepin

April 8th, 2013

Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin is a great comprehensive cookbook for the home cook.

This is an enormous cookbook as it should be since Jacques Pepin has aimed to cook down and encapsulate his entire career with it. I’ve been a fan of Pepin’s for years. I first got to know him as many did — through his televised PBS cooking series with Julia Child — Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. I love how at ease they are with one another. Jacques prefers black pepper, Julia prefers white and they bicker about it on camera. You get their character and humor unlike a lot of today’s highly groomed food television folks. I also really enjoyed reading Pepin’s The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. If you’re looking for an engaging read that takes you through the learning and becoming of a chef read it. It’s such a good book.

I’d been talking about how I wanted Essential Pepin, which came out in fall 2011, for awhile and then one day out of the blue my ex-boyfriend’s mom sent it to me in the mail. Love her. Here are some of the things that I’ve cooked from it…

The first dish I made from Essential Pepin is the chicken diable and it turned out great -- pan seared chicken with a red wine vinegary tomato sauce. Served it with sauteed sprouts, hazelnuts and white rice.

I often give scraps and trimmings to my dog but I made cracklings out of some of the skin since there was so much. Yum.

Really good breakfast the next morning with the leftovers.

I cooked up a big batch of Pepin's kidney bean and beef chili and got a lot of use out of it mixed with rice and coconut milk for dinner and sauteed up with eggs here for breakfast.

Pepin's not so pretty but very tasty lentil bulgur soup.

Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Pub. date October, 2011
704 pages
$40, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Cook the Book — The Toro Bravo Cookbook

February 25th, 2013

This is one of my favorite Toro Bravo dishes -- the radicchio salad with tapenade crostini. If I didn't write the cookbook I'd buy it just for these two recipes. Perfect.

Even though we’ve finished testing and editing all of the recipes for The Toro Bravo Cookbook (due out October 1, McSweeney’s) by now, I’ve been cooking them all again at home because they’re delicious and I love them and also because you can never test a recipe too many times and in too many kitchens. This kind of obsessive behavior makes my friends happy since they get to eat more Toro food.

We’re finishing up the essay edits for the cookbook now too so from here on out this project that we’ve been working on for two-plus years is going to look and feel more like an actual book. We’ve gotten some really rough layouts and of course those are amazing. Wouldn’t expect any less from the fine McSweeney’s team. Here’s a little of what you can look forward to cooking and eating from the comfort of your home when the Toro Bravo Cookbook out this fall. Hope all is well!

Toro's tapenade chock full of tarragon, anchovies and red onion...

Toro's salty preserved lemons. They take 6 weeks to cure and mine are halfway there...

I'm going to do a full post on this soon but for now over the holidays my brother and I brewed the Toro Bravo Red (Breakside Brewery + Toro's recipe) in Cincinnati. He and his wife mailed me a couple bottles once it was ready so that we could try it for the first time together.

We toasted and tasted it together via Skype. Delicious!

A little closer...

Toro Bravo's limoncello. Grated my thumb but worth it. Two bottles of limoncello in the freezer!

Vodka and lemon rind combined...

Limoncello wrapped and ready for the wait...

Toro's limoncello strained after 30 days and into the freezer. Been drinking it the past couple nights and it is so good. Lemony goodness.

The Toro Bravo Cookbook: The Making, Breaking and Riding of a Bull (coming soon to a bookstore near you! Publishes Oct. 1st, 2013)
McSweeney’s
www.torobravopdx.com

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

July 16th, 2012

I love this book.

I’d never heard of Joe Beef until shortly after the Montreal restaurant’s cookbook The Art of Living According to Joe Beef came out this fall. The cookbook published by Ten Speed got so much buzz early on that I felt like I had to at least pick it up and see what the talk was about. I knew it had a foreword by David Chang and all sorts of big name, glowing blurbs from Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and Alice Waters and wondered if it was as good as they claimed it was.

There are very few cookbooks that I’ve read cover to cover but a few that I have include Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine, a couple James Beard Cookbooks, At Home on the Range and Wild Fermentation. I’m reading the Joe Beef cookbook essay by essay and recipe by recipe. I’m learning a lot. I love the narrative and voice and how the book goes well beyond the template that most cookbooks follow and gets to the heart of the matter — why cook and why Joe Beef?

One of my favorite parts so far is the book’s third chapter on trains. Joe Beef co-owner Frederic Morin has a deep and loyal love for trains and as a reader you get to take a 17 hour train ride from Montreal to Moncton on “The Ocean” — the oldest continuously operated train route in North America — with Joe Beef chef-owners Morin and David McMillan, Joe Beef cookbook writer Meredith Erickson and the book’s photographer Jennifer May. They drink from Fred’s “traveling-salesman bar kit, complete with bottles of vermouth, gin, Johnny Walker, and Fernet Branca.” They listen to Neil Young and eat all sorts of delicious food including Black Forest Cake and Canadian wine. The recipes follow the essays — “The following recipes are inspired by and meant for train travel…” including Tiny Sausage Links, Chicken Jalfrezi, Beer Cheese and Dining Car Calf Liver.

I’ve only cooked a couple things from the book so far — the hot Daube de Joues de Boeuf Chaude (page 246) and the Kale for a Hangover (page 202) and they were both super tasty. I’m looking forward to cooking more and reading more. I hope that future cookbooks follow suit with deeply personal and complicated narrative and essays (and Smorgasbord centerfolds! That’s right.) that push the envelope of what a cookbook can be.

Joe Beef's Hot Daube de Joues de Boeuf Chaude over mashed potatoes.

Before setting it to braise...

A couple hours later...

Joe Beef's potato ricer mashed potatoes.

I didn't have a hangover but Joe Beef's Kale for a Hangover cured me of something I'm sure.


The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

By Frederic Morin, David McMillan & Meredith Erickson
fall 2011
292 pages
$40 Ten Speed Press

At Home on the Range presented by Elizabeth Gilbert

June 25th, 2012

McSweeney's reprint of Elizabeth Gilbert's great-grandmother's cookbook At Home on the Range.

I went to San Francisco in late April to meet with McSweeney’s, visit friends and a city that I’ve missed and haven’t been to in five years. I was really excited to meet with the fine folks at McSweeney’s because as I’ve mentioned here before — working with them on the Toro Bravo Cookbook is a dream come true. The only plans I had with them were to stop by the office after I arrived and a couple days later have dinner with some of them. When all was said and done I ate ice cream that David Byrne, yes that David Byrne, had delivered to the McSweeney’s office while they finished up his book How Music Works which comes out later this summer and gone out for drinks and then dinner with the majority of the fine folks of McSweeney’s and a very special someone.

If it had been just me visiting McSweeney’s I bet two at the most three people from the publishing house I would’ve come out to dinner but the morning of I texted my editor and she said something to the tune of when we’d meet, where (Mission Chinese Food) and oh, Elizabeth Gilbert is coming to dinner too. What the fuck?!

I could go on and on about how generous, warm, and smart Elizabeth is because she is (She reached out for my arm as we walked into Mission Street Chinese and asked me to sit next to her at dinner so we could talk. Above and beyond. I couldn’t have been happier about that and the rest of the night.) but instead I’ll turn to the book that brought her to San Fransisco and therefore dinner that night.

It’s the book above — a reprint of her great grandma Margaret Yardley Potter’s cookbook At Home on the Range which originally published in 1947. It turns out that Dave Eggers had been talking about doing some sort of a charitable book collaboration with Elizabeth when she came across her great grandmother’s cookbook. Would Mr. Eggers like to reprint it and give all the proceeds to ScholarMatch and 826 Valencia? Why yes he would.

Fast forward to me getting my first package of books from the McSweeney’s Book Release Club which I just became a member of…

My first box of books arrived for the McSweeney's $100 for 10 books Book Release Club...

With three incredible books including…

Two down, one to go!

I started reading At Home on the Range on a Saturday and I finished it on a Saturday. The same Saturday. It is that good. If you like what I write about here — DIY cooking projects, gardening, food adventures and all sorts of other eat, drink and be merry things I think you’re really going to enjoy this book.

I’ve only cooked two things from it so far — a classic meatloaf and the chicken cacciatore — and both were delicious. The recipes are all written as this one below — in paragraphs and often with more insight and voice than ingredients. Page after page of honest and full-of-life stories.

Some selections from At Home on the Range:

“So go our culinary ways with confidence and without apology. Use only one standard in trying out strange foods or seasonings: that you like the result.”

“‘Which is more necessary in the house, the bed or the stove?’ has almost as much chance of being satisfactorily answered. Granted that the three most important happenings in life, birth, marriage and death, take place in bed; three equally vital occurrences, breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily owe their success to the stove.”

Followed by this advice for a new couple to purchase the best bed and stove they can afford:

“Don’t rush either purchase, for these important articles, like a husband, should last a lifetime if well selected.”

At Home on the Range meatloaf recipe.

All together now.

Filled with three unsliced hardboiled eggs and topped with bacon.

And a can of tomato soup...

Slice and serve!

Chicken cacciatore over spaghetti with arugula hazelnut pesto.

At Home on the Range
Presented by Elizabeth Gilbert
Written by Margaret Yardley Potter
pub. date April, 2012
originally published in 1947
240 pages
$24, McSweeney’s Books

Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan

June 11th, 2012

Marisa McClellan's new book includes 100-plus recipes for canning and preserving...

Although you can, of course, can and preserve food and drink year-round the really fruitful time for both is just around the corner. If you want a new book to keep you company and guide you through the putting-by time consider Marisa McClellan’s just published book Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year Round (Running Press, May 2012, hardcover, 240 pages) which shares the name of her popular food blog. Although McClellan lives in Philadelphia now she’s a born-and-raised Portlander and she’ll be in town this week to promote her inspiring DIY book.

According to McClellan: “Unlike other books on canning and preserving, Food in Jars offers small-batch recipes ideal for tiny kitchens.”

I haven’t had a chance to cook from Food in Jars yet but I’m looking forward to these recipes amongst others: rhubarb jam with strawberries and oranges, strawberry vanilla jam, Meyer lemon jelly, zesty lime curd, pickled brussels sprouts, blueberry lemon syrup, and chocolate hazelnut butter.

Thursday, June 14th @ KitchenCru 6:30-8:30pm — Marisa will teach a canning class on the basics of boiling water batch canning while making a batch of take-home strawberry lemon jam. Sign up for the $60 class here.

Saturday, June 16th @ Powell’s Books on Hawthorne 2-4pm — Marisa will sign copies of Food in Jars and be available for any and all canning questions.

Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
by Marisa McClellan
pub. date May, 2012
240 pages
$23, Running Press
www.foodinjars.com