Tag Archives: Guest Post

Food Porn: Garlic Knots from Portland’s Bella Faccia

Garlic Knots, Bella Faccia, Portland, Oregon

Now I’m not much of a food porn kind of gal, but as I sat at one of my favorite pizzerias for lunch last week, I realized that the very epitome of my own personal food porn was waiting on the plate before me. The heavenly scent, the doughy texture, enough garlic to fend off a whole hoard of vampires – behold, the glory of garlic knots!

Sure, the quirky Bella Faccia Pizzeria, located on Portland’s northeast side in the Alberta District, is well known for it’s fabulous 18″ round pies, but me, I prefer a decadent plate of bite-sized goodness for my noon-time cravings. The knots, lovingly tied together and served with a red dipping sauce, are perfect with a fresh Caesar salad and the sweet nectar of a Henry Weinhard’s root beer. If you haven’t had a chance to stop in, I encourage you wholeheartedly. And feel free to note your (or your child’s) height on their orange wall as well, where many a past patron has left their mark.

Bella Faccia Pizzeria
2934 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 282-0600

spicy green bean stir-fry, or cook your veggies lighting-fast

How did summer go by so quickly? It’s as if I blinked and if was gone. And I’m ready for fall, not just yet, despite the fact that fall is my favorite season. Perhaps it’s because this summer, especially August were such busy months at work, that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the usual lull of the month. Or maybe it’s because this has been one of the most enjoyable summers I can recall, with lots of new and exciting projects, including this one.
green beans and peppers sauteed in spicy sauce

But I suppose, everything has an upside, including summer coming to a close. Like my last trip to the green market last week rendered me positively giddy: fresh and ripe tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, Swiss chard, green beans among others. Since I haven’t had green beans in ages, I had to grab a small bag, but not before filling my bags to the brim with various produce. And so like this, I ambled home, beaming from my wonderful finds.

A few days had passed and the green beans were still peering at me from the crisper. I would grab a few each time I went to look for something in the fridge, wash them, and then eat them raw, reveling in their crisp flavors. But I wanted to cook them, if only a little bit, so that their vibrant green color stood out more. And yet the recipes I found didn’t really get me all that excited. Steaming the beans and drizzling lemon juice over them seemed very predictable, and even though that has always been my preferred way to eat these little green guys, I wanted to do something more exciting.

green beans and peppers sauteed in spicy sauce

And so I figured, why not give it a slight Asian twist, add a bit of ginger, some spicy sauce, slice a pepper into the mix and just sauté ever-so-lightly? And that is exactly what I did, spending perhaps not twenty minutes in the kitchen. Making a meal in such a short time feels almost like cheating. Glorious, time-saving cheating.

toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove
½ lb green beans
1 green pepper
a sprinkling of sesame seeds
chili garlic sauce (available at Asian grocery stores)
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce (available at Asian grocery stores)

In a small glass combine the last three ingredients and set aside. You will need this sauce later for flavoring your vegetables.

In a walk or a non-stick skillet, heat a little bit of sesame oil, add ginger and let it flavor the oil for a minute. Reduce heat and add the garlic clove and allow it to flavor the oil, but not brown – after a minute or two remove the garlic clove and turn up the heat again. Add the green beans and the garlic and sauté, stirring quickly – you want the vegetables to be lightly coated in oil, not swimming in it, so be sure not to add too much oil in the beginning. Stir the vegetables for a couple of minutes until you see their color pop, then quickly add the spicy sauce mix and stir it around. Give it another minute and take off the heat, emptying your stir-fry in a bowl. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over and enjoy.

Note: if making this dish with tofu, be sure to add the tofu prior to adding the vegetables and sauté for a few minutes. As a garnish, cilantro would have really enhanced this meal, but we didn’t have any, so I had to make do with what we had.

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big flops

plum blueberry upside-down cake

Sometimes cooking is pure joy – relaxing and gratifying. Ingredients are effortlessly assembled, the cooking time is perfectly measured and the dish turns out exactly as you envisioned it. You feel like the King Midas of culinary world – whatever dish you touch turns to pure gold. Who needs restaurants when you can cook such great food?

Of course, there are times, when the opposite happens. Every dish you try to make somehow goes awry. The pastry dough will have too much water added to it, the soup will somehow become too salty and inedible, forcing you to pour its entire contents down the drain. I find that it is when I am stretched professionally that my kitchen skills falter.

I know, it's quite gross-looking!

In the last few weeks, the subprime woes have reared their ugly head. Bear Stearns’ hedge fund debacle sent jitters through the market, spilling into indices across the globe. And working in finance has been challenging and stressful, not to mention the hours seemed to grow longer and longer. Somehow my cooking skills and probably excitement faded after 14 hour work days. And I think that the food sensed it somehow and turned my tired, negative energy into a flop. Or rather two notable flops this week.

The recipe here adapted from Bon Appetit, seems to me like a good, wholesome recipe – plus its 98% approval rating indicates to me that the fault lies not in the recipe, but in my hands. I think that the reason it looks so disgusting on the picture (although it still tastes pretty good) is that I screwed up somewhere in the process. Where? When? I’m not too sure, my memory is very fuzzy on this matter. I remember rushing through it and wanting just to be done with it. I had plums I wanted to rescue and I had seen this recipe earlier and wanted to give it a go.

the plums were tasty, but lacked in looks

Sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed. I think that these flops are indicators that I need to recharge my own battery and take a breather – I’ve been working for the last 8 months without a break. And a break is precisely what I’m going to be doing starting tomorrow early morning, when KS and I will start our road trip to South Carolina where we’ll visit Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island and a few other places. We’ll eat fresh seafood, indulge in ice cream, bask in the sun (with sunblock, of course) and maybe take a golf lesson or two to pass the time. We’ll be back at the end of the week, well-rested and caught up on sleep!

Have a great week!

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
6 large plums, halved, pitted, each half cut into 6 wedges

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup milk

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir 6 tablespoons butter, brown sugar and honey in heavy medium skillet over low heat until butter melts and sugar and honey blend in, forming thick, smooth sauce. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Arrange plums in overlapping concentric circles atop sauce.

Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 6 tablespoons butter in large bowl until light. Add sugar and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in extracts. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, mixing just until blended. Spoon batter evenly over plums. Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool in pan 30 minutes.

Using knife, cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Place platter atop cake pan. Invert cake; place platter on work surface. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently lift off pan. Serve cake warm with whipped cream.

Serves 8.

Bon Appétit
June 1995

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My Indian Summer

the beacon of glorious food

I’ve often joked about how I must have been Indian in my past life. I can probably eat Indian food like comfort food every day. I have oversized bags of garam masala, asafoetida and black mustard seeds in my spice drawer. I crave salty lassis. My ultimate comfort food is jasmine rice with yogurt and lime pickle. I’ve waxed poetic about the flavors and spices to my friends and family.

For the last four days, I have had nothing but Indian food and it has been absolutely glorious. I’ve been asked if I’m tired of it, if I want something else, but I’m quite content eating as much pakora, naan, daal and other delicacies. I have wanted to recommend a few restaurants to you if you live in New York, or if you happen to be in town having the same craving for Indian food, I’ve had for the last week.

On Thursday night, to celebrate a very special occasion, KS and I went to Moksha – sinking our teeth into a lamb shank, fried lotus root, and spicy okra. The restaurant is peaceful, quiet, beautifully lit. At the entrance, over the bar, there’s a reclining statue greeting you. The food is creative new Indian cuisine as opposed to a more casual, traditional fare most of us are used to – but make no mistake, the dishes are expertly prepared and beautifully served. My one regret and wish was to see a better, more extensive wine and cocktail list – it kind of seemed like an after-thought to the food, but could have been a wonderful complement.

Friday night, as KS was hosting a boys’ poker night, a friend and I went to sample exotic cocktails and Indian street food at Bombay Talkie. The place, a recommendation from a friend was just the perfect continuation of the Indian fix I needed. My salty lassi went perfectly with my eggplant and beans and my friend, enjoying her Chicken briyani, remarked that her lychee martini was the best she ever had. Another upside of Bombay Talkie is its dangerous proximity to Billy’s Bakery – the place of dreamy cupcakes, delectable ice box cakes, and heavenly cookies. While not Indian desserts, the treats are worth saving a space in your stomach. I was a bit greedy at Bombay Talkie. Next time however, Billy’s Bakery is on my list!

Saturday afternoon found us in Southampton for a company barbecue and what luck, it was catered by Diwan. Delectable samosas, spicy lamb, saag paneer and much more floated past us and I was quite greedily and happily shoving all of it in my mouth whenever a tray passed me by. For dessest, kulchi – my favorite – ice cream so creamy and ever-so-lightly flavored with pistachios. Diwan, which serves some of the most remarkable Indian food in the city, is also responsible for bringing us Jackson Diner, which incidentally, is where we found ourselves Sunday afternoon.

I know, most people would probably opt for something lighter in this heat and humidity. But not us. Give us chana masala and goat curry or else! The thing about Jackson Diner is how well run the establishment is. Besides serving up some of the best Northern Indian cuisine around, the buffet served on Sundays from 12-4pm is only $9.95 per person. Did I mention it is all-you-can-eat? As in you could have 2 full plates (and that’s an achievement) and still go back for more. They won’t say anything, but you might just go into an eternal food coma. This food isn’t light.

I know, it sounds like I would swear off Indian food forever, but quite the contrary – I cannot get enough. In fact, I was really craving a dosa for lunch today. But I forced myself to have a salad instead, telling myself over and over that variety is indeed the spice of life. But perhaps tomorrow, there might just be a dosa in my future!

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And now, the end is near, and so I face the final… blog posts.

My time as guest blogger is almost at an end here on Accidental Hedonist. So, much like a senior who can see graduation coming (and also like a woman who has her non-metaphorical mother-in-law visiting), this week’s post is a little bit of a blow off.

In short, I’m taking suggestions for the topic of my second-to-last post, to be posted 20 May 2007. Post your idea within the comments below (no later than 12 May, giving me at least a week to prepare and/or buy any unusual ingredients), I’ll pick the one I like best, and enshrine it forever here in the AH archives.

Start thinking and get those ideas in soon!


Where have all the Apis mellifera gone?

Where are all the honey bees?
You may have already heard: bees are disappearing by the millions — and no one really knows why.

If you haven’t heard, let me bring you up to date. It’s being called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and it’s like nothing else scientists have ever seen before.

Adult worker bees are literally disappearing. A hive that was healthy just weeks before will be opened by the beekeeper to find only a handful of adult bees, or sometimes, none at all. The queen is still there, the larvae are still there, but no worker bees.

The weirdest part? There’s also no dead bees. Ordinarily, when bees are struck by mites or poisoned by pesticides, there are dead bees in or around the hive, but this? It’s like the bee rapture: they’re just gone. And no bee corpses means no wee autopsies can be done to figure out what’s going on.

Why should you care? So what, I’ll just live without honey, you say? What does this mean for you and me? A lot.

At least one-third of all US agriculture rests on bees — that’s anywhere from 12 to 15 billion dollars of crops every year pollinated by bees. Almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, kiwi fruit, macadamia nuts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, legume seeds, pumpkins, squash, and sunflowers: 90% to 100% of their pollination comes from honey bees.

I emailed Dr. Dewey Caron, of the University of Delaware’s Department of Entomology and Applied Ecology, asking what we can expect if CCD becomes more widespread. “Short term,” he writes, “might see a small increase in about three or four dozen commodities that rely on pollination… longer term, we will just end up importing more of the foods we eat.”

That is, assuming the foods are imported from countries where CCD has yet to appear. Spain, Croatia, Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, and the UK are all experiencing large, mysterious losses of honey bees.

I also asked Dr. Caron what the average person could do. “We do need better funding for this basic critical connection in agriculture. [The] farm bill is up for change/renewal. Start local and work to federal level as interest permits.”

Other than that… I don’t know. I guess we just wait.

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Mysterious Produce of Washington Heights

According to New York City’s Department of City Planning, between 80% to 90% of my neighbors are of “Hispanic Origin (of any race)” — but anyone who’s been to this part of Washington Heights knows almost everyone here is from the Dominican Republic. As a result, I often run into fruits and vegetables that I’ve never eaten or even seen before.

Recently, when I saw naranja agria, I remembered enough high school Spanish to know it meant “bitter orange” but I had no idea what anyone would want to do with them. Eat them? Juice them? Pity them for looking like they do?

you'd be bitter too, if you were this ugly

My husband theorized, “I’d be bitter, too, if I were that ugly.”