Backyard to Table: A Cooking Reminder

Finding good food in Portland does not seem like a difficult task. Everywhere you turn offers a craft cocktail, a beer brewed up the street, fish fresh from the coast and mushrooms handpicked in the misty wildwood of the Oregon back country.

But after a while, the delicious food scene either numbs your palate to deliciously prepared, well-sourced delicacies or you start to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of restaurants to try.

IMG_3911

 

Don’t get me wrong– I adore the food scene in PDX. I’ll even give you a list of my handpicked favorites to try should you ever visit.



And believe me when I say the food scene out here is the best in the US. If you think you’ve had good wings, you absolutely haven’t until you’ve tried Whiskey Soda Lounge‘s fish sauce wings. Those would probably be my last meal should I ever leave this place.

Despite all of this goodness, you know what resonates the most with me these days?

The tiny garden in the backyard.

Portland can tell me all day long (and it does) that they ‘source locally’ and ‘pick from the garden’ and establish ‘farm to table’ connections. But despite their best efforts and their tremendous successes, there is nothing that can compare from a fresh red tomato plucked off the vine, still warm from the sun.

Their farm to table and my farm to table are tremendously different. Those were seeds we dug into the wet ground a few months back. (By ‘we,’ I will admit, my green-thumbed roommates did the heavy lifting since they don’t kill plants like I do.) Now they’re vegetables, big and ripe and bursting with wonder.

So, for the past week, I have made all meals at home. Despite one late-night run to the greasy spoon diner in Southeast after a ceiling-splitting worship jam from the talented Matthew Zigenis at Bridgetown Church, there has been no money spent at all on food this week.

I am lucky enough to know — and take advantage of– the wonderful folks at a local bakery who give me their day-old breads in exchange for coffee. I never have a shortage of thick, fresh, crusty loaves within reach. This is the springboard for every wonderful sandwich and toast imaginable.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
Pie, made with the fresh apples from the tree in the backyard. Also, arts and crafts day with the roommate. We are working on floral wreaths.

I am remembering with startling familiarity how wonderful it is to cook, elbow-deep in something crafty, tasty and new.

Plus, it’s cheaper. My wonderful fella and I are trying to hit up some overseas countries for some crazy Jesus-loving missions work in the next few months and are saving every penny possible to get there. Eating deliciously seems an easy way to do so– its hardly a sacrifice at all.

We’ve even gone so far as to build campfires and construct gourmet ramen noodles with one kettle and some random ingredients.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Gourmet fire ramen. 

Here’s to the friendly reminder that food doesn’t come from grocery stores. Food doesn’t come from restaurants. Food doesn’t come from well-meaning companies that send gift boxes.

Food comes from the earth, and it’s delicious that way.

 

Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Scones

This is a recipe for savory scones, and if I am being totally honest with you, the ‘scone’ part is jargon for ‘something to hold cheese and caramelized onions together.’

I won’t lie. If you like cheesy, buttery, savory things then you are in the right place. If you like low-carb, diet-friendly snacks… definitely the wrong place to be.

There’s no shame in a few pictures, though, is there?

IMG_0627IMG_0629

Enjoy with your afternoon coffee, hunched over a desk or kicked back with a book. These babies go with everything.


 

Ingredients:

1/2 c butter, cold, cubed IMG_0609

1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, also cubed

1/2 t salt

2 c flour

1 t baking powder

3/4 c milk

1/2 onion, sliced

Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of butter or oil. Raise heat to medium, add sliced onions and sauté until golden and caramelized.
  2. Drain onions using paper towel. (Remove excess oil.)

IMG_0616

3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, butter, cheese and onions. Coat all butter/cheese/onion pieces with flour.

4. Add milk and knead gently to combine. Add more milk if mix is too dry, but avoid over-mixing the dough. (The less you manipulate the dough, the softer and flakier it will be.)

IMG_0622

5. Separate into scone shapes, brush with egg wash if desired.

6. Bake at 375 until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool, serve.

7. Enjoy!

IMG_0631

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Luc Lac

I cannot tell you how glorious it is to type, “Late Night Eats” into my Google search bar and achieve a list of results.

Not one or two dingy places serving greasy-spoon breakfast fare or soggy burgers. Oh, no. This is Portland.

When I first caught wind of a late-night Vietnamese joint, I knew there would be a visit in my near future. I can’t get enough of the strange plethora of Asian cuisine here in the Pacific Northwest.

Enter Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen.

Their website self-describes them as, ‘one big, pho sling’n, fish sauce cookin’, cocktail pourin’, Portland lovin’ family.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

IMG_9068

.With a sleek interior décor that is both modern and tiny bit pretentious, they obviously do a lot of business, cramming plenty of hungry diners into their limited space.

They’re particular about seating. The evidence is, literally, written on the wall: no seating of incomplete parties, please order at the counter and, above all else, wait to be seated.

Luc Lac is open late, which is great once the dinner rush ebbs around nine. Deluging hungry audiences with bahn mi, vermicelli and more pho than you can imagine, Luc Lac takes evident pride in their fast-paced, high-quality food. Most days they remain open until midnight, on Fridays and Saturdays they are open until 4 AM.

IMG_9062

IMG_9057

To dine here late is a relief. You won’t get any greasy spoons, heavy midnight indulgences or snacks dripping in fryer oil. The atmosphere is sleek, a little indulgent and a warm, dimly-lit jewel among the grey rainy buildings.

IMG_9052

.Personally, I enjoyed the heck out of a vermicelli bowl. Laden with various samples of chicken, shrimp and pork, I somehow managed to consume the entire bowl.

They pride themselves on unique drinks, both virgin and alcoholic, of which I selected a coconut ginger ale concoction that was both pleasant and confusing to the palate.

bb

I can guarantee without a doubt this will become a regular late-night occurrence. Luc Lac has been praised by the likes of Bon Appetit and is obviously no stranger to floods of crowds.

If you’re in the mood for late-night eats (or any time, really!) this kitchen stands out among Portland’s sea of Vietnamese restaurants. Check them out here!

.

Filling the Hole

I dread waves of terror.

Every once in a while when I face the terrible, flooding feeling that leaves me wading through ankle-deep guilt, there is little I can turn to. I find myself clutching my Bible and a notebook and, after being sufficiently flattened for a minute, drag myself back up and realize, I’m hungry.

I know. Terror and guilt don’t demolish my appetite, they increase it. Ah, the burdens of food lovers.

Currently facing a controversial, cross-country move, I have found myself frequenting that shallow guilt pool often enough to prevent sufficient drying of my emotional socks.

My move to Portland, looming on the horizon, is a source of excitement and inspiration to me, the kind of feeling that lifts you up with a rollercoaster-like rush of, “This is my life! I’m doing it!” I’m going to pursue food writing, coffee culture and all sorts of marvelous opportunities currently unknown to me.

But, of course, equally as strong is the resistance. There are still logistical challenges to face, like housing and jobs and how I’m going to bike everywhere since I have no car. (I am telling myself it’s an ecologically friendly choice.) And there is no shortage of people who wish I would stay here, where it’s safe and close and decidedly un-risky.

I have found myself many a time with my hands on my hips, staring at the stove as though it holds the answers. What can I make, I asked myself, that will fill the hole?

Of course, the answer lay in the question. Egg in a hole! Simple, easy, fulfilling. I am about to share a recipe that fills my belly, warms my spirits and starts to dry the soggy wet bog of self-pity.

When you find yourself in a position similar to my own, trying to lift your spirits with an emotionally filling snack, I recommend filling the hole with an Egg in the Hole.

Enjoy!


Ingredients:

1 egg IMG_6875

1 slice of toast

1 T butter

1/2 onion, sliced

Goat cheese

Other toppings, like sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced ham, whatever is in your fridge are equally as filling and endlessly creative.


Directions:

IMG_6889

  1. 1. Using a cookie cutter, tin can or a knife (whatever is handiest) cut a hole out of the center of your toast.
  2. 2. Over medium heat, warm a pan. Butter your bread lightly on both sides and set evenly into the pan.
  3. 3. Crack the egg into a bowl. Dependent on the size of your bread and hole, you may need to discard some white. Use the egg to fill the bread hole.
  4. 4. Wait until the egg is cooked on the bottom and the toast is golden. Gently flip the bread over and cook the other side until the desired egg done-ness is reached.
  5. If using onion, saute over medium heat until caramelized and sweet. Top toast with onion and goat cheese.
  6. Eat and enjoy!