Sunday, March 18, 2012


My friend, Patty told me this week on the phone, time for a new posting, and she's right. So much is going on an usual.

The book:  As I've mentioned to several friends, and have alluded to here, I'm neck-deep in the creation of a cookbook, which I conceived last summer as my business was failing. The concept was an appetizer-to-desserts, all-purpose cookbook based on the last 30 years of The Oregonian's FoodDay pages. It seemed to me that Portland's largest circulation daily newspaper had witnessed the full flowering of the city as a foodie destination with chefs flocking to Portland to open restaurants (easier to do because of cheap rents, lower costs and overhead).  The result is a city that has full embraced a sustainable farm-to-table food culture, great farmer's markets, superb local artisanal suppliers and retailers.  THE OREGONIAN COOKBOOK was green-lighted by the paper in December, and we've all been scrambling to get the book put together and ready for an October, 2012 publication.  My work has been on two special chapters; one devoted to James Beard, who was born and raised in Portland, and the other a section showcasing the recipes of the area's most influential chefs.  So I'm feeling like a very busy entrepreneur/publisher and have added publicist to the mix, which will intensify once the book is reaching retail outlets throughout the state next fall.  One of the most pleasurable aspects of this project has been working with Katherine Miller, The Oregonian's gracious and knowledgeable food editor.

 Bottom of the stairs with the old storage closet ready for the orange peel finish on the walls.

All the mudding is done and the room is ready for the wall finish before we paint. 
Notice the windows are not framed yet.  

The closet now has a door.

Windows await framing.

I'm finally getting the basement bedroom re-built.  A previous owner had knocked on my door and asked to see what sort of changes had happened in the house since she had moved in 2001.  I showed her the work from the previous owners, who I had assumed had done much of the renovation themselves. What I discovered was this woman and her husband had created the new addition to the house in 1996, which included a new kitchen/dining area, the master bedroom, closet and bath, and a new foundation for this addition, which had been fused to the old foundation. When I took her to the basement, she expressed shock that the rooms were stripped of walls, flooring, framing, etc. She told me there had been a fourth room. This made sense because there had been a bathroom with a shower stall and toilet just off of that room and they were no longer operational.  I suspect the leaks that had suddenly begun to appear the second year I was living in the house, were the reason those rooms had been stripped.

The stairway with the new storage shelf.

 Ready for priming and painting.

 Framed window, one of two wide ones, will give extra light in a normally dark basement.

Finally the pocket door to the bathroom (not yet begun), is in and operational.

At the minute, the project is a near-completed bedroom, with a few finishing touches, paint and carpet to go before it's ready to occupy.  I've installed an egress window to make it a legal fourth bedroom. King studs now properly support the weight of the back of the house.  Previously, that weight was resting on the window frames, which were bowing, and eventually would cause the collapse of those windows--all of it improperly installed. The stairwell, has been finished, and the storage area enclosed with a door.  The overhead wall at the bottom of the stairs had been moved back so banging your head is no longer an unpleasant option. There is even a storage shelf for canned and jarred foods, including my jams and pickles. Bev, my roommate will be moving downstairs when it is completed.  The bathroom is next, hopefully that work will begin in a few weeks.

The ornamental cherry tree just beginning to bloom.

My white camellia should be starting to bloom next week and for the next two weeks or so, I'll have these gorgeous blooms to remind me that it's not too much longer until we'll see the beginnings of a real spring and summer, though with the rains, summer never officially begins in Portland until after July 4th weekend. The ornamental cherry is just beginning to bloom, as are the euphorbia with their brilliant displays of chartreuse blooms that manage to look almost other-worldly. Grape hyacinths are budding, as  are the tulips.  The lilac is also budding, and the hydrangeas have sprouted leaves both inside the house (where a potted hydrangea awaits planting outside) and in the front and back yards. I cut the rose bushes way back in early February, and already I'm seeing new branches-to-be leafing out. Time to start looking for a big amount of dirt to dump into the vegetable planter so that process can begin with garlic and French radishes, and all-new herbs.  One delightful surprise in my back yard was the discovery that a delicate plant I bought at the annual hearty plants show here in Portland last spring, had come back. The plant is called a fritolaria--a fragile looking tiny bloomer, not unlike a small orchid.  It had completely disappeared along with another version after it's blooming time was over, so it was a nice surprise to see it back and nearly flowering.

The surprising return of fritolaria, a plant I thought was gone after it stopped blooming last spring.

Last fall I dumped a bunch of unplanted tulip and daffodil bulbs into this pot and  ignored it all winter when I should have just planted them at the end of the dog run on the side of the house.  Look how they rewarded me for my neglect.  They are on the verge of blooming. There's no dirty inside this planter bucket. 

The annual Willamette Weekly (our best alternative newspaper) 2012 edition of "Cheap Eats" has just appeared, and I poured over the list, making notes about little-known food gems to visit.  Friday, I took myself to lunch at the Eastmoreland Market and Kitchen.  I first met Diane Morgan, an excellent cookbook writer who lives here, at this market when I first moved to Portland.  I had admired it's excellent selection of Spanish and Italian products, such as Valencia rise, risotto, important canned tomatoes, coffee, preserved lemons, cheeses, faro, wines, and other products.  What struck me the most about this market is that it is in the middle of a block of residents on a street without any other type of business.  It's been there for years.  The owners, who ran the Tuscany Grill in NW Portland for twelve years live nearby and saw its potential.  In addition to the market, which also sells produce and some meat, the place is also a place for takeout meals and they serve superb sandwiches, mostly of their own creation, coffee and pastries.  I decided on the strength of "Cheap Eats" to go there for a Cubano, one of my very favorite New York guilty-pleasure sandwiches.  But when I got there and saw something called a Rudy--very lightly breaded calamari dusted with smoked paprika, Serrano ham, manchego cheese, baby arugula and a spicy aioli sauce--the Cubano was placed on hold for another visit. I just had to have that combination of things and when it arrived, it was a zesty and flavorful combination that should be an instant classic everywhere.  Man that sandwich was killer good!  I got to talk to the chef, and the personable owners, and finish off the Saturday crossword puzzle--a great respite and a wonderful easement into the weekend.

The first loaf of sandwich bread out of the new machine.  Took about three hours from switching the 
machine on until the loaf is finished baking.

My Breadman bread machine died this week after some sixteen years or so of mighty use. For some time it had sat on the top shelf of my New York kitchen cabinet, while I indulged my passion for no-knead bread.  I was done with a bread machine, I told myself, and intended to leave it in the laundry room in the building's basement along with a cookbook and an encouraging note to anyone who might want to have it.  At the last minute, I simply packed it along with a lot of other things I didn't intend to bring with me. When Kyle was living here, I got pretty tired of shelling out $4 a loaf for bread we needed for sandwiches.  I pulled out the bread machine once a week, it sent forth lots of interesting breads, some of my own adaptations as well as from the recipe books that had managed to creep into my collections. While it is deeply satisfying to make your own bread, it becomes a chore when you are doing it on a regular basis.  The machine does all the work for you.  I have used the machine to mix, knead and rise pizza doughs, focaccias, and rolls. I've made a braided dill loaf for Thanksgiving dinner for more than 30 years. It easily adapted to the machine whether I just use it for mixing and raising the dough before baking it in the oven, or turning it into rolls.  This new machine does lots of useful things such as making bread pudding baking gluten-free loaves or making jam!

What's really cool about this spigot is that it swivels!

And finally, I replaced the awful sink and counter top in the guest bathroom.  Don't know what took me so long.  The new trough sink with it's granite counter top is beautiful.

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