Tuesday, November 27, 2007

7.0 Bet on a Bottle of Smoke

Starring Erin, Mike, Jessica & Trent
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: The Royal Scam by Steely Dan

“While the music played, you worked by candlelight…”

6:01 am. My pillow was “filled by Louisville Bedding Co.” Now I know. Great. What byte of imperative knowledge did I replace with that revelation?

Jiminy! It’s Wednesday! The next article’s due tomorrow! Nice try, brain! Better get up and check the Internets to see what’s abuzz about “In the Sellwood Kitchen.”

Word on the web is that we’re “joyfully entertaining” and a “super good time.” Let’s see if we can sustain this zenith of informative hilarity. On to this month’s installment of ITSK!

Hi. Erin speaking. I know, right?! I’m writing! Right. Don’t worry – Mike will return. I’m just checking in. I’m writing, but that doesn’t mean Mike is cooking. He’s just asked me to give a report from the kitchen. He doesn’t regularly venture into that part of the house. It’s not that he isn’t helpful; it’s just that we have a 3 square foot kitchen and I prefer him to stay out! Moving on. Luckily, this month we received an unexpected invitation to our friends Jess and Trent’s house for dinner. I can’t tell you how relieved I was not to have to come up with a recipe. Sometimes I get this thing I call "chef’s block." Not like a knife block, it’s more like writer’s block, but with food.

So anyways, I told Trent I was happy to be a sous chef for a turn. He understood completely, and I started slicing cremini mushrooms. As soon as they hit the pan, Jessica began popping in and out of the kitchen more than usual. All the while, she kept her eyes on the sizzling fungi. She seemed concerned about something. Sweating with a desperate enthusiasm over the stove, I broke her glazed and penetrating stare. “Don’t worry,” I assured her, “there’s plenty for everyone. Now go back to your 15th century pedantic banter in the living room!”

Mike here. I’m back from… well, it’s really none of your business where I was. Ok, where did Erin leave off? “Sizzling fungi”, “penetrating stare”, “15th century…” Ah yes! Well, actually it was an American History textbook from 1939 that Jess owned. You see, this is usually how our friend dinners work. Erin and Trent cook. Jess and I babble pseudo-intellectually about the political climate and quantum mechanics. Or else, we’re watching "Cash Cab" while thumbing through the viciously honest chapters of Jenny McCarthy’s baby book. Yep, Prego and I loaf in the lounge while the chefs sweat like quilted pigs in hell’s kitchen. But Jess has an excuse, being an expectant mother. Me, I’m just lazy. Hey, that’s an excuse! If I weren’t so exhausted debating about which is the superior Steely Dan album, I’d rise from the couch to give you an update from the kitchen. Hey, Erin? How goes it?

Oh, you know, it goes... Well, we made “the” sauce (Trent’s pièce de résistance), sautéed the mushrooms, grilled the chicken, and cooked the pasta. We drank wine. I cut up some great crusty bread. We drank wine. Wait, did I say that already? Well, we did, and it was pretty tasty. Trent and I spent part of our cooking session daydreaming about running our own restaurant. If people are rude in our restaurant, we would be able to make them leave. I always wished I could do that when I was serving… It was a good dream. However, we soon realized we have no money to start such a business, and no business experience. Well, it’s good to have dreams anyhow. Overall it was a pretty good dinner-making experience. I think Trent and I are getting pretty good at cooking together. We’d better be – we’re cooking together for 16 people in the smallest kitchen EVER for Thanksgiving. If our friendship survives that, we’ll be unstoppable. Enough about that. You’ll read about it in the next article. Now, on to the food! I’ll let Mike take over; his enthusiasm for food makes for some highly-entertaining writing. No pressure, Mike!

Don’t worry – I’m a professional writer (let me give a “shout out” to my long-suffering brothers and sisters in the Guild). Well, before I knew it, dinner was served. I don’t know what those two in the kitchen were complaining about – it seemed to take no time at all. Heck, I got through seven chapters of that baby book!

How best to describe the meal? Ye Gods! What a flavor! Smoky, but not “stink bomb” smoky. Rather, it possessed a delicate elemental flavor, as if the essence of smoke had been captured in a bottle and… wait, I’m told the sauce derives its epithelial hue from something called “Liquid Smoke.” Go know, right? The sauce languishes over the superlatively-cooked penne, the chicken enmeshed in the furrowed quills! And of course, there is bread. (Note to ITSK-files: there is always bread.)

Jessica, charged with a burgeoning anticipation, enters the kitchen and is so overcome by the swirling scents of steam she clamps onto the table’s edge with a vise-like grip. Only her locked elbows fight the gravitational pull of this irresistible dish. She’s like James Brown after the encore, and she hasn’t even tucked in her napkin!

Saliva pools! Tongues beckon! Forsooth – even my isthmus of the fauces yelps with curious delight! What power hath this entrée over us? Is it succulence or succubus!

Why, it’s friend dinner, done to perfection, once again!


The Sauce
Equal parts flour and butter to form a roux
2 cups whole milk
1.5 teaspoons liquid smoke
1.5 teaspoons Frangelico or hazelnut syrup
Salt to taste

The Rest
Cremini mushrooms, sautéed to perfection
2 Chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
Penne pasta

Serve sauce, mushrooms and chicken over pasta. Enjoy with crusty bread, good wine, and friends!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com

Sunday, October 28, 2007

6.0 Our Chef in Sellwood

Starring Erin, Mike & Allee
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Planet Waves by Bob Dylan / Our Man in Paris by Dexter Gordon

A spooky dish awaits you at the end of this long, dark article! Brush away the cobwebs and… wait a minute. What’s today? The 1st? Rats! Halloween was yesterday! Oh well, so much for that meal!

The chill of Oregon’s autumn touches me with tendrils of mist. Brrr! Brrr! Brrring on the soup! Turn up the heat! Drop a platter on the turntable! How about Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves? Backed up by The Band, it sounds like November to me.

“On a Night Like This”: Dinner for three – our Maid of Honor is coming over! Erin begins creating the soup. What kind of soup? I’m not sure yet. She’s slicing up a kielbasa. Our kitten is skittish. Simba, our elder cat, is casual, airy. Subtle, even. They nest in the living room this evening. Rainclouds nudge their way through the suppertime sky.
“Tough Mama”: I nibble on candy corns, writing in a notebook on the coffee table. Erin peels sweet potatoes. The sidewalks of Sellwood are feathered with small yellowed leaves. The trees fade like flats of atmosphere, guiding your stare through depths of dappled orange.

“Something There is About You”: Mascara streaks down Erin’s face as she chops a yellow onion. I laugh – when did Alice Cooper get here? Next, celery is executed. Knock, knock… our guest arrives.

“You Angel You”: (Dylan flubs the first line – it’s great!) The stock pot’s on the stove top. Wine is poured. I abstain (for a change). Allee and Erin chat in the warm kitchen. Wonderful smells start wafting into the living room. Sometimes I help with the cooking. But tonight I’m too occupied with writing. Or acting like I’m writing. I put on a new album, Our Man in Paris by Dexter Gordon. I found it for fifty cents. Scratched to heck, but his horn leaps from the ragged grooves. I read the liner notes. They’re by Nat Hentoff. You know…Nat Hentoff? Oh, forget it. Can you hear someone rolling their eyes? I think I just did.

“Scrapple from the Apple”: She’s putting apples in the soup! It appears to be a variation on mulligatawny! Erin cooks like Ornette Coleman plays horn. It’s free jazz! Better – it’s free soup! She’s bebopping with the spices!
“A Night in Tunisia”: Soup’s on! But not just soup! There’s homemade biscuits! (When did that happen?) Steam rushes from their split sides. The soup is… transplendent! Two bowls, I eat. I’m stuffed. I can’t eat another bite. Erin brings each of us a slice of warm apple pie (she baked that, too) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I guess I can eat another bite.

At the core of Erin’s commitment to cooking is a restless desire to learn. Before I lay down for the night, I ask Erin a question. She answers, “No, I’m not wholly satisfied at the moment; my recipes are just beginning.”

Thanks to Nat Hentoff and Dexter Gordon.


1 yellow onion
2 carrots
1 apple
1 kielbasa
3 celery stalks
2 small cans diced tomatoes
1 quart of vegetable broth
I cup of water
I sweet potato
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of curry powder
Dash Nutmeg, cumin, salt & pepper
1 cup of chopped parsley

Brown sliced kielbasa. Set aside. Sautee diced onions, celery, carrots and garlic in stock pot for a few minutes. Add broth, kielbasa, diced sweet potato, diced apple and water. Spice with curry powder, a dash of nutmeg, a pinch of cumin and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. After simmering, stir in fresh chopped parsley. Ladle into bowls. Serve with homemade biscuits (oh yeah, that’s another recipe!). Enjoy with any one of Dylan’s early-70s albums.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

5.0 A New Pork State of Mind

Starring Erin, Mike, Adam & Josh
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Selling England by the Pound by Genesis

“So I married the chef! But fear not! Not even the greatest honeymoon since the dawn of room service will deny our adoring public the latest offering from the Sellwood Kitchen.”

That’s how I started this article back in August. What was I thinking? We were on our honeymoon! In Disneyland! The last thing on my mind was everything! Except us.

Now here we are, a month later, the September issue on your coffee table, or recycling bin, and the October issue fresh out of your mailbox.

So now what? How do I present this latest recipe? I always try to think of new wrapping to deliver each meal. Let’s go with this…

Late in July, Erin and I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with our friends Adam and Josh in their Sellwood home. As usual, I just sat, quaffed an English-style old porter, and watched Erin and Adam cook. Josh, working late, was also spared what I call the misfortune of slaving over a hot stove.

Lounging in Adam and Josh’s living room is a visual feast. Adam’s a collector. A connoisseur of the hidden treasure. He likes to dust off the 1950s and set it in his early 21st century duplex. Adam’s found gold at the Goodwill Outlet, but all I ever got was a sneezing fit. Well, what do you expect? It’s a warehouse full of dusty junk. Or is it?

The living room’s filled with old 78s, magazines with ads for the “kitchen of the future,” roller skates with nicked metal wheels, electric fans and mixers, a Royal typewriter, and pastel painted kitchen gadgets galore – none of which, I’m relieved to say, was harmed in the preparation of this month’s meal.

And what, pray tell, complements newlyweds and antiquarians? Why, pan-seared pork loin with fennel! Fennel, I’ve recently discovered, carries the flavor of licorice in its spicy materialization. I loathe licorice. But fennel? Wow! What a delightful hue! Of course, there was more than just pork, yet another delicacy I’ve come to appreciate with age. Our old friend, the roasted rosemary red potatoes (say that 3 times fast!) A green salad with mint/lime dressing served as the delectable roughage.

The beverage of choice, Sweet Lambrusco, a sparkly Italian varietal wine, inspired both chefs and diners, after the meal, to leave the dishes…


2 Boneless Pork Loins
Salt & Pepper
White wine
Olive Oil

Season two pork loins with salt, pepper, fennel and rosemary. Sear in pan with olive oil until browned. Add a splash of white wine. Bake at 350 degrees (20 minutes per pound). Mix sliced red potatoes in bowl with olive oil, minced garlic and chopped rosemary. Roast in pan with pork loin. Plate and serve. Flip through pages of Good Housekeeping, April 1957.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com

Sunday, August 5, 2007

4.0 "Inside" the Sellwood Kitchen

Starring Erin & Mike
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood

Julia Child. Graham Kerr. Boyardee. Ray and Flay. Beard and Bourdain. M.F.K. Fisher! Prudhomme, Lagasse, and Elzar. Don’t forget DeLuise! And Private Igor Straminsky (through early morning fog I see)!

You know them all. Really — you do! But who are we? Who is there, “in the Sellwood kitchen?”

Well, we’re probably not as exciting as the chefs and food writers listed above — excluding, maybe, DeLuise — but I might be the only writer who types to Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express”. So while Erin prepares this month’s recipe, I’ll put forth a vague origin of our career.

Zephyrs of rosemary swirl into the living room. A thick candle burns on the coffee table, animated by the rotating floor fan. It’s July. It’s hot. And I drift back to the kitchens of my youth.

The scene: A Queens, New York, kitchen, where I was so young I can only remember the smell of warm cookies. The old record player spins John Denver and Peter, Paul & Mary. With so many crumbs on my shirt I could be confused with a fly strip. Of course, I ate other foods there, but most of it from small glass jars.

A majority of my memories emanate from the kitchen of my childhood home in Old Bethpage. More cookies, of course. Specifically, my mother’s famous chocolate chip cookies (“It’s just the recipe on the back of the chips bag,” she contends; but an unreplicable quality continues to infuse her legendary treat almost 40 years later). I’m a notorious consumer of cookies. A quick genealogy might rightfully pin me as half-Irish, half-Nabisco.

Mom’s a great cook. As a kid, my taste buds were slow to develop; I was never too concerned with flavor. Wait, that didn’t come out right! She made the best meals! Just nothing too exotic, thank goodness. What I’m saying is we ate a lot of chicken, potatoes, carrots, string beans, pork chops (yes, Pete, they were a little dry, but that’s what the apple sauce was for), hamburgers, and fish sticks and spaghetti (with a little ketchup) on Fridays. Hey, it was the 70s! We were German and Irish, and my mother chose the menu with that in mind. Spices? Yeah, salt and pepper! Foreign cuisine? I was deep in my teens before I ever had a taco (though we did go out for Chinese, on special occasions).

Around our house, we used to say there are those who “live to eat” and those who “eat to live”. I was the latter. Slim then, and thin now. I was thinking about getting a tattoo that says, “Just add sugar.”

Although the notion of two people starting a relationship with one designated as the cook (and historically, one who cooks like your mother) sounds daft these days, the quaint specter remains. My fiancé therefore did not need to be a classically-trained sous-chef. Can you bake a chicken? You’re hired. And, indeed, when Erin and I first met, she wasn’t much interested in cooking (her mother in fact warned me, “She doesn’t know how to cook”).

But one day Erin decided she was going to make a pie crust from scratch. So she did. And it was an ephiphanous success! I mean, she filled the pie crust; I wasn’t just sitting there eating pie crust with a dumb grin on my face. Blackberry pie, to be precise.

Empowered by her accomplishment (not only that she had baked a delicious pie, but that I dared to eat a pie involving any kind of berry — heck, I had my first cherry just the other day at the Moreland Farmers Market), she experimented in the kitchen. Fajitas! Tacos! Pasta and vegetable dishes! And more pies!

After that fateful day when we moved in together, into what would become the home of “In the Sellwood Kitchen”, she began to cook every night! Each meal more sumptuous than the last! The mulligatawny soup! The buffalo chicken tenders! Lime and mint vinaigrette! Her taming of the sweet potato! My taste buds rejoiced — suddenly I was addicted to spices! My mother’s cooking, her noble and steady recipes of starch, cellulose and protein, had built the sturdy stage on which Erin’s vibrant meals perform!

But what about the cookies? Erin hasn’t baked me chocolate chip cookies yet. She did make a few batches of Christmas cookies. And they were joyful! Just ask that Keebler elf that crashed our holiday get-together — he ate so many peppermint pinwheels he threw up in the crèche. In the culture of elves, that’s a huge compliment.

Actually, I’m the heir to Mrs. O’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve baked a few dozen in my day. That frees up Erin to cook every other meal I ever eat. Surprisingly, she doesn’t mind. We’re a batch made in heaven. Ha, ha. See what I did?

Let’s see what she’s cooking tonight. Wild rice is steaming in the cooker. Chicken breasts are baking in the oven. And she’s just brought out two small green salads (with red onions and parmesan). She’s whipped up a tangy dressing. To think I used to only employ French dressing. Now it tastes like ketchup to me. What else is that I smell? Yup, you guessed it! Sweet potato oven fries! Oh, they look awesome — sliced thin like half-moons!

OK, I gotta go. Here comes dinner! And my appetite is “Endless, Endless!”


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Extra virgin olive oil
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
A can of cream of mushroom soup
Salt & Pepper
Wild rice

In a casserole dish, drizzle extra virgin olive oil on chicken breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, chopped garlic and rosemary leaves. Spoon mushroom soup over chicken. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve over wild rice with sweet potato oven fries (suggestion: serve everything with sweet potato oven fries).

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

3.0 Out of the Kitchen, Endlessly Rocking

Starring Erin & Mike
Guest Starring Jessica & Trent
Filmed on Location at Beautiful Timothy Lake

“Timothy Lake? How can you call yourselves “In the Sellwood Kitchen” when you didn’t even prepare the meal in a kitchen in Sellwood?” Listen, how do you know we EVER make the meal in the kitchen? We could just as easily be breading veal in the bathroom!

No, not really. But Erin and I did take the article on the road this time. Camping. Cooking over a barbecue pit. But this was gourmet camp cooking! In homage to the Food Network’s program Iron Chef America, we dubbed our site “Campground Stadium.” We watch a lot of television, and refer to it often.

Our focus meal, conceived by Erin and our friend Trent, is a barbecued kebab served over warm pita bread. But we ate other exciting dishes as well. Though we didn’t bring dishes, just paper plates.

Thursday evening. Music: “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” by the Cowsills. Arrived at 9:00pm, “starving” like every other spawn of the last half of the American century, and quickly set up the tent, a monstrous mesh edifice called the “Taj Mahal.” And a fire was started. And delicious, compact pockets of food called Hobo Meals were generated, masticated and digesticated. Then guitars, singing, and sleep. But not before it rained. Hard. And I left the firewood uncovered. What do I know? I’m from Long Island!

Friday morning. Music: “Theme from a Summer Place” by Percy Faith. Woke up to some beautifully vicious chirps of an osprey nesting atop a tree next to the Taj. Brewed a pot of coffee (Fair Trade, organic from QFC – we don’t skimp Campground Stadium). Trent and I put the boat in the lake to set the crawdad trap, baited with a can of organic cat food (from Sellwood Dog Supply). Crawdads love cat food, even when it contains a close relative, the lobster (I guess that’d be like us eating monkey). We return to the camp, following a wafting trail of breakfast aroma. Pancakes, center-cut crispy bacon, Como toast (Grand Central’s finest!). (Sure, we’re not in Sellwood, but we brought a good deal of it with us.) Later Jessica would dump a little extra pancake batter into the fire, resulting in Bisquick-scented smoke. “This Fire Brought to You by IHOP,” I announce. We decide to “vote her off the island” ala “Survivor.” (We would all be threatened with that fate throughout the trip for our own indiscretions (mine being abandoning the firewood to the rain).

Friday evening. Music: “Night Moves” by Bob Seger. Time for the big meal. The barbecued kebabs (“Greece Meets West,” says Jess). Erin begins with the side dish: Seasoned Sweet Potato Grill Fries. The sweet potato has unquestionably become our tuber of choice these last few months. Erin dices one large sweet potato, adding the cubes to a freezer bag filled with extra virgin olive oil, chipotle peppers & adobo, Cajun seasoning, Garlic Lover’s garlic, and salt & pepper. The bag is then what can be best described as fondled until the sweet potatoes are coated in the sauce. The contents are poured into a makeshift tinfoil basket, sealed, and placed on the grill, over a coal bath.

Jessica, Erin and I could not contain our disgust for the condition of the well-loved grill of the campground’s barbecue pit. “Food that touches that grill shall not touch my lips.” Trent tried to convince the heat of the coals would just burn off the gunk. Steadfast, we declined his assumption. Our annoying reticence triggered his invention-adept mind to develop a satisfactory strategy to avoid any contact between million-year-old sticky carbon and our precious kebabs. Two separate “coals baths” were prepared: One nearest the grill upon which the tinfoiled sweet potatoes would simmer, and another sizzling from the concrete edge of the barbecue to a large sandstone Trent deposited in the middle of the pit. The skewers of the kebab stretched from the edge to the sandstone, the ingredients suspended unobstructed from the coals.

But what was on those skewers? Steak and vegetables, of course! Since Jess didn’t want any meat, the cooks skewered the vegetables separately. The steak, marinated in Trent’s “I’m Just Wild About Saffron Sauce”, was set over the fire first, because, you know, it takes longer to cook meat than vegetables (I’m just the recorder who places the order – the only time I cook is when I’m writing, baby).

When all the most delicious ingredients were perfectly grilled, they were doled out onto toasted pita breads, with a little garlic sauce squeezed on for safety’s sake (don’t vampires live in the woods?).

Served on a paper plate with those sweet potatoes, the kebabs were truly gourmet camping dishes. Another triumph by Chefs Erin and Trent! Jessica and I declared our significant others Campground Stadium’s champions!

Saturday. Music: “The Outdoor Type” by the Lemonheads. Breakfast. Boating. Fishing. Walking. Lunch. Ospreys. Chipmunks. Staring at the campfire. Crawdad feed. S’mores. You know, Lewis and Clark kind of stuff!

The rest of the weekend featured fishing (I caught a trout!), traps full of crawdads (and a catfish – we caught a catfish with cat food!), a firewood-finding mission, beer, singing, osprey sightings (including an aerial fight between those birds and a bald eagle that showered its processed lunch onto my head and several limbs), singing, and more eating (specifically of the boiled crawdads). Oh, and mocking a campsite we dubbed “Tent City” that spent close to two hours setting up on Friday in the near-blinding light of their lamp – they were like floodlights at Attica. “The Orb of Ra, the Sun God” notched up the outdoor temperature about 25 degrees! They must’ve had four tents, a huge tarp attached on one corner to a truck, 17 shrieking children, and countless humorous outcries, short on irony, long on idiocy. Good fun all around!

Sunday morning. Music: “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads. As we folded up our bedding, Erin discovered a crawdad between the mats on which we slept. “Hey,” we yelled at a still-sleeping Trent and Jess, “Is this some kind of joke?” We were mistaken in thinking it was. The crawdad had apparently escaped the fate of his brethren, finding a safe haven under our sleeping bag. There he slept all night (though perhaps he spent those hours paralyzed with fear, breath held, pincers open). But survive, he did. And with a Stan Laurel delicacy, and accompanying whimpering, I tossed the lucky fellow back into the lake, lingering just long enough to see his scurry away from the soft waves of Timothy Lake. “Home is where I want to be / Pick me up and turn me around.”

And now, begob, the kebab:

THE KEBABECUE (aka “Greece Meets West”)

Cherry tomatoes
Sweet Vidalia onions (or your preferred choice of alliums)
White mushrooms
Peppers (red, yellow & green)
Top sirloin steak (cubed)

Marinade Ingredients:
Pint of plain yogurt
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. of fennel
1 tsp. of celery seed
1 tsp. coriander seed
1 tsp. fresh crushed pepper
Pinch of saffron
Sea salt for taste
(All whole seeds ground to medium powder)

Marinate steak for 24 hours. Cut up onions and peppers to a suitable size for skewering. And then start skewering (tomato, onion, mushroom, peppers – repeat. Impale on steak cubes on skewers. Place over hot coals. Soon after, place vegetable skewers over the fire as well. Grill to desired succulence. Serve with seasoned sweet potato grill fries. And Guinness.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2.0 Stuck in the Muddle with You

Starring Erin & Mike
Guest Starring Adam & Josh
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood

There’s a new pub in town (not really). “The Pub” accepts no reservations – we’ll call you (but don’t wait by the phone) – and seats a maximum of four (or six if you include the kittens). It’s a small space doubling as our foyer (and tripling as the dining room). Just open the front door, and there you are! You know it’s a pub because there’s a pub table, which is a cross between a coffee table and an ostrich. And looking down on its patrons, the O’Shaughnessy Coat of Arms – two lions astride a castle turret, beneath a clenched fist holding a rolled-up copy of the TV Guide. But something’s missing. Pub food! And something to wash it down with. Or vice versa.

It was Friday. Erin and I had “one of those weeks”: Work was tragic in its peculiar synthesis of ennui and comic horror; and bad news plagued the lives of friends those last five days. By the evening, we expected, even embraced the thought of the apocalypse – let life begin again, with or without mankind. Dylan’s lyrics “It’s doom alone that counts” looped in my head. So we went to bed.

5:30 a.m. In a seemingly quantum leap from asleep to awake, I found my footing on the crust of Saturday morning. Parting in harmony, the curtains and clouds banished the darkness. Granted a temporary anamnesis, I remembered in a flash how wonderful life can be! Ye gods! It’s the weekend! And tonight’s the reservation for this month’s “In the Sellwood Kitchen!”

Originally we were going to prepare a seasoned pork loin with baked squash for dinner, but instead we opted for our long-rumored “Pub Night.” A perfect opportunity to serve Erin’s now-legendary (just ask my brother Jim) Quesapizzas! And I’d finally get to use those fez-bedecked monkey swizzle sticks my mother had given us that morning at brunch (they’d been burning a whole through my hurricane glass all morning)! We were eager to swizzle something with them!

We invited our friends (and neighbors) Adam and Josh over that evening. Quoting Saturday Night Live with the devotion of storefront preachers, the boys serve double-duty as diners and entertainers. Josh is gluten-intolerant (like me, except for the gluten thing), so every edible offered is preceded by a concerned and often ignorant query. “Hey, Josh, you want some water…Can you have water?” As previewed earlier, the tonight’s menu offered Quesapizzas. He couldn’t have them. Nor The Pub’s featured potable, an improvised concoction Erin would eventually dub a “Sellwood Breeze.”

In the living room, I put some Elvis Costello on the stereo. I suggest you do the same. Try “The Deportees Club” from Punch the Clock.

While our pre-Carter Administration oven heated to 350 degrees, Erin prepared the Quesapizzas. What’s a Quesapizza? No stretch of the imagination is required to figure out this outrageously delicious appetizer (or, if you eat enough, meal) is part quesadilla and part pizza. Oh dear, I’m drooling again, they look so good. Now they’re in the oven. They smell great. 10 minutes to glory!

Buzzzzzzzzzz. They’re done! Out of the oven and divided into slices, they were quickly consumed.

In a mock-Costanza outburst, I exclaimed “These Quesapizzas are making me thirsty!”

Cue Adam: He recounted a cocktail he’d recently been served after requesting “something fruity” from a bartender.

- What was in it? asked Erin.

- Everything! replied Adam.

- Hey, I’ve got that! exclaimed Erin.

Earlier that afternoon, a visit to the West Moreland Liquor Store yielded a bounty of vodka, gin, triple sec (whatever that is) and some pomegranate martini mix. At the Kitchen, we already had oranges, lemons, limes and pineapple.

Voila! The “Sellwood Breeze” was born! Muddle in a martini shaker a slice of orange, a slice of lemon and a slice of lime, three chunks of fresh pineapple, and three leaves of fresh mint (we grow it out on the landing like Hippies!). Add two shots of vodka, a splash of triple sec and a plash of pomegranate martini mix. Add a few ice cubes. Shake with vigor! (The vigor wanes after the third one.)

The evening glides softly into night. Saturday Night Live’s on in 20 minutes. New material for Adam and Josh! But I’m still hungry. Erin stops my whining by whipping up a tray of her Cheesy Breads: Cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese mashed together with a fork (not blended) and spread on slices of fresh bakery bread (we prefer the organic French batard!). Broiled until melty and bubbly. I wish I were eating them now instead of typing over this tray of Safeway sesame chicken…

While they cool, the booming yet soothing voice of Don Pardo introduces the cast of SNL. We snack heartily, laughing occasionally, content in the warm blue glow of TV. A “Pub Night” success! Adam and Josh stumble home. Erin and I sit for a moment in the living room. The kittens claw the couch. Heading for bed, we avert our eyes from the conglomeration at the kitchen sink. Just let it soak, I think. The Pub’s closed. But before we flip the sign, here’s the recipe for the legendary appetizer:


1 flour tortillas
2 small pre-grilled chicken tenderloins (diced)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped onions
Buffalo sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat flour tortilla with buffalo sauce. Mix cheeses and sprinkle over tortilla. Add layer of grilled chicken. Sprinkle second layer of shredded cheese and chopped onions. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts together (about 10 minutes). Suggested dipping sauce: blue cheese dressing! Feeds one, maybe two. Doubled recipe feeds 2, maybe four. Enjoy!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

1.0 Love Goes Where My Rosemary Grows

Starring Erin & Mike
Guest Starring Jess & Trent
Filmed in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood

So what I’ll do is yammer on for the length of the article while Erin prepares dinner. Then we’ll eat it. And we’ll conclude with the recipe. Just to set the mood for you, I’m home alone at the moment, with the cat, listening to Duke Ellington & John Coltrane. It’s both my favorite dinner music and a preferred soundtrack for writing, though sometimes I’ll turn up Nikki Sudden or Guided by Voices real loud for inspiration. All right, I’ll stop writing for a moment; I’m just typing to abate my hunger anyway. We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor.

OK, I’m back. I went to New Seasons for some sweet potatoes. But I just bought one because it was the size of a truck tire. I rolled it home. My potato is a sweet ride. It came with a free bumper sticker.

Erin’s home. She got a birthday package in the mail. Lots of candles. We’re smelling them.

The chicken is defrosting. Erin is unhappy with the shape of the tenderloins; there is an unearthly quality to their mass. I say its fine, cook them anyway. The chicken was not purchased in or near the Sellwood environs. Serves us right!

While the bird parts defrost, we visit some friends, Jess and Trent, down the road. They have painted their kitchen. It’s another Sellwood kitchen! They will be joining us for dinner.

Ye gods! A hailstorm! And to think I wanted to walk! Our car is pummeled on SE Linn! The stones grow bigger down each block and fall harder from driveway to driveway. We make a mad dash for Jess and Trent’s front door. The sky was crying BBs! Trent offers to brew a salad dressing and gathers the ingredients. We return to our apartment.

But then, back to New Seasons! More wine (an Australian batch called “The Little Penguin”) and a lemon is needed! The sky is black and blue. The air is cool, like a wet bicycle. We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor.

At our apartment, the Art of Cuisine begins. Looking over the pub table into the kitchen, I’m reminded of Hans Namuth’s black and white images of Jackson Pollack dripping his paint like Erin breaking eggs into a bowl. My eyes draw in the colors of our kitchen. See! The reds and yellows of Roy Lichtenstein! The fruit basket dangles like a Calder diorama!

I see breadcrumbs, onions, egg, lemons! Erin has plucked a few sprigs of rosemary from our landing (I call it “square-inch gardening). And the chicken has thawed! What are we making? I don’t know yet. You’ll have to wait until the end. It’ll be a surprise. No, a mystery! It’s a recipe mystery! Jim Thompson meets Julia Child. No, too dire. How about Agatha Christie meets James Beard? Fine.

I’m in the living room, sipping the wine. I hear a fork tinking in a bowl, mixing and aerating. Olive oil bubbles in a pan. Talk turns to civil rights, as handled by students (our friends are both teachers). I decide that kids, like their parents, are stupid. I’m stupid, too. Stupid hungry, that is!

While the sweet potato oven fries bake, more injustices – social, economic – find purchase in our conversations. It’s more depressing than that movie we watched last night, Blood Diamonds. Help, more wine!

“Friend Dinners,” we call these get-togethers. Usually once or twice a week, we go to each other’s homes for a nice meal. Eat, drink, bullroar. Plus, “Lost” is on tonight! That show is bananas! What’s going on?

Ah, dinner’s ready! We take our places around the coffee table, sitting cross-legged on the floor. For one brief, blessed moment following our first bites, silence rules. The food – it is good, no? Yes! Of course, it is! In the Sellwood kitchen, the afterlives of flora and fauna are spent not in vain, their glory is the delivery of ambrosial splendor!

A green salad is offered with the meal. Various strains of lettuce. But what’s this, queries Jess? Stray cilantro or flat-leaf parsley? The leaf is proffered. A debate ensues (I sit out; it’s all lettuce to me). And the verdict is parsley. We drizzle Trent’s lemon-onion dressing on the greens.

Now we talk about writing a book. All of us! It’s about – wait, I can’t tell you, you’ll steal our idea! Jess and I will do the writing and editing; Trent and Erin, cooking and clicking (photography). I zone out for a moment (adrift in the landscape of a car commercial) and when I return to the conversation, I realized I’ve missed something of delightful importance. We’re all excited! I’m excited!

Mojo Magazine’s Southern Soul disk plays in the background. Mavis Staples singing “A House is Not a Home.”

Ok, shh. “Lost” is starting. “Shouldn’t we be having ice cream now?” A Yes! returns with a Gillespiean blat!

Dessert: vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, and butterscotch caramel. How sweet it is to be stuffed from dinner, stuffing yourself with dessert, and wrapped up in a highly-addictive television drama! Roll credits!

The herb-encrusted chicken tenderloins are well complemented by sweet potato oven fries, and a green salad served with home-made lemon-onion dressing. Now for the improvised chicken recipe:

Herb-Encrusted Chicken Tenderloins

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs
A cup and a half or so of bread crumbs.
2 sprigs of fresh diced rosemary
2 cloves diced garlic
A palmful of dried parsley
A palmful of dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Dip chicken in eggs and coat with breadcrumb and herb mixture. Cook tenderloins in pan on medium heat in a layer of EVOO (that’s extra virgin olive oil for you Food Channel-neophytes) on both sides until chicken is not pink and coating is golden brown. Serve. Eat. Wash dishes. Sleep.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com