Monday, December 15, 2008

19.0 A Kitchen Carol


Starring Erin & Mike
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Rhino Records' Rockin' Christmas The 60's

“Hi, everybody, this is James Brown. This is a very, very unusual way to come to you, but I gotta start by saying thanks, thanks for such a wonderful year.”

Charles Dickens. Clement C. Moore. Jean Shepherd. Towering Giants of Christmas Literary Tradition. Shall we add Michael O'Shaughnessy to this honored list?

Not likely.

At best, I'll rank with the copywriters of the 1978 Sears Wish Book. Hooray!

STAVE ONE. Noble's Scent.

Noble was dead: to begin with. Well, soon enough. Erin & I procured the dying fir from the corner lot on SE 14th & Bybee, in the shadow of Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home. We neither perused nor considered: I entered the small corral, pointed to this tree, registered Erin's nod of approval and paid the salesman. Moments later, my hands smeared with mud, I drove the fir crown-first into our trunk. I wiped my soiled paws on my denimed thighs with a sudden disdain.

So, you had "this stain" on your pants?

Ha, yeah! But don't interrupt. At home, we eyed the cats with reasonable suspicion, holding the inevitable scolding in check: Kitties, you better not muck about with this tree! Erin balanced the rather plantain-shaped tannenbaum as I twisted the supporting screws of the iron stand. Satisfied, Erin went into the kitchen to prepare tonight's meal.

Have I yet told you of how the first rays of Christmas appeared over our autumnal horizon? Early November, Disneyland, the destination of our road trip. Adam & Josh teamed with us for the pilgrimage. Early Saturday, as we sought to stroll under the arch of Cinderella's castle (like you do), we collided with a camera crew and carefree crowd, filming a segment for the upcoming "Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade" TV special. Coda: We're in the audience as Jose Feliciano belts through several takes of "Feliz Navidad". Later, dancing snowmen frolic down Main Street. "Navidad" revolved through our heads all day. It was the tremor of Christmas. Perhaps that magical Disney moment with Jose accounts for Erin’s decision to assemble and simmer a pot of tortilla soup! Feliz Navidad to me!


STAVE TWO. The First of the Three Hunger Pangs.

When I awoke it was so dark, I'd forgotten where I was. The night before our tree-trimming, we stayed at my in-laws up the mountain. After breakfast, I spelunked their crawlspace, retrieving three tubs of our not-yet-ridiculous-haul of holiday decorations.

Driving home, the radio played the strain of “Christmas in the Northwest” (my arm shot to the off-switch so ferociously I risked undergoing Tommy John surgery). Our tree, in the wild, had attained a height no taller than Art Carney, but a full cardboard chimney higher than Mickey Rooney.

(I mention Messrs. Carney & Rooney because of their significance to my Christmas traditions. I say “my” Christmas traditions because they are not Erin’s, nor will they ever be. The high point of my holidays is the viewing of the Christmas special! Old Christmas specials! Tis the season for “Ziggy’s Gift”, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, the one with Joel Grey as the clockmaker, and George Gobel as a mouse. I won’t even begin to explain to Erin who George Gobel is because she wouldn’t even begin to care! Hence, our serendipitous compatibility. (Yeah, hence!) Carney stars in my favorite Twilight Zone episode, “Night of the Meek” as a down & out department store Santa; Mickey Rooney plays Mickey Rooney in something Mickey Rooney-esque.)

Now home, the tree secured, we shook our decades-old ornaments from hibernation. They hung from branches, alive again for their season.


From the kitchen, I could hear the crisp chopping of fresh vegetables. I genuflected before the record cabinet.

"I'm making tortilla soup!" said Erin. I was rifling through my Christmas LPs. Hmm, I thought, "Favorite Christmas Songs from Singer" or one of the Robert Shaw Chorales? I held each album aloft.


"Terrific," I returned. My vinyl fumblings continued, and my mind bellowed through phantasms of old record shops, garage sales, a DJ booth in Chapel Hill, 1993. I got lost in the music.

Punched in the olfactory by the most redolent glory, I untumbled back to the here and now, pursuing the aroma, as if my nostrils were being lured to the kitchen by cartoon smoke fingers. "Bah, YUM-bug!" I exclaimed, "I want to eat what that smells like."

"No. And don't film me." I turned off the camera and returned to the Christmas music – specifically the delightfully soft soul of “Merry Christmas, Baby” by the Poets, which lulled me to sleep.


STAVE THREE. The Second of the Three Hunger Pangs.

Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, I discovered a rivulet of drool winding down Linus’ thinning coiffure. Auggghhh! My Charlie Brown Christmas album! Rubbing my eyes, the satin Ziggy ball and Mr. Parker’s Major Award came into focus. What a tree! It smelled so Christmasy!

“Well, have a taste!” suggested an old woodsy voice.

Woodsy voice? Are you asleep now while you write this?

Listen, you weren’t there. It was woodsy, and I answered (because I was starving, the way middle-class children do), “All right!” and pounced on the tree, nibbling on a high thin branch. I spooked several rocking horses; they fell to the skirt below, taking down one glass ornament and a tin monkey. It made a racket.

“Was that the cats?” shouted Erin, with her annoyed-at-cats voice (just a key higher than her annoyed-at-me voice, which would have been appropriate).

Phlah! I spit out a mouthful of pine needles, simultaneously escaping from my hunger trance. “Yeah, the cats – they’re the worst!” Simba and I exchanged knowing glances. Brushing off my tongue, I dragged my feet into the kitchen. “Hey, Baby, is it soup yet?”

"No. And don't film me." I turned off the camera and returned to the Christmas music – specifically the delightfully soft rock of “Merry Christmas, Baby” by the Carpenters, which lulled me to sleep.


STAVE FOUR. The Last of the Hunger Pangs.


The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. It was Nala the kitten. "Jeepers! Sneak up on a fella, why dontcha?” I recoiled. “This kitty just about scared the coal out of my stocking!" I shouted to Erin.

“What? Ew."

So I sat, the cat in my lap, the tiny green lights on the mantle endowing our silhouette with a Tyco Night Glow cast. The needle tailed off the groove of James Brown’s “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year” and skated across the green Rhino label. It sounded like Santa scratching his beard. I couldn’t get off the couch.

“Is dinner ready?” I whined. “No,” she replied. “When?” I trailed off. “Can you wait until the last Stave?”


STAVE FIVE. The End of It


Yes! and the soup bowl was my own. And the soup therein – glorious! And so, as little Nala observed, “Meow Meow Meow, Meowmeow Meow!


CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP WITH HOMEMADE CHIPS

Erin's Intro: So, I’m no chef. Usually for our articles I just get an idea, read up on a few recipes, and then do whatever sounds good. I rarely attempt practice rounds before the main event. Maybe if I did, my food would be better…However, in this case, the 3rd (or 5th or whatever) time is a charm! This has been my favorite soup since I used to sneak samples of it while serving at the Roadhouse. I’ve altered this recipe each time I’ve made it, and this is the best version I’ve come up with. Ask Mike. I used to use pre-cooked chicken breast meat (gasp!) out of convenience! Never again I say! And the chips, my god, the chips! I stole the general idea from Irene, but she’s my business partner so it’s not stealing. Right? I’ll never eat store bought tortilla chips again. They insult me. My mom requested I cook this for our Christmas Eve Dinner! Talk about a compliment. I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do!

2 Chicken Breasts
Salt and Pepper
Chili Powder
Olive Oil
1 Cup Stock
½ Large White Onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
2 Celery Stocks, diced
1 Red Pepper, diced
1 Clove Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash Cayenne
Dash Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Can diced tomatoes
1 Can whole corn kernels, drained and rinsed
1 Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 Cups Stock
2 Cups Water


The Soup: Season the two chicken breasts with salt, pepper and chili powder to taste. Add oil to pan and heat to medium. Cook the chicken on one side for about 4-5 minutes until browned. Turn and cook a few more minutes until brown. Add about one cup of stock. The chicken should not be submerged in the liquid all the way so adjust the portion accordingly for your pan. Cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. When the chicken is cooked all the way through and pulls apart easily, remove it from the pan, shred it with two forks, and return it to the pan, uncovered. When the liquid is evaporated, remove from heat and set aside.

To a large soup pot on medium heat, add oil, garlic, onion, celery, and carrot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes. Add the red pepper, cumin, cayenne and chili powder. Cook a few minutes more. Next, add the diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, stock and water, then mix in the shredded chicken. Cover the soup and bring it to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


The Chips: To a small bowl, add ¼ cup oil, and a dash of the following: Seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, chili powder and cumin. Mix well. Set aside. Cut flour tortillas into large chip shapes of your choice. Place them on a baking sheet covered in tin foil. Brush the mixture onto the chips on both sides of the chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown and crisp. Place a few chips as a garnish on top of soup with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheese. Take a minute to enjoy its beauty, then devour! And once you taste those chips, you won’t forget to devour them too!


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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


Mike gets his hands all up in the cinammony apples.

Wishing you all a terrific day, from the Erin and Mike in the Sellwood Kitchen.

The end result -- no, I can't have it yet! Waaahhh!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

18.0 The Wild Brunch

Starring Erin & Mike and Adam & Josh
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: blinking lights by eels

“A little wonder goes a long, long way”

Sunday morning, Fall. Chilly, but the Sun’s punched holes in the clouds. A charity run warms the pavement on SE Linn (I passed them going for a coffee earlier). Even before that, Erin and I drove to the Reed neighborhood Trader Joe’s for the ingredients for today’s recipe, stopping in to Limbo’s next door for pineapple, sweet potatoes, a couple plantains (why not?) and one nutmeg. I’d never seen the nutmeg in its unsullied state. Kind of looks like a malted ball. Before today, I might’ve guessed it was shaped like a Joshua tree. Speaking of…


Josh and Adam are due here at noon for brunch, although noon’s sort of a trigger for lunch. It’s a post-lunch brunch. Hey, it’s America and I’m one of the liberal elite media, so I can do what I want! I shan’t begin campaigning here, but you’d have to be either a first-time reader or one with scant comprehensive skills to not know my political leanings. But just to make it obtusely clear – I HOPE that on the morning of November 5th, I am eating an Obamalette, and not an Egg McNuthin’. Hopefully, we can get beyond the Palin. (Boy, I hope this article doesn’t end up becoming my “Dewey Defeats Truman.”)

Dewey? Truman? If I get any more obscure and outdated, I might be tapped as McCain’s speechwriter.

That’s President McCain!


Yikes! [Sniff] Hey, what’s that delightful aroma? Fried plantains! Have you tried them? They’re muy delicioso! I had them a few years ago in a Puerto Rican café in Kingston, NY. (I sound like Anthony Bourdain.) This is what I love about brunch – anything goes!


And so begins the kitchen cacophony, which I hear from the couch, close to the stereo. I’m focusing on the Rolf and Joachim Kuhn Quartet as the ingredients for “Passive-aggressive Coffee Cake” are mixed (it’s just gluten-free coffee cake baked with barely-restrained intolerance by two half-asleep cooks).
Concurrently, the Brown Sugar Bacon is sizzling. Mmm, brown sugar! How come it tastes so good? Brown sugar!

And now, the first ever Sellwood Scramble is, uh, scrambled! Sweet potatoes, peppers, onions! Erin’s alchemy sets the aromatic mood! Next, she assembles the fruit cups – starring pineapple and strawberries, their cool geometry suspended in vanilla yogurt. Adam steals a piece of bacon (it was cooling on the windowsill).


Just as I’m throwing on Side 2 of Jackie by Jackie DeShannon, I’m summoned to the kitchen. I am to make the mimosas!

I make the mimosas. Back to the stereo.


The plates are already set on the coffee table (where we eat every meal – there’s something delightfully Pan-Asian about it). A plated brunch is photographed in the filtered noon light. The Boys had taped (yes, taped!) Saturday Night Live, so we ate, almost laughed, ate, grimaced, groaned then licked the plates clean (well, to be honest, that was just me).


While the remnants of our meal hardened on their unrinsed plates in the sink, we took a walk down 13th, crossing to Sellwood Boulevard and continuing toward the park. I saw the salamander leaves reddening to autumn’s camouflage. It’s magic! It’s science (same thing)! That brunch served quite efficiently as fuel. I didn’t even get tired on the teeter totter!

I peered over the cliff where Oaks Park comes into view. It’s a dreamy scene; a ghost carnival, the hazy circus colors (maybe it was the mimosas). But the fall is a crisp season – eat the apples and snap the stalks from the pumpkins. My other senses seem to be sharper this time of the year.


I see microcosms everywhere – I see America in Sellwood, just as Georgians see America in Athens, etc. And I see the breakfast in the brunch. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say, or do: let this dog catch his tail. Or tale. As the days grow colder, we huddle together for warmth and comfort. But what do we huddle besides our bodies? Well, our ideas and dreams; our obsessions and fears. And our recipes, our how-to’s: “How to design a better brunch” or “How to build a better country.”

How do you do that?

Huh? I don’t know. But I’m sure it begins with a good breakfast. Or, for those of you lazy like us, a brunch.


SELLWOOD SCRAMBLE

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch cubes
2 red peppers, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs Montreal Steak Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss ingredients together in large bowl to coat. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Roast potatoes in a 450 degree oven for 1/2 hour or until browned, turning once half way.

BONUS RECIPE!

FRUIT CUPS

Strawberries and pineapples cut into bite size pieces.
Mix fruit and place in 4 trifle cups. Set aside.
In a small bowl:
Add two cups vanilla yogurt
2 Tbs cinnamon
Mix together

Drizzle cinnamon yogurt down over the fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.


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

Friday, September 26, 2008

17.0 Nostalgia is an Inside Joke

Starring Erin & Mike and Donna & Paul
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack:
Jesus of Cool by Nick Lowe

“They’re nice friends and good for a party!”

“Describe Sellwood in two words.” Coffee and nostalgia. “That’s three words.” How about coffee, nostalgia? (“No thanks,” says Nostalgia, “I’m more of a tea drinker.”) By coffee, I mean coffee, as purveyed by Lovecup, Twin Paradox, Ugly Mug, and etc. The nostalgia’s found on Antique Row. Antiques are one of the physical manifestations of nostalgia, that yearning for yesterdays.

“Why all the talk about nostalgia? How about getting to the main dish?”

How about you settle down and have a decaf once in a while? I speak of nostalgia because our guests tonight are my best friend Paul and his wife Donna (typically, we visit them in Beaverton for one of Donna’s outrageously good 14-course meals, only 3 of which my pea-sized gullet can digest).

Paul (who once claimed he had the soul of an 80 year old, and the body of his father) and I have known each other almost 30 years. That’s thirty years of the same jokes. Hang around us for a week and you’ll have Brooks & Reiner’s “2,000 Year Old Man” bit committed to memory. Not to mention more obscure references to The Uncle Floyd Show, the Jackie Puppet, High Feather, the New Zoo Revue, and Myron Cohen.

Paul knows everything about every show he ever watched in his life. And all the advertisements in between. The nostalgia aspect emerges when you find out he’s got hours and hours of commercials from the70s and early 80s on VHS. Commercials are the Rosetta stones of past generations – so telling in fashion and vocabulary. Our resident “snark”-aeologist burrows through boxes at garage sales for these elusive “golden tickets” of culture. I was there when he bought Gnip Gnop at an estate sale (I believe I purchased my Odyssey 2 at the same time). He’s still got his membership card from the original Star Wars fan club (circa’77)!

Fantastic, right? Well, maybe not. I think so, but I too suffer a touch from the sensation once diagnosed as a medical condition. Mal du pays, I believe, Hofer called it.

What does Donna think about this? Same thing Erin does – nothing. All they hear is Paul and me yapping like two old men about the size of Gene Rayburn’s choppers or Monster Week on the “4:30 Movie” (especially delightful as Tostitos crumbs festoon the refried beans).

“Refried beans? So you’re eating already? What about the prep?”

Please don’t interrupt. You know I’ll get to the point eventually. Anyway, we don’t just yammer about the “good ol’ days”; we refer to minutiae in every annex of entertainment from the time of the bicentennial to the cancelation of Mystery Science Theater 3000. We’re Neil Simon’s Sunshine Boys, 40 years too early. In other words, capital boring. Still, it’s our joy, the joy of habit.

I anticipate that moment our wives see us trip into the time machine. I think they might feel themselves the hostages of nostalgia. It begins with a simple spell: “Remember that time…?”

“Remember that time you were going to fix a meal?”

Yes, I do. We’re having enchiladas, okay? And they’re going to be delicious! Years from now, you’ll be sitting around the spaceship saying, “Gosh, I wish I cold get me one of them enchiladas from the early 21st century.”



That’s nostalgia! To continue: Just when you think it couldn’t get anymore uninteresting to everyone else in the room, my brother Jim shows up. Jim loathes nostalgia. And just the past in general. But his arrival triggers more memories from our illustrious youth. Mostly throw-up stories. Yet another topic inappropriate for food columns (remember that, aspiring writers!).

After growing up together in New York, sowing our wild oats (that means drinking boxed zinfandel) in North Carolina, and finally settling down (is it “settling down” when you’re already notoriously lazy) to marry in Oregon, we must bid each other adieu – Paul and Donna are moving to Ohio in October. This was a Last Supper, of sorts; or the “Last Supper Until We Visit Them in the Buckeye State.” Ah, from Beaver to Buckeye! There’s a joke in there, if only I knew what buckeye was!

Erin, a thrill ride enthusiast, was delighted to hear that the famed Cedar Point Amusement Park is a just an hour from their new home. We will be seeing them soon! Terrific – Paul and I can catch up on his latest mid-70s Sears Roebuck Wish Book acquisitions!

Is nostalgia a thing of the past? Lately, styles and tastes change at such an accelerated rate, the joke is one may experience a nostalgia for last week. Irony ruined the 21st century. I’m not sure what I mean by that, but it sounds important. When the past catches up with the present, and the two become almost indistinguishable, nostalgia is lost. Will it go the way of the dinosaurs, vanished these last 5,000 years?

Let us then at least leave the enchilada as it is – perfect. Let’s do the same with love and friendship. Oh, yeah – the recipe! I told you I’d get to it! And best of luck to Paul and Donna on their move!


AUTUMN ENCHILADAS

4 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 clove of garlic (chopped)
1 chopped onion
1/2 large can enchilada sauce
1 can black beans
1 small can green chilies
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mixture
1/4 cup sour cream
Shredded cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pan. Add chicken to pan and season with about 1 to 2 tbsp Cumin. Add chopped onion and garlic. Cook chicken until finished. Decrease heat to low. Remove chicken, shred with two forks, and return shredded chicken to pan. Add remaining ingredients to shredded chicken and mix well. Coat 2 casserole dishes with non-stick spray or oil. Spoon enchilada filling into tortillas and roll closed. Place them seam side down into casserole dish. Spoon leftover enchilada sauce evenly over enchiladas. Top with a thin layer of shredded cheese mixture. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Makes about 10 enchiladas.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brooke!

video

Aunt Erin cooks a couple of hot dogs for Uncle Mike and wishes our Jersey neice a happy birthday! And a shout out to sister Noelle as well! You know, a box of Knotz pretzels with horseradish mustard would go great with those dogs!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

16.0 Tom Patty & the Heartburners


Starring Erin & Mike and Kathy & Rick
Filmed on Location in George, Washington
Soundtrack: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Live

“When we laid our blankets on the groundYeah and I woke up feelin' hungry”


Know what I’m eating write now? Erin’s Blueberry Lemon Curd Pie. Curd doesn’t sound like something you eat (too close to “curdle”), but Miss Muffet was a big fan. And the blueberries – fresh from her parents’ yard. I helped pick them. Right off the bush! Amazing! Just plain amazing.


My in-laws are great (or is that In-Laws?) Last weekend, we all drove (well, Rick drove; Kathy, Erin & I were chauffeured) to the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington (birthplace of our first president!) to camp and see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the Sellwood Kitchen on the road (yeah, I know, this is like the THIRD time we’ve done this – but hey, as home is where the heart is, so the kitchen is where the digestive system is). A barbecue before the highly-anticipated double-fist pumping, over-drinking, and off-key sing-a-longs of stadium rock!



It was the weekend of the 16th. Remember? The mercury hit a hundred. The thermometer looked like blown glass. We drove five hours in a heat that ultimately conquered the air conditioner. We arrived at the Gorge moist, warm pools spilling from the crooks of our legs. In a scene from Beau Geste (or more appropriately Laurel & Hardy’s Beau Hunks), we pitched our tents in earth so warm my spike sank in like a needle through a Jell-o shot. Luckily, by the time we raised our shelters, the sun (by my admittedly amateurish calculation) dangled (and I might be exaggerating) 14 feet above our heads. I paused, looked up, then out, surveying the 20,000 Petty fans blasting “American Girl” from their SUVs’ woofers, and decided “I want a hamburger sandwich.” But, turning back towards our camp, I realized that Erin and her mother had gone for ice. Rick and I sat in the semi-shade, like desperadoes under the eaves.

After an indeterminate amount of time, during which a bramble of soon-to-be-besotted concertgoers carpeted the once-empty campground, Erin & Kathy returned.



Poof! Erin got the Coleman started. I took a pull from my Coronita, and retrieved our camera. Erin had wisely prepared the burgers at home, in the Sellwood Kitchen (at the time, I was leafing through an old issue of Marvel Two-in-One featuring The Thing and the Inhumans). Here at Camp Petty (where I suspect Tom & the HB avoided the pre-concert sweating by chilling in the Cavern Rooms at the Cave B Inn), Erin grilled the turkey burgers to perfection.





One is not often guaranteed a perfect burger cooked on a camp grill in the sweltering and dusty heat; lesser burgers can be a little rough around the edges, or inside, a little hollow. But not this one. It was fatter than Ron Blair’s bass.



Burgers and beers in belly, the four us joined the mile-long exodus from camp site to stage. It was quite a hike, but thank god we passed a pod of honey buckets being emptied, the stench accomplishing the dual task of wiping out blocks of memory while inducing a dry, unfathomable nausea that only made our arrival at the front gates almost transcendental. But we made it!


As Steve Winwood took the stage to open the show (he sang “Can’t Find My Way Home”!), Erin & I weaved through the crowds, past the sprinkling hippies, and the above-the-belt cellulite ladies, and found our seats (Row 20 – I could practically read Winwood’s watch!).


Soon that benevolent tyrant of life, the sun, sank into the desert beyond the Columbia. And behind us Earth’s natural satellite appeared, white and whole. Tom Petty took the stage and full-blown full moon fever kicked in! The first three chords of “You Wreck Me" serving as a clarion call to erupt the sold-out crowd! Erin let loose with a wild whoo-hoo, rebelling against Earth’s gravitational pull, to take orbit around Gone Gator Country!


I lost myself in the experience, thrusting my warm $9.50 Coors Light into the electric night, fueled by Erin’s love of rock and roll and the best turkey burger I’ve ever eaten. I felt so god. Like anything was possible.


PANKO/TURKEY BURGER WITH CHIVE MAYONAISSE

Turkey Burger:
1 1/4 lb of ground turkey
1/2 cup of Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning
Clove of garlic (crushed)
Salt & pepper

Mix ground turkey with other ingredients, and form into four patties. Grill to preference.

Chive Mayo Spread:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon horse radish
1 tablespoon fresh minced chives

Mix. Spread on toasted buns. Insert patty. Open mouth. Insert sandwich. Oh yeah! All right!


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

Sunday, August 3, 2008

15.0 ABBA the Greek

Starring Erin & Mike and Adam & Josh
Filmed on Location in the Beautiful Sellwood-Moreland Neighborhoods
Soundtrack: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of ABBA

“All I do is eat and sleep and sing…”

Tonight we go Greek! What’s the occasion? Why our sudden interest in the Hellenic Republic? Perhaps Penguin has finally published a Portable Kazantzakis? Sadly, no. No Nikos (I guess I’ll have to read ALL of "The Greek Passion" now).


The occasion celebrates the release of “Mamma Mia”, the movie of the musical of the songs of Swedish hit-makers ABBA. Aren’t they Swedish? They sure are (especially Agnetha!), but the film’s setting is the Greek Isles. So that’s why we’re going Greek!

Is there a Sellwood angle? Isn’t there always?

“No, actually, there usually isn’t,” you say

Well, there is this time – we’re seeing it at the Moreland Theater!

“Isn’t that a Moreland angle?”

(Sigh) Let’s listen to “Waterloo”, shall we?



Josh is the first (of two) to arrive, driving straight from work. So we start drinking wine, as the ancient Greeks would have (no retsina, just some merlot).

Also of note this temperate summer evening, Erin & I have moved the Sellwood Kitchen. We’re still in Sellwood (yes, I mean Sellwood, not one of the Morelands), just a different part of the neighborhood. Not much else to say, I guess. Maybe not even worth mentioning.

Egads! Trouble at the kitchen sink! The “fresh” garlic we just purchased had an insect in it. I’ll refrain from mentioning the establishment, but suffice to say, it is NOT located in Sellwood. And we will not buy garlic, or any other non-artificial item, from there again!

Adam’s here! “Hey, Adam, you just missed the maggot!” (Note to aspiring writers: This is not proper “food column” talk, but thank Zeus, this is not a proper “food column.”)

I’ve got The Best of ABBA playing through for the second time. I feel like I’ve got to stick with the ABBA thing all the way to the end of the article. I’d rather be listening to The Dead Milkmen’s Big Lizard in My Backyard, or even one of Jens Lekman’s ep's. At least, I’d be faithful to the Swedish theme.

“It’s supposed to be a Greek theme,” you report.

(Sigh) Let’s drown out the riff-raff with “Dancing Queen” which is a terrific song. Starts with the chorus. Fantastic! Though not nearly as amazing as Erin’s warm and fresh hummus! At its entrance, I jump up, smash my knee on the coffee cable, curse in faux-Italian, and retrieve from the shelf The Collected Poems of C P. Cavafy. The late Modern Greek poet wrote:

From one monotonous day, another day
follows, identically monotonous.

Yikes! Lighten up, Constantine! Poets, right? And how am I eating this hummus? Not with my fingers (for a change), but with Erin’s recipe #2: Pita bread. Or pitta. Or Sunshine Schwarz. Call it whatever you want – it wrangles with the hummus for a world title!


Greece is myth or no myth; history’s playpen or atomizer. And what a great flag! And literature! And I almost forgot Vangelis! His work in Aphrodite’s Child is only surpassed by his soundtrack to “Blade Runner!”


Obviously, I pride myself as sort of a Greek scholar. (I hope no one from Eleni’s Estiatorio on SE 13th reads this and reveals my unfathomable ignorance!) Truthfully, I know as much about Hellenic history as Poseidon knows about t-shirts.


Fifteen minutes before showtime, we say farewell to Dionysus and hello to Hollywood! Piling into the Element, we arrive at the Moreland Theater as the lights go down. The majority of us enjoy the musical (which entails listening to “S.O.S” for the 8th or 9th time this evening, only this time it’s being massacred by Pierce Brosnan who curiously possesses the kind of voice you’d expect from Ernest Borgnine. Or Tova. Dreadful. Still, the movie was fun. What else do you want? It’s an entertainment! Go see it at the Moreland Theater. The best theater in Portland!

If only they served warm hummus! Luckily, the Sellwood Kitchen serves warm hummus. Despite our dining area resembling Cerberus and Orthrus’ kennel, remnants of tonight’s meal welcome our return! I leap the gate, burst through the door and scarf down a pita, bits of bread sprinkling from my mouth as I whistle “Super Trouper.” The winner takes it all! Hail Eris!



PITAS & HUMMUS

Pita bread:
1.5 cups flour
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
Ice water

Mix flour, salt, oregano and EVOO together.
One spoonful at a time, add ice water and mix with a fork until mixture forms a dough.
Knead dough about 10 times and divide into 4 small balls.
Roll out each ball as thick as you would a pie crust. (6 or 8" rounds)

In non-stick skillet over medium heat: Cook each pita 2-4 minutes on each side or until they just begin to brown.

Hummus:
1 can garbanzo beans, drained.
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup tahini sauce
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a food processor add: Garbanzo beans, garlic, tahini sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper and parsley.
Start with a splash of EVOO and blend well. Add enough EVOO to reach a smooth consistency. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.


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

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

14.0 Ramble & Stuff in Philadelphia

Starring Erin & Mike and Our Family
Filmed on Location in Philadelphia!
Soundtrack:
The Jack’s Basement Reunion

“Always look on the bright side of life…”

I can hardly keep my eyes open to write this. Erin and I just got back from a weeklong vacation in Philly, the cradle of liberty! (I’d say Philadelphia, but everyone calls it Philly.) Really, we stayed in a suburb of Philly, which happens to be in New Jersey. We Eastcoasters are strange cats. Jimmy B., Tra and their two girls hosted us, housed us and fed us. And boy did we eat!

Erin & I have decided to tag our vacation as an “epicurean excursion,” for the sake of justifying this month’s episode of ITSK. As if we needed a reason, right? Who’s going to scold us? Jimmy Breslin or Phil Stanford?

In addition to Philly and its outlying suburbs, we also spent a weekend on Long Island in New York. Although it was only a brief jaunt, I did get to show Erin, who’d never been to NY before, my old stomping grounds. Mostly architectural ghosts (“That’s where the Friendly’s used to be. That’s where the True Value Deli used to be. That’s where Sal’s Pizza used to be. That’s where Titus Oaks used to be”).

After the tour Erin got to experience a classic Long Island barbecue at Jimmy B’s parents. It was great to see Mr. & Mrs. B again. Everyone was there! Johnny Mo, Murph, Stinky, Emmett (“Does it rain like this in Seattle?”), Homey! Lots of great food, weak beer, and hilarious stories (ask me about the “Duke of Fluke” sometime). And did I mention the most fantastically horrendous thunderstorm I’d ever seen? Well, it was awesome (check the blog for some footage). The next day, we returned to Jersey to really begin our Philly vacation.

“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “Who cares?” I do. “Well then, are you going to talk about cooking?” Maybe.

Before I talk about cooking, I’ll talk about eating. New York’s got the best pizza – it’s not even worth discussing. We didn’t have any pizza. Philly’s got the best cheese steaks (or “Philly Cheese Cake” as my mother, the Queen of Malapropisms, repeated). But we didn’t have any cheese steaks either.

“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “So you went to Philly and didn’t eat a cheese steak?” Nah.

What we were introduced to, though, was the soft pretzel. Actually, let’s say “properly introduced”. I grew up eating big soft salty pretzels, and still buy the frozen ones occasionally. But these soft pretzels were a quantum leap from your typical twists of dough. Big, warm, with the perfect distribution of salt crystals and, best of all, the accompanying spreads. We devoured the horse radish cream cheese. So good! Jimmy B, my brother Jim and I rocked out in the front room, working off the pretzels and sweating out the coffee as we sang soft rock classics and the Westerberg songbook. Piano and two guitars – it was a reunion of our early 90’s band, Jack’s Basement! Ok, hungry again. Back in the minivan!

The burgers at Five Guys placed a close second to the pretzels. Hand-formed and served with an abundance of hand-cut fries shoveled into a paper bag, these burgers were hands-down the best I’ve had since I last ate at the Muddy Rudder. Yes, I sure do love a hamburger sandwich!

OK, so finally we made it into Philly. We took a double-decker bus tour and glided through the birthplace of America. Did you know Ben Franklin invented everything? Even the Franklin stove! If Erin and I’d been around in the 1700’s, Ye Olde Sellwoode Kitchen would’ve prepared all its meals on a Franklin stove.

“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “Do you even know what a Franklin stove is?” Yes – it’s a metal-lined fireplace with baffles in the rear.

“Hey, Mike” you’re asking, “Do you even know what baffles are?” No.

Where were we? Oh, yes, Philly! We saw the Fairmount Water Works, Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Reading Railroad Station... Hmm, that sounds familiar. Then we walked through the Municipal Services Building Plaza. It was full of life-sized Monopoly pieces. Wait, now I know – Monopoly!

We viewed examples of the Mural Arts Program. And I ran up the stairs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the Rocky steps, if you will). I worked up quite an appetite!

I’m “gonna fly now” to our last night there – Chickie & Pete’s Crab House & Sports Bar in the Stadium District. Get the cutlet sandwich and crab fries. I won’t even describe it – you’ll drool so much your tie will run.

Our time in Philly was wonderful. Erin met a lot of my friends; we became Aunt Erin and Uncle Mike to Jimmy B’s daughters; we experienced a lot of history; and ate very well! And before we knew, we were back in Portland. But no time for sleep, Dr Jones! Two days later, we had a wedding to attend (for fellow ITSKers Adam & Josh!) So what can you whip up in exhaustion? Erin’s got just the thing! It’s delicious, summery and refreshing! Just like Philadelphia (though, I’m almost certain, the same could not be said of Ben Franklin’s undershirt).


THE THING TO BRING
SUMMER PASTA SALAD

1 package bowtie pasta
1 jar roasted red peppers, diced
1 can of artichoke hearts, diced
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 package Italian dry salami, sliced in quarters
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vinaigrette
1 package shredded Italian blend cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Toast pine nuts lightly and set aside to cool. To pasta, add the next 5 ingredients. Toss everything with the vinaigrette. Next, add the package of Italian cheese and toss well. Top salad with toasted pine nuts. Chill or serve immediately.

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

13.0 Chin Music from Big Pank


Starring Erin, Mike, Adam & Allee
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack:
Music from Big Pink
by The Band

“Won’t you feed him…whenever you can…”


Part 1. The Blatherer’s Tale

We have waited. And the ocean has delivered. At last I can stand in the Sellwood Kitchen and declare, “It smells like fish in here!” Why? Because Erin prepared panko-coated tilapia this comfortable spring evening! Finally! Brain food! And just in time – I was starting to forget such important minutiae as who engineered Life’s Rich Pageant.

Tilapia is a mild tasting fish. Wow! There’s a recommendation for you! Maybe that should be their new slogan: We Are a Mild Tasting Fish. That’d be the sharpest ad campaign since “Sorry, Charlie.” Anyway, the tilapia (of major importance in artisanal fishing) is also known as “St. Peter’s fish”, the darks spots on their sides representing the fingerprints of the saint. From that time, you know, he picked up a fish and, uh, then put it back down. I believe those verses can only be found in select apocryphal books of the Bible.

What tilapia is not is a telepathic fish. It does not read minds, on the suspicion that if they did possess this ability, they would’ve read the mind of the guy holding the net.

Before we prepared tonight’s meal, we walked over to the Moreland Farmer’s Market on Opening Day to sharpen Erin’s knives. And have a spicy sausage sandwich. And watch Padam Padam perform Tom Waits’ Strange Weather. And eat gelato at Staccato Gelato on Bybee (it was their opening day, too).

Strolling down 13th, we looked like one of Chaucer’s lost Canterbury Tales. Neither the Canon’s Yeoman nor Wife of Bath, we were rather the Cook, the Scribe, the Troubadour, the Gardener and the Educator and his Dog. That’s Jack, the pooch with a snout for buckles. A motley crew, true, but unlike Chaucer’s pilgrims, we’d all bathed within the last week. Well, most of us had…

Knives sharpened, nostrils delighted, ears tantalized, we parted ways, and Erin & I returned home to the Sellwood Kitchen.


Part 2. Breaking Bread with that Gadgety Girl

As Erin begins to prepare our meal, and I drop the needle on Nilsson’s …That’s the Way It Is (engineered by Richie Schmitt, fresh from John Travolta’s eponymous debut), Allee arrives. Minutes later, Adam makes it a quartet.

Slim fingers of asparagus are seasoned for baking. Red potatoes are quartered for roasting. The tilapia fillets are coated in panko. Popular in Japanese cooking, panko is a breadcrumb made from crustless bread, thus lending the final fry a desirable crispiness. Who wants a mushy fish? I mean, besides a toothless otter.

Panko makes me think of Rick Danko from The Band, which makes me think of how perfectly he phrased his verse in “The Weight” from The Last Waltz .Wow. But I don’t have a copy of that album (for shame!), so I opt for some dinner music – Jimmy Smith’s The Cat, fitting in the background, but a party when you turn it up!

Unlike last month’s meal, tonight’s came together much quicker. Still, we had time for crusty bread which we dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mid-chew, Adam blurted out “Ham and cheese!” showering the coffee table with glistening crumbs. Erin eyed him oddly. “What? Ham?”

“Hammond B-3,” I interpreted. “That’s the organ Jimmy Smith’s playing.” Adam nodded, choking down his atomized bâtard bits. Not long after dinner was served, and the obligatory floor model shot taken, he unwittingly returns the favor and mishears Erin.

“Did you say ‘bodacious’?”

“No, what am I, a Ninja Turtle?” she responded. This leads to a discussion of TV shows from our childhood. Well, THEIR childhood, what with me being over a decade older than everyone here. I’m like “Yeah, I wish I had a Chuckle Patch,” and as I start to sing the Storybox song from The Magic Garden I realize I am alone in my nostalgia. (The Magic Garden ran for 52 episodes on WPIX in New York from 1972 to 1984, so you wouldn’t care either, I guess).

Two minutes later, our plates are clean, without even a hint of the mouthwatering aioli Erin had dribbled over the fish. Yeah, I know it’s mostly mayonnaise – that’s my point.

Conversation did not stray far from children’s television, except for one entry in my notes where I quote Allee declaring, “There’s not enough bronze in the world”, but I don’t record why. Although I did muse, “I miss the bronze age.” Don’t you?

PBS is discussed. “What’s with Ghostwriter? They open their Pee Chees and there it was!” I had no idea what they were talking about, so I sought safety in the great equalizer: Sesame Street.

Erin heard that the Cookie Monster was the Carrot Monster now. I called bull roar on the whole thing! (A quick visit to Snopes.com rendered that rumor false – Cookie’s merely cutting back on his namesake.) Still, we wondered how ‘politically correct’ the Street’s become. I said, “New Age Oscar lives in a recycling can now.”

Time for dessert! Instant pudding! Adam breaks in to his Bill Cosby impression. It’s right on the money!

I look past the curtains to the black Sellwood sky. The Market is here. The summer is coming – strolling through the evenings; coffee and bacon maple chocolate chip cookies at lovecup; the antique browsers and dog walkers animating 13th Avenue; and once again the delightful aromas of the Sellwood Kitchen swirling into the cosmos.


PANKO-COATED TILAPIA FILLETS

4 Tilapia fillets
2 eggs beaten
Flour
Panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking oil
Aioli Sauce (1/3 Cup Mayonnaise, 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Cajun Creole spice mix)

Mix aioli ingredients well and chill for at least 30 minutes. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large pan. Season tilapia lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge each fillet in flour, then egg. Press into Panko crumbs so each one is covered. Cook fillets in hot oil for 4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook until golden brown, a couple minutes. Cook in batches, do not crowd the pan. Serve with aioli.

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

Sunday, May 18, 2008

There is Power in a Union

Sunday morning. If you leave Monday out of the equation, it's my favorite time of the week. I brewed some coffee and made Erin and myself a turkey bacon, cheese and onion omelet (yeah, I can cook a thing or two; not three, just two). I'm listenining to Billy Bragg's "difficult third album", Talking With The Taxman About Poetry. It's almost cool here in the living room, which is a delight, because this same living room reached an almost book-bursting temperature on the Bradbury scale on Saturday.

Yesterday, Erin and I, with extraordinary assistance from Melissa (who is not 3'5 as I had previously claimed) hosted Adam & Josh's wedding shower. We had 14 friends crammed in our small, hot, upstairs apartment, midday. Open windows, open front door (cats locked safely in the bedroom), several fans and a tempermental air conditioner.

Erin handled the cooking; Melissa took charge of the decorating. I piped some letters on the cupcakes.


With a Disneyland theme, the 2 CD mixes Erin compiled were appropriately whimsical.


Most of the guests tanked it on the "Ridiculous Disney Quiz" and the Portland heat via the Amazon put the kibosh on the much anticipated Disney Pictionary.


Still, a swell time was had by all! Good food, good friends, good god -- did I mention the heat? (The black balloons deflated instantly when the noonday sun struck them; followed soonafter by the exploding yellow ones...)

Sitting here Sunday morning, thinking about eating my fifth cupcake this weekend, Erin walks into the room and smiles, "I love having parties here."


Congrats, Fellas!