cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So For Christmas

i give you pink marshmallows--because they are my thing.

Pink marshmallows are my thing. Marshmallows are nothing special--they are simple, composed of three ingredients, sugar, sugar, and sugar. They do not require any skill, any real innovation, they are just marshmallows. I never buy pink marshmallows, though when i visit my family there is always a bag in the cupboard, fluffy pinkies mixed in among the white. I sit and pick out the pink, neglecting the white as tasteless. My brother raises an eyebrow, they taste the exact same you crazy, but what does he know. They taste nothing alike. My disdain for white? I don't know where it came from. Strange non? A marshmallow is a petite cloud, a nouage, and as one who spends the vast majority of consciousness up in the abyss of clouds dreaming of a cabbage patch, I can't bring myself to touch them. Either way, I suppose, a pink marshmallow is nothing but a white one caught in a blush, just as there are those who claim the dove to be just a white pigeon. But even if it is, why tell it. Why force one out of the cabbage patch before they have to. why, why, why, who made the rules. So let the Dove be a Dove for a little bit longer, and let the pink parade around as--as, well, pink.

I have been back in the US now for six months, Paris seems at times like it never happened. For a reason unknown to me, i am thrown at this time of holiday into homesickness for the city of lights. But why? My last year's Christmas was...well far less than the stereotypical picture book Christmas that many picture as the ideal noel. Not that i would complain--two different floors, a couch, and a stranger's apartment in Lille, all within a week! But seeing the lights, I miss her, Paris. I watch small films taken, comb through the thousands of photos, and read back the posts that created inside her borders, posts with terrible photography, zero comments, few readers, and yet my heart still bleeds. It is alright to miss, I miss more than I realize. Missing is part of the day, it is just merely at Christmas that we are made more acutely aware of our missing.

You can miss a taste, miss a smell, a sight. The sound of a siren which for me brings to the surface a bag so deeply saturated of memory that I nearly suppress a laugh. I miss the terrifying wind on the Sein on a rainy day, each ruined umbrella was yet one more everlasting trophy. I miss the terrible radio station played in my small G-20 grocery market. I miss the cat calls of the friendly construction workers along Avenue de Versailles as I jog by at 5h00 in the morning. I miss counting down the line 10 metro stops in my head on my way home; La Motte Piquette, Emile Zola, Charles-Michels, Javel-Andre Citroen, Eglise d'Auteuil. I miss Abdel every day at lunch, salut mallory ma puce, un salad de quoi aujourd'hui? Poulet ou thon? I miss la Canal Saint Martin, and I miss the Champs de Mars. Les Jardins d'Auteuil, and the tiny Square Berlioz down the street from Florielle's. I miss walking to class along Rue de Rennes past the ever-changing store front windows. I miss the guy playing the violin in the metro tunnel at Sevres-Babylon. I miss little Flo, Antoine, Nico, Tar Tar, Diogo, and the others. I miss the cooking section at the Fnac, and the crowded aisles of Carrefour that no matter what section of the store, smelled of cheese. And more than it all, I miss waking up in the morning knowing that no matter what i do or where i decide to go, this day will be an adventure, this day will be new, and this day will be alright because i have been given it as a gift. Paris didn't give me myself, Paris let me be myself. So i miss it, i miss something so terribly that i have lived. But i miss all the same what i haven't lived, what i haven't seen, and who i haven't met. But perhaps missing has been given a bad reputation, i would rather miss Paris than not have her at all, and the same goes for you. So happy Christmas everyone, may the new year bring what you hope for. Thank you for your steadfast literary patronage, we will see you in the new year. And take a pink marshmallow, they are my thingão, yes so very dorky. But take one anyways, because they do taste better, even if you don't know it yet.

pink marshmallows:
ingredients: 3 cups sugar ~ 4 packets of gelatin ~ 1.25 cups light corn syrup ~ 2 tsps raspberry extract ~ .25 tsp red powder dye ~ .75 cups water ~ .25 tsp salt
method: 1) dissolve gelatin in cold water in bowl of electric mixer 2) boil sugar, salt, and corn syrup until 238 on candy thermometer 3) slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin in mixer on low speed 4) after five minutes turn up speed and add extract and dye, mix on high for 5 more minutes 5) pour fluffy stuff into greased (do not use parchment paper!) casserole dish, leave out overnight, turn out onto powdered sugar, cut, and coat sides with powdered sugar. done.

as always,
à bientôt

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland...

a limoncello snow cake on account of all the snow

a post for my dear editor who missed the snow this year~

Friends, readers, passersby--are you by chance privy to the identity of the infamous Parson Brown? Parson Brown, yes, you know the chimey lyrics to winter wonderland: In the meadow we can build a snowman, Then pretend that he is Parson Brown, He'll say are you married? We'll say: No man, But you can do the job when you're in town. Until recently (one week ago) I was still a member of the naive masses, pausing mid-song to pose the question to the void; who the hell is Parson Brown? After multiple repetitions of my inquisition, due to the continual feed of sticky holiday favorites blasted from the car stereo through the sensuous 98.1 Spokane's number one hit station for all your holiday favorites! housemate S and I retreated to the source of infinite wisdom to quench our brain wracking conundrum, the i-ching of all things vital to a cognitive existence--no not cash cab-- Wikipedia of course. As melodious legend would have it, Parson Brown was a term given to traveling protestant ministers who traveled among rural towns to perform wedding ceremonies for those "distant" from their preferred flavor of denomination. So next time you're in the woods walking through a winter wonderland and a feigned Parson Brown arrives to "do the job" make face and high tail it or you'll find yourself hitched.

Well, now you know yet one more seemingly irrelevant truism, but perhaps somewhere, somehow, someday, it will bear out its purpose. But heed this: when walking in a winter wonderland, if you do in fact come across the Parson, poke him in the ribs and tell him that if the wedding needs a caterer and a cake, there's a bottle of limoncello sitting in the alley behind the Salty Cod Bakery determined to shatter the bad rep of the yellow snow...on y va.

Ever been caught in a 32 hour straight snow-fall? 3.5 feet in one day alone. Only you Russians and Scandinavians are entitled to call me a wimp. The television reporters dubbed it the heaviest snow since the storm of 64. What happened in 1964? Dunno. But i'm guessing there was a lot of snow involved. Snow is a beautiful phenomenon, visually stimulating to any and all eyes. Snow connotes images a plenty: Happiness, as the woodland creatures gaily pounce around Rudolph's pillowy forest. Tranquility, as poets often praise the solitude of whited paths for sensitive pensive activity. Silence, as a muffling shroud for the chaos and crime committed upon our terra firma. Romance, a snugly fire, a cozy cuddle, a steamy hot tub. Innocence, mittens, hot chocolate, sleds and a snowman. The images of snow are branded in western culture with hot irons of nostalgia. Snow is a fact of life, for those in snow bound regions of the world it comes as does the coming of tomorrow. But perhaps there is a limit, a limit when fun turns to annoyance, to pain, and to fear. Snow, like everything else in life so sticky sweet, is a double edged sword, whose presence is plentiful, though not without consequence.

A dusting is tolerable, the snow plows can do their work to put us on our merry way. The upside to snow: snow means clouds, clouds mean warmth, warmth means temperature in the positives, a welcome relief to the week of dipping below zero. Though when the heavens draft dust as a dump, things become a bit tricky. Where has my porch gone? I ask as i open my bedroom curtains to the (knee-high blanket) of powder outside my window. Hmmm. An hour with the snow shovel...and another...and another...ah finally, a path to the garbage can! Yes I am Nanook of the North! See my shovel, see my pick, come to the lake we will drill a hole and fish! (well, I do have a fur-lined hood...) neither here nor there--but I cannot open the door. Snow tires. Accidents. Where is the road? The snow has not stopped falling. The pass will be filling. Will we travel home as planned? The city becomes chaotic, the plows clear a path to be covered again only moments later. The sidewalks fuse into the roads, the tires spin and we find our hands on the trunk of the snow-stuck sedan ahead of us. These morons, attempt the roads in a lexus? Stay home unless you're in a subaru you schmuck... This morning dawned the final day of term exams--email: university closed, burried in snow. Alright then, let's get the hell out of here. Dig out the car: shall we risk our lives? Hell yes. Seattle awaits for the winter holiday.

But before we tread the ididerod, the occasion calls for a cake. The snow is irksome, though a gift in disguise. We complain, we grumble, we shovel the walk--but there is a small gem to be taken with the salt. A snow cake a snow cake to honor the snow, but what is there to be had in the house? Why, there is a frosty bottle of limoncello in the freezer, and you know what they say about yellow snow...limoncello it is. A white cake of course, but a white lemon cake? How can one fully honor the awesomely terrifying yet simple beauty of the snow in edible form? After a few brainstorming sessions with my pastry chef consultant and future business partner (miss Christy from Downunder) her idea of limoncello meringue started the snowball rolling that emerged eventually into the Spokane Snow Cake: white cake with limoncello cream icing, a center layer of limoncello meringue, all encased in a white chocolate ganache, then finished off with a snowy layer of the cream. Now that is a snow cake.

Spokane Snow Cake:

white cake
Ingredients: ~ 2 sticks butter ~ 1.5 cups sugar ~ 2 cups flour ~ 2 tsp bp ~ vanilla sugar ~ 0.75 cups milk ~ 6 egg whites ~ 0.25 tsp salt
Method: 1) mix dry 2) beat butter and sugar 3) combine whites and milk 4) add dry and wet to butter alternating each addition 5) bake in pan of choice lined with parchment (god's toiletpaper) at 350 F until it is cooked.

Limoncello Meringue
Ingredients: 3 egg whites ~ 0.75 cups sugar ~ 1 packet vanilla sugar ~ 2 tsps limoncello
Method: beat egg whites until foamy, add sugars and limoncello, then beat until stiff peaks. line the SAME pan you baked your cake in with parchment paper, and fill with a layer of the whipped egg whites (don't use it all please, this is to make a LAYER not a brick ok) and bake for 2 hours at 200 F. yes, it is a bitch. but worth it.

Limoncello Cream
Ingredients: 8 oz (1 square pack) of cream cheese ~ 6 tbsp Limoncello ~ pack of vanilla sugar ~ half stick of butter ~ 4 cups confectioners sugar
Method: beat cream cheese and butter, add vanilla sugar, limoncello, and sugar. Whip it up good.

White Chocolate Ganache
Ingredients: half a bag of white chocolate chips ~ 80 ml of evaporated milk ~ 0.25 cup of butter
Method: heat milk and butter in microwave until bubbly, pour over the chocolate chips in a bowl and whip until melted.

Assemble: When cake is cool, cut it in half and spread a thin-ish layer of limoncello cream. place meringue (should be exact same shape as cake) on top of cream. Add another layer of cream. Place top of cake on. Pour ganache on top all over. Let dry. Cover with rest of cream. And that's all, really.

Snow. Snow. Snow so white--Snow White, Blanche Neige. Ah you meddlesome pest, you tormentor of routine. Cold nose, cold toes. You are best under my skis. But there are those out there who yet wonder about you, who want to see and to feel you. Take it I say--I don't want it. Trade me it's all yours. But if mine were all yours, and yours all were mine, I would pine for a flake, the cold chill and the thrill. Fickle is nature, pretty the pest, perhaps it just shows that we always want what it is we don't have. But a compromise then instead--we can meet in the middle somewhere, a snowball will melt in the jar, but a piece of cake can go far.

A bientot

Friday, December 12, 2008

They Came. We Eat.

Gonzaga History 335's inaugural day of Food Study

On the first day of history 335: coming to America, a course chronologizing in finite percental detail, the threads that comprise the historical tapestry of this colorfully peopled nation, Dr. Irish mentioned, though perhaps only on a whim, that "every year i think of how great it would be if we could have a day of study of immigrant culinary traditions where tasting would be of the utmost necessity...if only there was someone to organize it." If only indeed. One word was all it took, and I knew there was a story waiting. Every year it fails to materialize? Well you've never had this loco in the class before. On y va.

With cookbooks tucked under the crook of my arm, i knocked on the door of professor Irish's office, do you have a minute? -of course. alright well you are going to think i'm crazy, -that's ok i already do. thanks, but i have here my plans for the immigration food day. -the what? really? you did? I hand him the menu; myriad ethnic dishes carefully chosen based on percentages representative of immigrant group's numerical significance as well as weight of cultural impact. For example, three possibilities for Ireland, three for Eastern Europe, two for Germany, one for Norway, three for Mexico, three for China, two for Japan, etc. until the class count of twenty seven was reached. Each possible food item not only represented a culinary national tradition, but was one that actually made it into America. To accomplish this seemingly subjective stunt, all recipes came from Greg Patent's A Baker's Odyssey (on recommendation from my favorite French immigrant, Helen...I suppose today the word is expat) as well as other relevant texts and novels. So what do you think? I ask as I hand him the documents. Holy are crazy.

Standing in front of the class announcing the process, I know the eyes upon me gleam the same notion: yep it's official, she's the crazy one, as i announce, because I am project dictator, you will have a list of recipes to choose from that will then be distributed to you. If you are scared of baking--you can come bake in my kitchen and i'll help you. The sign up sheet is passed around with the menu of possible choices to prepare--unfortunately Guinness and vodka had to be removed as Dr. Irish reminded us, you know very well that only the Jesuits are allowed to drink in the classrooms. did I just get you fired? oops-- accompanying the list was a prosaic blurb outlying why we were doing this:

Food is one one of the most crucial forms of cultural preservation—yet it is unique for it's elasticity in that it is simultaneously a form of cultural conglomeration. Language divides, appearance divides, religious beliefs divide, but when has cake ever divided? As a world we eat each others food, and as a world we yet maintain our own. The American language is naught but English, but the American table is spread with hundreds of dialects represented by plates of spaghetti, tacos, rice, coffee cakes, sausages, teas, pastries, liquors, etc. Food is a lens to view history, nothing edible exists without a story.

Under each ethnicity is listed a selection of recipes to choose from, the number in bold signifies the number of people allowed to choose from each category. The fun asterisk * denote the recipe's (according to me) basic difficulty. Note: proportionality is based on volume of persons actually immigrated, amount of time spent discussing a particular group in class, and overall weight of influence on American gastronomic culture.

My contribution, after much wrestling against the wish to do my preferred cuisines and pastries (France, Portugal, and my favorite tapioca-rich dreamland to the south unfortunately are not primary nations from whence the migratory masses emerged) therefore as the instigator of this shenanigan, i decided to go with the first immigrants--no not the Norse and Portuguese cod fishermen who didn't stay--but with whom we owe our frustrating yet (as a writer) majestic language to; the United Kingdom. Since no Jesuits are enrolled in the class, to import the Guinness meant to bake it--so to tribute the Union Jack, Guinness potato yeast bread for St. Patrick's Cross, Scottish shortbread for that of St. Andrew's, and orange marmalade jammie dodgers for St. George's. Yes, a bloody arsenal of baked goods; i was up to my elbows in flour for hours. excellent, one of my many cabbage patches.

The date was set for the final class period, and the result? The result was our first immigration food history day--miso soup, Norwegian krumkakar, tortillas, Polish sausages, bratwurst, Irish soda bread, Chinese almond cookies, bread puddings, Pennsylvania Dutch cake, challah, cinnamon rolls, minestrone, Cornish pasties, Borschendal pudding (African bread pudding), and many other delicacies. My classmates cooked, baked, made food--perhaps some for the first time, success! The culmination of a semester of study by experiencing something tangible: this food exists in our American culture today, illustrating that it is food, as much as language, dress, and religion that preserves and makes visible our historical makeup.

Guinness Potato Bread:
ingredients: ~4.75 cups bread flour ~ 3 mashed russet potatoes ~ 0.5 cup luke warm Guinness ~ 7 grams (1 packet) yeast ~ 2 tsps salt ~ 2 tbsps olive oil

method: 1- dissolve (completely) yeast in the Guinness (mmm smell good don't it?) 2-mix with potatoes, oil, and salt 3-gradually add all of the flour. 4- kneed until smooth, then cover for half an hour to rise. 5-roll out, either into two large rounds, or into 16 rolls and place on a floured towel, cover and let rise for 20 more minutes. 6- bake until they are done.

note: Jammie Dodgers are not linzer cookies--as there is no almond flour used, instead the cookie is more of a basic biscuit shortbread (you know how the British are with their biscuits, the French too for that matter, but only with a bit of chocolate)

Jammie Dodgers
ingredients: 2 cups (260 gr) flour ~ 1/4 tsp (2 grams) salt ~ 2 sticks unsalted butter ~ 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar ~ 1 tsp vanilla extract
method: 1) cream butter and sugar--if you don't have mixer (cough, college students) don't be afraid to whisk by hand, i do--just make sure it's room temp butter, and not melted 2) add vanilla 3) mix the dry things in another bowl 4) combine butter/sugar with dry mix 5) roll dough into a log or two, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour OR MORE 6) roll out dough flat (sprinkle everything with flour) and using a cookie cutter (or jam jar lid, bottle cap, something round, cut circles of all the dough, then using a smaller circle (soda top works) cut out smaller circles in half to make the tops 7) line a baking sheet with parchment and bake ~ 5-8 minutes or until they look done at 350 degrees. 8) cool, then sandwich with jam, ganache, whathave you--but first dust cookie tops with pwdered sugar.

A room full of chefs--stuffed college students on their final class day before the dread of the impending finals week, perhaps immigration in their minds has been made a little sweeter. Maybe food day is just a coy plot to distract a lesson and stuff our faces, but is it mere coincidence that all memories have somewhere embedded within a description of food? In the Godfather do we not always remember to take the canolis? At the end of the course Dr. Irish exclaimed, how will we do this next year? you will have to come back! Spokane next December? Not a chance--next December, perhaps next December I will be baking as an immigrant myself.

à bientôt

Friday, December 5, 2008

If You Only Had One Day In Portland Oregon...

you'd better take Salty along

Salty has gone a travelin' again. Finally you say--after the weekend reports from Rome, sojourns along the Portuguese coast, rompings through the French countryside on fifteen euro rail tickets, missed trains in Prague, Christmas markets in Munich, Sunday nights in Paris poker parlors...yes life in Spokane appears rather Amish in comparison. But as we claim our umpteenth life goal to be the publication of The Salty Cod Travel Guide to the World (the masses will cry: Rick Steves who?! exactly) we decided that a discovery was past due. But perhaps there are those who might say that the cities of America are no match to the romantic odysseys of Europe. Perhaps yes, and so--too bad for you. But we at the Salty Cod hold the premise that if we have not been there, then it is travel. It is adventure. And whether it be five thousand miles away, or a mere three hundred, if I have not been there, then I am a foreigner. Oregonians are in fact a breed unto their own. Portland, Oregon a city gilded green and bursting with a hidden character that defiles that sleepy tree-hugging stereotype of the porklander. Would you like to see? I thought so. On y va shall we.

And what if you did only have one day in the City of Roses, what then? Who can see a city in twenty four hours. Well, let Salty help you. You could visit the famous rose gardens on the hill, take a hot chocolate and artisan truffle at an internationally acclaimed chocolaterie, browse the shelves of the largest independent book store in the world, stop by a grungy Bourdain-approved hole in the wall for possessed donuts literally unlike any other, stroll along the yuppy bohemian chic shop-walk of 23rd avenue, climb atop the tallest hill and seize in one single sweeping glance a panorama of the five tallest peaks in the Pacific Northwest, sit down to lunch at a family owned gluten free house of fish and chips, get your gas pumped by a window tapping attendant, and, if there's time--try to catch a Blazers game. All in a good day's work.

Located on the yuppity shopping avenue of 23rd, the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe is a gourmet stop for anyone desirous of sampling international award winning chocolate confections. Portland born and kept, there are presently five chocolate cafes found throughout Oregon, but are retailed in myriad gourmet food shops around the world. Perhaps you overheard Oprah Winfrey raving about them, or read their review in the New York Times or the Boston Herald, or caught a glimpse of their Food Finds coverage on the Food Network. Would it surprise you to learn that Moonstruck truffles are stuffed into the goodie bags of the Academy Awards and given to guests on the Ellen DeGeneres Show? Well it shouldn't. This is Portland we're talking about after all. Why, as the best truffles in America, they should be given the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. Oh wait, they have.

For the sake of report, my private guide and I felt it our duty to sample a few of the glittering chocolates instead of merely smearing the protective glass with out cold-reddened face. A couple steaming hot cups of peppermint dark chocolate mocha coffees were in order as well. The lemon cream dark chocolate ganached turkey shaped truffle was amazingly smooth, and the striped eggnog boules were fantastic beyond lexical explanation. Salty's favorite of course was dark chocolate and cointreau. However, the most popular sellers are the champagne, Bailey's Irish Cream, French Silk Chocolate Mousse, and Clear Creek Pear Brandy truffles. Oh la la.

It would be advantageous to hire a personal escort around the city--a true Portlander who knows where to go, and where to avoid, and preferably one with a car, but if you cannot--well there are buses, and a bus you will need indeed if you are to climb Council Crest, Portland's highest point reaching 1,073 feet (327 meters) above sea level. Though once at the top, you will stop cursing me for my sending you up there; the sight is breathless (literally, the icy gust makes it quite difficult to breath...mouthfuls of wind for lunch...) and any and all effort put in will be rewarded instantly. In one glance the four tallest peaks in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest are devoured; from left to right Mt. St. Helens, hiding behind her the peaking wink of Mt. Rainier, to whose right lies Mt. Adams, followed by Mt. Hood. Nothing, nothing found in Portland compares to the view of these snow capped giants. Award them a moment of attention, there will be felt no regret.

Following an existential mountain viewing, one's appetite is ravenous--and as the Pacific Northwest is known stereotypically for their quality (and quantity) of seafood, why not search out a bit of...cod. The Corbett Fish house, the only completely gluten free fish house (that I know of) in existence. Not a drop of gluten passes the threshold of the family owned pub-style neighborhood fish house--even down to the beer selection. Located off the beaten tourist track at 5901 SW Corbett street, tucked in between doll-like houses, the Corbett fish house offers a variety of sea critters fried in a rice flour batter to crispy perfection. Alaskan halibut, yellow perch from the Great Lakes, oysters from Willapa Bay, Pacific caught cod, and Florida prawns all find their way into the fryers of the Corbett clan. Gluten free beer, gluten free cheesecakes and pies; it seems that the majority of Portland is on the gluten free track--whether fad or for real, it's a-o.k. with us.

The next stop after lunch is for desert (well not for the gluten-free-ers, perhaps just dessert for the eyes then) at a donut shop of celebrity status--visited by the man himself Anthony Bourdain. Voodoo Donuts, I have been waiting two years to come here! I squeal to my guide and housemate, S, the Portland native by whom everything in the trip was made possible. You never cease to amaze me, she laughs, as why would one who cannot even eat the product be thrilled beyond chills and peppermint pills at the chance just to visit the Podunk hole-in-the-wall. The answer, of which she is quite savvy of, is simply, well Anthony went there!

When I say hole-in-the-wall, I mean hole in the wall. The walk along the front entrance is strewn with trash cans and dumpsters, a has-been (and questionable content) theatre to the left, and a grungy tobacco shop to the right. Excellent. It is quite evident why Tony would visit. Upon entry the crowded eclectic interior assaults ones senses with a lot, but on quick recovery of the feng-shui assault, the eyes are pulled to the rotating cupboard of famous classics--the voodoo doll: chocolate covered dough created in the image of man filled with a blood-red cherry jam and stabbed with pretzel knives in angry revenge, the captain crunch donut, the bubblegum blue, the Oreo and peanut butter concoction dubbed the old dirty bastard, the fruit looper, and of course--Bourdain's favorite, the maple bacon bar with a real slice of fried bacon on top. Did we buy a pink box? Yes. But to whom did they find guttural sanctuary in? Well, I had to provide something when I arrived for thanksgiving now didn't I.

Perhaps a bit of exercise is due after all of those donuts, if meandering is what you lust for, try it indoors, at Powell's Books, the world's largest independently owned book store. Large here means large. The store is divided into color coded sections, the Ikea of books, yes your child could get lost inside, and for that matter you could get lost inside. Spawned now into six Portland metropolitan locations, the shelves of Powell's stack thousands upon thousands of books--new, used, and rare, and has become one of the most successful dot-com book retailers. The cooking section, my friends, spans nearly 5 distinct aisles, with shelves that reach higher than one could even expect a ladder to reach. Powell's is a fortress, and for the book enthusiast, or even simply the maze enthusiast, is a critical stop on a Portland expedition.

Along with all of that, perhaps a stroll along the river, a crossing of one of the myriad bridges, a visit to the rose gardens (Portland is the city of Roses) a promenade along the chic shopping alleys--and maybe, if there's time, a Portland Trail Blazers game. That would be a basketball game (NBA) for yee the non-Americans out there. But all in all this is just one pinch of Portland; underneath her labels of tree hugging, chai-tea sipping, hippy tattooed alternatives, lies so much more, a more that really can only be described by the word variety. Oh and the yellow and green you ask? Well Portland is a city divided by a brutal civil war--it is called the University of Oregon Ducks versus the Oregon State Beavers. You must choose a side, and it is not pretty, let me tell you...but Portland, Porkland is. If you happen to visit her someday, take me with you.

As usual nothing is possible without your friends: Thank you S for everything! And a special thanks to G for the first rate Portland hospitality!

à bientôt

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Eat and Run (Literally) - The Seattle Marathon

this tank runs unleaded on yogurt and oats

Warm. Wet. And gray. The perfect conditions for the perfect Seattle race. My first Seattle race, I only ran the half race of 13.1 miles (21.1 kilometers), but felt no less honored to be among the 1200 other racers snaking through the Emerald City. For most the race began on 5th and Harrison, though for some of us who clearly misdiagnosed the traffic buildup on I-5 south, the race began by jumping out of a car on the 167 exit ramp. Anything to add a bit of extra dramatics non? As long as you get to the start when the horn is blown, all is bueno.

Once at the start line, the promenade hit straight all the way down 5th avenue, dipping up and down along the shops and early morning spectators for the 7:30 start. Quest Field and Safeco appear in the mist on the right as we trodded over the I-90 Express lanes toward the Mt. Baker tunnel. Lake Washington to the right, through the trees and over the river to grandmother's house we go. The mist is thick and warm, a layer of condensation or a layer of perspiration? None could be the wiser. Water stations are not necessary--all the water needed is inhaled alongside my oxygen. Finally there appears Lake Union, now we are herded over I-5 returning humbly downtown. Two miles to go until the cowbell-ringing lined path ushering us into memorial stadium. A little sun too, why how nice of the heavens for that. Now get me a bag of bloody ice before my decrepit knee decides to completely stop working.

There were no Thanksgiving recipes from the Salty Cod? Sorry my dear friends--my hand partook not one note in the thanksgiving feast(s). But perhaps a pumpkin yogurt for sunday morning road race fuel can makeup for my shortcomings. Mix two parts yogurt with one part pumpkin goo and spices. Not much of a recipe. But simple in running is always the best. The Seattle half was my first race after the French (ok fine just myself) destroyed my knee last December. Perhaps a few more halfs and then he'll be ready for the whole. But I know that you who are my fellow runners understand.

Athletes don't eat dairy before a competition you say. But i do. No carb-overload pasta stuff-athon the night before a big race for me. No, for the wheat free runner that game changes. To what carbohydrate you ask? To rice. Rice the night before, yogurt and oats the hour before. Does it work? Why yes yes it does. Every morning at 5:30 yogurt and oats lead the way for workouts. Today-well races are special. Throw in a power bar, and perhaps in honor of the thanksgiving weekend, a special yogurt is at hand. Pumpkin pie yogurt with a roasted pumkin seeds. Now don't those make the GU glucose gels look appetizing...mmm. But no I jest--those syrupy translucents are thigh savers at mile 10.

One is the loneliest number, they say. Runners are solo jocks, out there alone, in pain alone, in victory alone. And I used to agree. But running is not done alone. The myriad voices in the ear (maybe that's just the ipod. dunno.) the hundreds alongside whose hearts pound rhythmically too, the family at the finish line, the friend who gets you there and extinguishes your anxiety, your friends who will read this (so you better have a story for them), and the irreplaceable weight of the people who fill your thoughts as the bouncing hours and minutes tick by in rhythm as each foot falls, one in front of the other. The runner has that person(s) upon whom is dumped all the woes and fears of ankles and knees, shoes and burns, sore muscles, seeming pointless goals reported daily. Mile counts. Hour counts. Today was this, tomorrow we do that. Does anyone other than the runner care--no. But they will never tell you so. And for that they are irreplaceable. Running is impossible without these members. And so one is not always the loneliest number, one can oftentimes be awfully crowded.

Get up and run! Next race we do side by side.

à bientôt

Friday, November 21, 2008

And do you, Mr. Orange Take Miss Lentil to be your Lawfully Wedded Wife...

the pound-caking objection of mistress anisette

It is starting to get cold. Not chilly, not brrrr, not wow maybe i should put on a jacket because my nose is sniffling, but cold. I won't lie, I do not fancy this cold unless chairlifts and powdered moguls are involved. Morning is dawning at seven. November gives the Spokane sky a picturesque glow--it is bright, but not sunny. A sad bright, if oxymoron may be called upon. It looks cold, if cold is a look. A beautiful coldness. The sun sits hovering behind wispy clouds stretched far too thinly over the Tiffany blue backdrop, the look is quite promising, though the skeleton trees and frost stiffened grass cry silent intimations through the window pane of no! do not let him fool you, your day has dawned sub-zero! How unfortunate that tricky sun gloating above us in all his mockery--you may see me but you can not feel me. To leave one building means only a race to get into another. That is the winter game. Well we will play our own winter game mr. sun, with smarties of your likeness. Orange in America is a winter fruit. It grows in the real sun of the south. The rays are bottled in its sun-tanned rind; thus sun made orange in his own image. The savior is then sent northward to we the vitamin D deprived. Why, little glowing citric orb of heat; you are my sunshine. So on y va.

So what of this lentil and orange business? That is a good question. No one really knows why they are together, but there they are all the same, in a cake. Lady Lentil is quite the jewel; small and bubbly, a protein, a staple, versatile and malleable. Could you ever imagine her in a cake? Orange did not, but what could there possibly be to lose. Orange lentil cake, what a perfect idea; healthy and yet sweet, is that not the divine marriage of flavors. But perhaps flavor divinity is in the eye of the beholder, for while the butter whipped and the flour sifted, a little seed spilled onto the counter, shouting in her controversy to be taken along. Orange and anise, they were made for each other. A striking slap of bitter licorice, yet there is some power of sweetness dissolving her bite. Anise, a tricky little spice. You either love her or you hate her, there is nothing in between. Orange and Lentil stared at one another, unknowing of what to do. But Miss Anisette could not be shaken, and tipped head first into the batter. But what could be done? To pick out a million specs is impossible, there's no getting rid of her now. Lentil and orange, though they sound mysteriously unique are not enough on their own. Lentil as flour is too void of flavor and personality to compliment citric orange. Thus we must remember that it is not the surprise ingredient that stands out, but rather what you do to it (who saw that ostrich egg on top chef last week?) Orange lentil cake--no. Orange anise lentil cake--now we're talking.

Now that you have been wrung through a poorly written and seemingly unnecessary pastry soap opera of personified foodstuffs, perhaps there is some splaining to do. Lentil cake! Yes lentil cake, but why? Why--because I am me. And my fridge is empty and I am starving. I see a bag of lentils. There are bean cakes, so why not a lentil cake? A cake without gluten, a cake I could eat. So in Salty Cod fashion, we crossed our eyes, hailed mary, poured a glass of wine, and played baking god. And what do ya know, my Frankenstein, he lives!

Orange Anise Lentil Cakes:

Ingredients: 1 cup pureed lentils ~ 1 cup gluten free flour mix like bob's (or if you could give a damn about gluten, just use a cup of regular old flour, any flour actually) ~ 3 eggs ~ 1.5 cups powdered sugar ~ 0.5 cups butter (1 stick) ~ 1 tsp baking powder ~ 0.5 tsp salt ~ 1 packet vanilla suagar (or extract) ~ 0.5 tsp almond extract ~ 1 tsp anise seeds ~ zest of whole orange

method: 1) combine butter and sugar, add eggs, extracts, zest, and anise 2) in another bowl combine flour, bs, and salt 3) combine wet mixture and flour, add lentil puree 4) divide into sprayed muffin tins or a loaf pan 5) bake at 350 F until done.

You are correct, orange and anise do sound of classic biscotti, but now they are lentil pound cake. deal with it. You wish to know if the cake tastes of vegetable? If you are yet doubting, which i do not blame you for, I will here gloat that none of the cake's consumers were told of the ingredients, none, and yet eyes fluttered back in pastry ecstasy of palatable bliss! And well, because I am so full of myself, I will say these cakes were quite successful. Sorry Lentil, Orange is nothing without Anise. So on a cold sunny day--we found our sunshine.

à bientôt

Friday, November 14, 2008

Québec Fudge...Revisited

the magic of a microwaved mess up

What do we do when we fall off the horse? We get back on it. But what do we do if the horse starts doing the cock-a-doodle dance of mockery as you sit in the dirt rubbing your sore ass? Well, we could remind the horse that in Iceland minced horse meat pies are common occurrences at the family dinner table. Or, look that sorry lump of undercooked caramel straight in the eye and proclaim the battle ad interim. hehe. Who am I kidding, there's no sappy drama here, only dumb luck and a microwave baby. on y va.

But wouldn't it be great if i could draw out a tale of perseverance mixed with with a message of overcoming the obstacles to laugh senor surrender straight out of town. Create a salty sweet Odysseus out of molasses and sugar. Would you agree that there is nothing in life that cannot be manipulated into allegory for one's need. The notion of resilience; knocked down but still coming back for more. That milk toast of a philosopher Pascal would put it l'homme n'est qu'un roseau, le plus faible de la nature--but a reed unbreakable none the less, Winston held us on repeat, never never never give up, and who first said if at first you don't succeed... Humans love the underdog; the struggle, the failure followed by redemption. There are six Rocky films aren't there? If we mess up we try again, the product a lesson learned from our mistakes. To err is human. So perhaps to come back then is to laugh at humanity for having found the loophole.

When the sun comes out we think it a sign. The wind dries the puddles and pavement so you can finally wear your new shoes. One small pin prick lights the satin sheet of star-less night sky that seemed to have smothered you with unfortunate bruising details only the night before. A whisper, a nod, a note at your heart from afar, perhaps these small seemingly inconsequential happenings are all that it takes really in cliche to turn that frown upside down. Just one small right among what appears unbearably to be so many wrongs to make us feel right again. A weakness? Maybe, but it is better to pretend the rocking horse a Pegasus than to wallow in a horse-less reality.

Did that happen here with this bloody fudge? Was I in a bad mood turned happy by stumbling upon a cure? No, but look it gave me premise for a story now didn't it. About three weeks ago i attempted the creation of Québec fudge, or Sucre à la crème (recipe here) to sit atop an autumnal cheesecake, while i posted it, it was a, well a failure. The fudge did not work out; instead of a crumbly sandy color fudge i was left with a dark gooey caramel. And in my dramatic hot head fashion, after securing squares of the made "caramel" for the cheesecakes, i piled the grinning lump of maple caramel into a box and shoved it in the back of the freezer, mumbling to myself in haughty blackness myriad curses upon all things French Canadian. Out of mind out of sight eh? We don't like to be reminded of our mistakes. Though as my anger ebbed, the lump emerged from the freezer before my trip to Seattle with my clownish smile of ooh perhaps R and G (brother and sister) could use this to make caramel apples! So I'm a failed candy maker, move on. Or so I thought...

G and i heated a little cup of the caramel to drizzle over pink rice crispy treats we made together (i only like pink marshmallows) and as the caramel set into zig zag formations across the sticky rice squares, it began to opaque; huh, that looks like fudge. That looks like fudge! Throw the whole box of caramel in the microwave. One minute later--pour into a greased pan. The next morning: set, opaque, crumbly fudge. Oh yeah. I meant to do that the entire time.

The principle: fudge needs to be cooked to a certain temperature, that is why a candy thermometer is necessary. But if you f* it up, it can be redeemed through a little dumb luck and a trip through the microwave. We triumphed through our peril and overcame the beast of failure through steadfast perseverance! No not really, but it's a nice thought. It is not easy to fix a sticky mess, but it is possible. Allegorize and personify your fudge, because if at first you don't succeed...

à bientôt

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sydney's off to Seattle--with Winey Tear-Stained Cookies

pomegranate Merlot Langues de Chat--the Jefferson peace coins for the trip to my parents

So I have a cat. Well rather, my housemates and I have a cat. And her name is Sydney. But what my housemates and I manged to accomplish, as budding first-time home renters, was the purchase of the monster prior to asking for the landlords approval. Now, after two months, we casually get around to asking. And the verdict: well of course it is no, else there would be no story here for me to yarn before your eyes. So the cat must go. But go where? Ironically it is not even my cat, i'm not a cat person --but my three housemates were denied and refused harborage by their families or significant others, and therefore the burden, like many others i have dumped, falls to my poor parents. She will get along fine there though, for their home is a halfway house for hooligans, drunks, rehab patients, mentally handicapped dogs, my brother, boxes of crap i don't want to throw out yet don't want to keep (love you guys), oh yeah and on occasion--me.

So the pestilent cat must be taken to Seattle. Hooray! A few days away from Spokane! It has been over three months since my last visit, and when the mountain passes are free of snow the distance between Spokane and Seattle dwindle to under five hours by car. So, this weekend--we are away. But right before we go--we bake some cookies of course. When Captains Merriweather Lewis and William Clark "discovered" the western United States they took with them Jefferson peace coins of the nation to offer the native tribes they stumbled upon as mementos of thanks and tidings of we come in peace. At the Salty Cod, short of printing Thomas Jefferson's face on a shortbread biscuit, we try to follow suit.

But then what of these strange cookies? Well, a recipe reminiscent of a cat (duh) to offer to family accompanied by repetitive arigato head motions. Langues de chat--cat tongues are long dry french butter sugar cookies, but softened to a crybaby version with wine and Persephone tears (pomegranate jewels). Am I crying for losing the cat? Sadly no. The cat is much better off without me. With other animals to play with and an outdoor forest to explore. Perhaps it's just one of those days (weeks) where the bags of bricks fall one just after the other. And maybe the wine...sitting next to my computer (glass-less, bad sign?) is perfect to make a white cookie pink like a cat's tongue, and fate perhaps then arranged the pomegranate in the bowl, tear shaped seeds, jewels from which mythology has given us to correlate to sadness and having fallen in a web. We all feel sorry for ourselves from time to time, but once reality is checked, and perhaps a few days to get...away; and the sun somehow finds its way back into the sky, even if it is still only behind the clouds. Reality is remembering that despite the presence of storm clouds--the sun did in fact rise. Reality doesn't always have to be seeing to beleiving, in fact I prefer it to not be.

Langues de chat: (traditional from Chocolate & Zucchini)
ingredients: .5 cup flour ~ .25 cup sugar ~ 2 egg whites ~ 1 tsp vanilla ~ .25 cup butter
method: mix. refrigerate one hour. using a pastry bag make strips, and bake 400 for 7 minutes.

with wine and pomegranates: add extra sugar, extra flour, 4 tbsps wine, and a quarter cup pomegranates.

Sydney, lonestar Spokey--now a sister to three dogs and two wizened felines. She will be just fine. She has taken kindly to the room that used to be my little sisters, which before hers was mine, and now is a computer office/ guest room with boxes stacked against walls, a telescope here, a guitar case there--physical displacement is given more credit than it deserves. You feel at home where you want to feel at home.

Wine and pomegranates. Well i'll take inspiration from any source, the good and the lonely. But remember that the only things to do with leftover pomegranate tears is to drown them in a bowl of steamy porridge. And next time--we'll use a damn glass.

Perks of a short trip home? Rainy soccer games--both brother and sister. But even better--what can i take from the pantry...tante pufflette si tu es la j'aime beaucoup tes confitures! i am making off with two jellys...shhhh!!

a bientot

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Trick or A Treat? Spicy and Sweet

Spicy Chocolate Black Bean Cakes

Is it a trick? Have I put a rock in Charlie Brown's bucket? Say what!? Perhaps if I said both a trick and a treat you will roll your eyes? Black bean brownie cakes with spicy chocolate. What say you to that! Perhaps it is a little tricky, perhaps it is a little healthy, perhaps I think about cake too much, but i must do something mischievous while sitting on my bum pretending to write a history paper as door-knocking goblins and ghouls solicit me for candy, are you surprised that college bar parties aren't quite my style? Don't worry--I am not offering the them these cakes, perhaps if i did they would throw soap at my windows. So a bucket of sticky sugar pills awaits their arrival by the door. Are you familiar with the American tradition of trick or treating? History links the practice to an evolution of events stretching back to medieval Europe. Yes trick or treating has a history, and while I would love to bestow history lectures upon the monsters at my door in lieu of candy, I think I would prefer to not be kicked in the shins and have a toilet paper and egg-free house in the morning. But you can't kick me from where you are! So on y va.

But first I want to make note on the layout change here at the Salty Cod: we've finally played the Html game and figured out how to import photos as their proper size--all thanks of course to my friend-the fantastically talented photographer/viciously gifted pastry chef Christy down yonder in Aussi-land. Please visit her at 5 Types of Sugar right now. Well after you are done reading my ramblings of course.

So the grand ultimatum: trick or treat. The origins of the American game lie in medieval European pagan traditions for the celebration of All Saint's Day, or All Hallows Day on November 1st, All Souls Day on November 2nd, and All Hallow's Eve on October 31st. On these days, variant traditions of costuming and soliciting food at the doors of strangers in exchange for prayers for the dead arose as, beleive it or not, a Christian practice. Souling, termed in Ireland, was the first trick or treat dating back possibly to the tenth century in which fruits and cakes were asked for in exchange for a prayer. In Ireland the practice of leaving soul cakes out on doorsteps for the departed continues to modern times. Though we must accredit the Scottish tradition as the closest predicate to the American version. In their practice of guising, children went door to door performing poems, dances, or jokes in exchange for a treat--today we get no such vaudeville.

Undoubtedly these souling traditions made their way to the United States on the coat tails of immigrants. The first public mentioning of the term Trick or Treat was in the Oregon Daily Chronicle newspaper in 1934, reporting on pranksters dressed as ghouls and ghosts who in mob racquet fashion, knocked upon doors demanding candied fruits and food stuffs as a treat, or they would trick the poor sap's house by soaping or rocking the windows. Ultimately: which would you rather? Give me a treat or have a trick on you! This practice spread across the country--the cautious home owners began to prepare the evening of October 31st by having sweets on hand, while the more disagreeable old timers were known at a time for keeping the shot gun close by.

Today, trick or treating is harmless--children know nothing of tricks only of treats as they walk the streets dressed as pumpkins and tooth fairies with glowsticks in hand. But the high school age out for those. Now the trick perhaps is up to the candy giver...shall i give you your chocolate bar, or perhaps, like poor Chuck, a gift of a rock.

Now to the subject of black bean chocolate cakes; a trick and a treat in one for this All Hallows Eve; for by their appearance none would guess a deceit, though on the inside they are wheat free, flour free, white powder free black bean cakes--a Salty Cod creation. Chouette! We recently stumbled upon the image of a Japanese red bean cake and thought, well why not black then? Black is our favorite. We are quite fond of black beans, for a few years now we have been cooking them regularly in a fashion not unlike our mental reputation: different every time. Sometimes with cumin, sometimes with cinnamon, sometimes with coconut milk, is there an onion? Perhaps some garlic this time. We have never made black beans the same twice, perhaps that is their charm, you can do anything with them. So why not a cake, a chocolate cake with cayane pepper and chilies.

Beans? Gluten free? Is this some vegan-esque mumbo jumbo? Ab-so-lu-te-ment non. We may not eat gluten, but it does not procure a prejudice against powdery white wheatness; we just happen to like beans and baking with vegetables (are you glad you missed the lemon and beet seed bread? many a taster termed it the beet loaf.) And though beans may sound healthy--there is plenty of sugar within. So a trick, but yet still a treat.

Spicy Chocolate Bean Cakes:
Ingredients: 2 cups cooked black beans ~ 4 eggs ~ 1.5 cups sugar ~ 0.25 cups cocoa powder ~ packet vanilla sugar ~ 1 tsp baking powder ~ one chili pepper ~ .5 tsp cayene pepper or chili powder

method: 1) in a food processor (or magic bullet. hehe) cream beans and pepper. 2) mix absolutely everything else with the beans in a bowl. 3) fill muffin cups, cupcake molds, or an 8x8 brownie pan. 4) cook at 375 for about 15 minutes for the small cakes, 25 for the pan.

spicy vanilla butter cream: 1 stick butter ~ powdered sugar (just wing it, sorry i never measure with frostings or icings) ~ cream/milk ~ vanilla extract ~ cayene pepper or chili powder

will make ten small cupcakes. But to be honest--they taste much better without the frosting. plain and au naturel, but for an aesthetically pleasing photo frosting is a must. so Salty Cod suggestion for second-time improvements: nothing on top, but if a top is a must, then perhaps just a chocolate sauce.

Since for many a caramel and chocolate bar are much more appealing, we will give out our gummy bears and peanut butter cups to the kiddies. But this gamble paid off--and I can eat them! Black beans instead of flour, yes it works, and yes it tastes good--even the white bread loving S.F.A (housemates) were surprised and amazingly pleased by the unexpected ingredient--because it does look like your everyday average daisy jane brownie. Haha! I ahk at them, I put a trick in your treat!

a bientot