Spicing Up Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Harissa

While I’ve made my fair share of mayonnaise, salad dressing and even ketchup over the years, there are quite a few condiments that I have never tried to make myself — things like curry paste, mustard and harissa. While I’ve been curious to try my hand at these, in the end laziness and convenience have always won out.

However, a recent recipe for homemade harissa from my friends of Gourmandistan piqued my interest. It seemed like a fun challenge and I was curious to taste the end result.

The whole process seemed more daunting than it turned out to be and in less than 20 minutes I had a beautifully smokey and spicy spread. I should confess that I have a deep hatred for caraway (something my husband seems to find equally baffling and entertaining) so I’ll straight up admit I omitted it, but the garlicky mixture of cumin, peppers and tomato was still finger-licking good.

Homemade Harissa

Homemade Harissa

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Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup & Holder’s Last Hurrah

 

Sweet potato, ginger and coconut milk soup

Sweet potato, ginger and coconut milk soup

My friend Oliver and I have a tradition¬† — every Wednesday we cook dinner and watch TV together. Throughout the years, we have made it through the many seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias. More recently we have veered toward trashier things like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and even went so far as to watch the Real World when it filmed in Portland.

A year or so ago we found ourselves in a lull between episodes of something and decided to check out The Killing, which we had both heard good things about. The show follows two Seattle detectives, Linden and Holder, as they solve the mystery of Rosie, a 17-year-old missing girl.

We were instantly hooked, until we realized the show was only planned to be two seasons long. Cue instant distress and sadness. This show was too good, too engrossing, too suspenseful not to continue!

And then the Netflix Gods, the same ones that brought back the final season of Arrested Development, blessed us with a surprise third season of The Killing. Even better, we were further surprised with an unexpected fourth season. Linden and Holder were coming back to us!

Last week, full of bittersweet excitement, we watched the last three episodes. While our emotions were riding an adrenaline roller coaster, our hunger was being soothed by a bowl of the most delicious sweet potato soup I’ve ever eaten.

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Warm-You-Up Thai Curry & Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Curried Coconut Soup with Chicken and Vegetables

It’s been cold and dreary in Portland this week and with every increasingly strong gust of wind, it’s becoming very clear that winter is approaching. A few weekends ago, the wind was so relentless that it took down trees all over town. We were lucky to only lose a 14-foot branch from the fir tree in our backyard. After talking to some of my co-workers, it sounds like we fared pretty well.

Since then, the wind has died down but the rain has not. Being a daily bike commuter means I come home every evening drenched, peeling off my soaked rain jacket, rain pants and booties.

It’s days like these that call for soup — something both warming in temperature and in spiciness.

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A happy {sweet potato} hash worth waking up for

Sweet potato hashbrowns with sausage and egg

It is really easy for me to get stuck in a breakfast rut — often it’s a “peanut butter toast with honey or jam” rut. I’ll branch out into oatmeal, quinoatmeal or other more hearty things for a while, but, in the end, my old ways win out and it’s back to my trusty favorites.

The only break in my habit tends to be the weekends. Finally I have the time and motivation to create something a little more involved. This breakfast is one I whipped up a few weekends ago. It was so good I’ve brought it back for several encores.

I think the part I love the most is how the flavors in the pork sausage combine with the sweet potato in such a perfect “tastes like fall” type of way. The sausage is actually one I made myself — much easier than it may sound — and contains onions, shredded apples and sage. It seems like pork, apples and sage should be their own holy trinity, especially this time of year. It’s really hard to go wrong with that combination!

The hash doesn’t play second fiddle though — its crispy in parts and slightly sweet from the caramelized sweet potato and onion. Take all that, put an egg on it (in true Portland style) and dig in to a breakfast so good you’ll wonder why you didn’t make it sooner.

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Roasted delicata squash boats bear delicious cargo

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Conversations at my job vary among a few recurring themes: crazy customers, how much we hate chicken, how we’d kill for a glass of wine, and food. While the first three conversations could practically be played on repeat, the fourth is constantly changing.

We talk about what we’re eating, what restaurants we’ve been to lately, what we ate for dinner the night before and what we’re going to eat as soon as we get home. Food talk starts when we open and continues until the office is closed and is often accompanied by photos and/or shared samples.

The two most obsessed eaters seem to be me and my co-worker Breezy. We both used to work in kitchens around town and we spend a lot of time between phone calls chatting about recipes, techniques and ingredients. This is pretty handy because it’s nice to have someone to bounce food ideas off of when I’m in need of inspiration.

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My kind of Halloween treat: Boozy Cider Shooters

Apple Cider jello Shots

Being able to make a kick ass Jello shot seems a little…immature, perhaps, and yet I cannot (and will not!) stop finding boozy gelatin fun.

The last time I experimented with it was when I made these boozy watermelon shots for a few of my co-workers back in July. So it seemed fitting that for our staff Halloween party I make something more seasonally appropriate — and what’s more autumn than apples? (If you read this blog, you know the answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing.)

These little jelly jigglers were even more popular than the apple cider cream pie that I baked for the party — and they were ten times easier to make (hooray!). No burnt pie crusts or temperamental pie pans to deal with.

I started with some good old fashioned fresh-pressed apple cider (non-alcoholic stuff though hard cider might work fine too). I used some mulling spices to amp up the fall flavor and then added a whole bunch of booze.

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