Steamed artichokes- it’s a family thing! By Nikki

Sunflowers!

Oregon Sunflowers!

Today is my last day in Oregon! I have been here for two weeks visiting with my family and friends. The days have been full seeing people for coffee or dinner, picking blueberries on Sauvie Island, floating on the lake, family picnics and BBQs, hiking in the Gorge, and a quick camping trip to the beach! It has really been a great time, but I recently told a friend  “I’m not 23 anymore and filling my days from start to finish with activity- although fun, it is exhausting!” The end of any vacation or family visit is always bittersweet. It has been special to be with so many loved ones, but I am looking forward to being in my own space… and not sleeping in a twin bed!

Lake Oswego Farmer's Market

Lake Oswego Farmer’s Market

Yesterday morning, I walked from my parents’ house to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Lake Oswego. It overlooks the lake and it is a beautiful area for the market. It is a good venue to walk around and spend a sunny summer morning.

Beautiful LO

Beautiful LO

I wasn’t sure if I was going to find something at the market to feature on the blog today. This farmer’s market didn’t lack beautiful produce, but we already had our evening menu planned- fresh corn, grilled Chinook salmon (freshly caught on the Sandy river by my brother), cucumber salad (a family recipe) and my sister made a Hawaiian Dream cake to celebrate mama’s birthday. As I was wandering around the market, I saw these Italian artichokes. I thought to myself, “this would be an excellent addition to our evening menu!”

Artichokes!

Artichokes!! Dad would steam them in a special, tall pan.

I remember eating these when we were young. Dipping the leaves into lemon mayo (lemon butter for me!) then scraping the leaves clean with my teeth. So delicious! Last night, as the plate emptied and the bowl of discarded leaves was full, my brother-in-law said, “looks like your artichokes were a hit.”

Dad's special artichoke steamer!

Dad’s special artichoke steamer!

Eating artichokes, laughing with my family and just enjoying time with them was the best way to end this visit… Happy Summer!

Steamed Italian Artichokes

Steamed Italian Artichokes

Steamed Artichokes w/ Lemon Mayo

 

ingredients: two medium artichokes, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon fresh, squeezed lemon, pepper to taste

directions: Fill the bottom of a large pan with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water.

I use a large soup pot and my vegetable steamer basket.

Set the artichokes on the basket and let them steam for 25 to 30 minutes on low or medium low heat.

While the artichokes are steaming, mix together the mayo and lemon juice. Add more lemon or pepper to taste. Set aside.

You can check if they are done by picking a leaf from the 2nd or 3rd row and testing it by scraping the bottom of the flesh with your teeth. (A tender artichoke scrapes off the leaf easily.)

When ready, flip the artichokes upside down and drain excess water out. I like to serve mine community style, in a large bowl with an empty bowl next to it to discard the leaves.

Have fun dipping and enjoy!

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Chillin’ Cafe Granizado and More! by L

Cafe Granizado...solo

Café Granizado…solo

My family and I are back for another hot summer in Spain. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat. Fine beaches, mid-day siestas and a tall glass of café granizado are some of my favorite ways to stay cool.

Coffee lovers will love this! A glass of pre-sweetened coffee with crushed ice. On a day where the temperature rises to 40C/100F, how could one really pass that up?

Well, one could when you have the option to add a scoop of ice cream to that tall glass of iced cafe. How about a Blanco y Negro?

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Blanco y Negro (Black and White, Spain’s version)

As a native New Yorker, a “Black and White” to me, means a sugar cookie half-coated with chocolate frosting and the other half in vanilla. Here, a Blanco y  Negro is a glass of café granizado with a scoop of ice cream called leche merengada. A treat like this will surely cool you down.

Oh, but you want something a little lighter than that? Or a straight cup of coffee is too strong for you?  Ok, well then have a glass of fresquet. This is similar to an iced coffee with milk, but the crushed ice and the sprinkle of cocoa powder adds a little more excitement to the cool beverage.

Freshen up with a Fresquet!

Freshen up with a fresquet!

Since our return to my father-in-law’s village just outside of Valencia, I have been happily taking part in our daily ritual of merienda time. Merienda is not anything new for me. Growing up in a Filipino household, merienda was and still is an important part of our eating habits. Merienda is a light snack, maybe the equivalent of afternoon tea, and we usually had merienda between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner. With the late night dinner schedules of Spain, a merienda is necessary to make it through the long lapse between lunch, siesta, and dinner time.

So what have we been having for merienda? Any of the above, as well as another refreshment called horchata (or Orxata as in the original Valencian/Catalan word) and other Spanish baked treats. Café granizado can easily be made at home. However, with the sweltering heat, my desire to spend time in the kitchen has gone on vacation. Another reason that my cooking rhythm has slowed down is the particular location of our home. We are just a two minute walk from a cafe/bakery owned by a relative in town. Yes, I know. I am absolutely spoiled here. But since you can’t all come and visit us, I am happy to share a family member’s recipe for some homemade café granizado.

My favorite combination! Cafe granizado with a scoop of ice cream AND a farton !

My favorite combination! Café granizado with a scoop of leche merengada ice cream AND a chocolate filled farton !

Café Granizado

1 pot of coffee (decaffeinated if you need to)

Sugar (amount depends on how sweet you like your coffee)

1 peel from a lemon

1 stick of cinnamon

Prepare the coffee.

When the coffee is ready, put it in a saucepan and add sugar to taste, 1 piece of lemon peel and cinnamon.

Heat until sugar is dissolved.

When cool, pour in a freezer safe container and put in the freezer.

Remove from freezer a few minutes before serving.

Blanco y Negro

Pour one serving of café granizado into a tall glass.

Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, unless you can find the flavors leche merengada or nata. (Unless you are in Spain, you may not easily come across these flavors, so go with vanilla)

Optional: It’s usually sprinkled with some cinnamon on top.

Fresquet

Pour a serving of café granizado into a tall glass.

Add some milk.

A teaspoon or more of your favorite cocoa powder.

Stir and enjoy!

Quick Refrigerator Pickles by Allison

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I tried making quick refrigerator pickles a long time ago and they failed miserably. I kind of wrote them off actually if you can believe that as I haven’t tasted any that call for eating more than one bite. Well, that is until my friend M and I made these scrumptious refrigerator pickles for a BBQ. They disappeared from the jar mid-way through the evening they are that good!! Family recipes are the best ones, thanks M for sharing this fabulous one with me!

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Quick Dill Pickles
1/4 cup salt (fine sea salt)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (Braggs unfiltered apple cider vinegar works best)
1 quart water
Fresh dill
garlic 2-4 cloves depending on size and taste you’d like to achieve
Red pepper flakes 1 1/2 tsp. or more depending
cucumber spears
I put these in a jar and cover it. It depends on the size of your cucumbers as to how long these will take but we used baby cucumbers and sliced them in half, covered them with the brine and placed them in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours and they came out perfectly.
Oh, be sure to cut off at least 1/4″ from the bloom end (opposite the stem) as this part of the cucumber contains enzymes that will soften the cucumber as it brines.
Enjoy!

  

Holy Guacamole- it’s finally summertime! by Nikki

It's Guacamole time!

It’s Guacamole time!

When the temperature outdoors turns all summery, I often find myself very fussy about what I want to eat. Nothing big, nothing too hot, nothing too salty… I just need something light or cool and of course, something refreshing! It is not uncommon for me to devour a bowl of popcorn for dinner with a cold, Czech lager. When visiting my parents during the summer months, my mama and I can be found eating a bowl of salsa with tortilla chips… as our weeknight, summertime dinner. The way I see it is that we are adults and we can do what we want, right?!?

perfecto avocado

perfecto avocado

Well, this week, the weather has improved in Praha and the sun is shining. It was imperative that I use my avocados before they went brown. Naturally, I whipped up them up into guacamole. I use a traditional recipe with red onion, de-seeded tomatoes, cilantro and fresh lime. Throw it all into one bowl and mix until it looks and tastes like you want it to taste! I like mine more limey and less salty!

a one bowl job

It’s easy; it’s a one bowl job!

Guacamole is a super-food that I think makes other foods taste so much better… top your burgers with a heaping scoop, enjoy it on your summer tacos, or dip those salty, tortilla chips into a bowl of this healthy, green stuff and just enjoy it solo! You’re an adult, you can do what you want, right!?!

Traditional Guacamole

Holy Guacamole, that’s yummy!

 Guacamole

ingredients: 2 ripe, avocados + 1/2 medium red onion, diced + 4-5 red cherry tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped +1 to 2 tablespoons, fresh, chopped, cilantro (coriander) + 1/2 fresh lime + salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Halve avocados, remove the pit and scoop into a medium bowl. Mash well, with a fork.

2. Add tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Gently fold ingredients together.

3. Mix in lime juice, salt and pepper.

4. Add more lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Enjoy!

Gluten-free Bing Cherry Bomb Sorbet by Allison

Oh how I adore Seattle. It’s true, true blue. I love the smell of salt water coming off the Elliott Bay, the distinct and unique neighborhoods, striking up a conversation with strangers, the green and scenic parks and tree-lined streets, kayaking on Lake Washington, locally roasted coffee, and Pikes Place Market. Seafood, fresh flowers, locally crafted artisans selling their wares, fresh flowers galore, spices, pasta, local jams, sweets and treats from just about anywhere. French bakeries, Beecher’s cheese, Greek delicacies, Russian pastries, and clam chowder to name a few. It is an interesting sight, definitely more of a tourist site these days,  but still full of Seattle flavor.

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imageimageLocal artists sporting their card tricks, interesting voices spouting self-made lyrics or creative balloon art being tied in front of your eyes can all be found in the market and on street corners of Pike and Pine. You want locally crafted artisan jewelry? Pikes Place Market has it, you need flowers for a event or for a dinner party? Pikes Place has them and for excellent prices too! Peonies are at the top of my list of my favorite flowers along with dahlias. You can get them here for 2.00 a stem. Yikes! What fun! Garlic and pepper garlands? How beautiful are they?image

Bing and Rainer cherries are the bomb, while they are sweet and tart and juicy and plump, there is something special about these Washington grown gems. It is clearly summer when a bowl of these appear on the table. Seattle has recently been struck by a heat wave and there’s nothing like a sweet treat on a hot day. So I thought, hmmmm…..Bing cherry sorbet is what I’m craving. The dark Bing cherries are on the left in the picture above and the Rainer cherries are on the right. Bing cherries are typically sweeter and richer while Rainer cherries are a bit more tart and lighter tasting. Both varieties are excellent, you just can’t go wrong either way!

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Fresh Cherry Sorbet

adapted from the cosmic cowgirl

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh cherries (Bing)

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 vanilla bean

Take off the stems and pit all of the cherries. I pitted them by hand (it took awhile but in the company of great friends and music, it took no time at all!) Place the first four ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn it down to simmer for 15-20 minutes and add the vanilla bean. Remove from heat and allow to reach room temperature. Add mixture to a food processor and pulse until you reach desired thickness. I don’t mind chunks of cherries in my sorbet so my mixture was not as smooth.

If you have an ice cream maker, you can add it to your ice cream maker and press the button. But, if you’re like me, you don’t have one yet and you can add it to popsicle molds, a stainless steel shallow container or whatever you have and pop it in the freezer. Now for the waiting game……and whallah……Bing cherry bomb sorbet. Next time I’m trying this recipe with honey! Enjoy!