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Jim Dixon

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  1. Jim Dixon


    It's taken me a few tries to get membrillo from my quinces, and it's not the "clear, jewel-like" variety, but it tastes good. I quarter, core, and peel the fruit (this year, about 10 lbs or roughly 50 of the damn things), then simmer it in some white wine until it starts to break down. I added about a quart of honey and the zest and juice from a half dozen Meyer lemons. Then I turned my gas burner as low as it would get go and cooked away (all this took place over about 3 days....I just leave the pot on the stove, with the heat off, between steps). After a few hours of simmering, I let it cool. The volume had been reduced by about half as the liquid cooked off. I ran the chunky, jam-like fruit through the Cuisinart (maybe 3 loads), then back in the pot on low. My experience is that when it gets to what I call the mud-pot phase, a slowly building burp that can fling hot quince paste to the ceiling (I left a small spot up there form last year as a reminder), it's just about ready. At this point I'm careful to use the pot lid as a shield (I leave it on the pot, but slightly ajar) to avoid burns, and I stir regularly to prevent burning. After a couple of hours at mud-pot, I let it cool. At this point I I spread it onto a sheet of oiled parchment (oil side down) on a sheet pan and let the drying start. I'll leave it on the oven of my old Wedgewood where the pilot light keeps it warm to speed it up. After a few days, the paste has hardened enough that I can use another sheet pan (and more parchment) to flip the whole thing and let the bottom dry. When it's pretty firm, I cut it up, vacuum pack it, and store in the freezer. Jim
  2. Jim Dixon

    Chicken Liver

    Supposedly a favorite of Catherine de Medici, cibreo is about the only way I cook chicken livers anymore. Saute a chopped onion (or leek) in a fair amount of butter and a pinch of sea salt until it's soft. Toss the livers (about a pound) with some flour in a bag until well-coated, then add to onions. Coarsely chop the livers with the edge of a spatula or paring knife as they cook (you can chop them first, then add a flour, but my approach is easier and not as messy as chopping raw liver). Cook the livers for about 10 minutes, them add a little water or broth. Keep chopping and smashing the liver so it becomes a coarse pate. When the liver is done to your satisfaction (preferably still a bit pinkish), remove from the heat and stir in an egg yolk that you've beaten lightly with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Serve with toast or crostini. I've also eaten this with pasta. Jim
  3. The bread is from Ken's Artisan Bakery, NW 21st and Flanders. And I'll be at the farmers market Oct 11 with oil and salt, but Michael (or anyone else) who wants some can email me at jdixon@realgoodfood.com I usually open for sales at my "warehouse" a couple of hours every week, too. Jim
  4. I'd recommend these, too.... Nostrana Toro Bravo Clyde Common Lovely Hula Hands and try to get to the Portland Farmers Market if you're here on a Saturday. Jim
  5. Joao Navalho from Necton uses dark chocolate as a medium for tasting differences in salt. Jim
  6. Charles, Welcome to the club. My rheumatologist (go see one of you're just going to your primary care doc) says diet does not trigger attacks, but purine rich foods may (and may is the operative word) make one last a little longer. I was told more than 25 years ago during a routine physical that my uric acid count was on the high side of normal, and that I may be prone to gout later on. Sure enough, but my initial attacks were fairly mild, and my regular doc doubted it was gout since it wasn't extremely painful. The specialist eventually tried allopurinol and tweaked the dose after several blood tests so my uric acid level was in the safe range. I take 300 mg/day (one pill) and no gout since. I eat whatever the hell I want, including red meat, many of the so-called purine-rich vegetables and grains, and enjoy alcohol daily. Jim
  7. Jim Dixon


    I wrote about nettles for Culinate last month, and there's a recipe for the Piemontese fritters called subrich. Jim
  8. The "peppery taste," officially called pungency in olive oil sensory evaluation, is actually felt in the back of the throat rather than tasted on the tongue, much like capsaicin in hot peppers. It comes from the phenolic compounds in the oil, polyphenols and tocopherols, that are also the antioxidants. So a lot of pungency is an indicator of an oil high in antioxidants. As the oil slowly oxidizes (and it does this even in a sealed bottle), the level of phenols diminishes, and so does the level of pungency. Freshly pressed oils are very high, and even after just a few months there can be a noticeable decline. The levels can vary from year to year in oils made from the same olive groves. Cold weather just before harvest can reduce the phenol levels, for example. True extra virgin olive oils should have a balanced organoleptic profile. Sensory evaluation panels taste for fruity, bitter, and pungent. But even among oils that qualify as extra virgin there can be a wide variation in flavor. Jim
  9. Add celery root. Here's my recipe. Jim
  10. The chef's cut-n-paste antics have been the subject of a couple of local food websites. A post on Portland Food this morning indicates that Terroir has closed its doors. There's even more at the Food Dude's site. Jim
  11. My basic recipe is from the 1931 Joy of Cooking, which uses the term 'griddle cakes' for we call pancakes. I've adapted it over the years, but the critical step I still use is separating the eggs (an option from Joy), beating the whites stiff, and folding them in at the end. The result is a light and fluffy cake. For the past few years I've been getting amazing corn meal from Ayers Creek Farm here in NW Oregon. Anthony and Carol Boutard grow heirloom corn varieties that make great polenta and corn cakes. If you don't live in Oregon and make a point of tracking it down, you could substitute corn meal frm Anson Mills or something similar. I think it was Charlie Trotter who popularized candied bacon, but there are a lot of recipes out there now. My approach is pretty simple but good. Anyway, here's my current pancake recipe.... Candied Bacon Corn Cakes Use good, thick cut bacon. Pour a mound of brown sugar (a few cups, at least) onto a plate, then press the bacon into to sort of coat each slice (and I’ll admit I actually used a little olive oil to coat each slice so the sugar stuck to it). Lay the bacon slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan (I oiled the parchment, which is probably not necessary). Sprinkle the leftover sugar over the top, and bake at 350F for about 30-40 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling away and the bacon looks pretty dark. Remove the bacon strips immediately to another clean sheet of parchment. As they’ll cool they’ll harden (candy-makers probably understand the hard ball stage of sugar cooking, but I don’t). You also get a bonus of bacon candy, the sheets of greasy sugar that form on the pan. After they cool, you can just lift them off. I haven’t figured out how to use them, but they taste good. For the corn cakes, combine 1/2 c corn meal, A scant 1 c flour (eg, a little less than 1 cup), 1/2 t baking power, 1/2 t baking soda, and about 1 t fine sea salt (or kosher). Crumble 2-3 strips of the candied bacon and stir into the dry ingredients. Separate two eggs, then beat the yolks with 1 c yogurt and 1 cup milk (you can also use cream or creme fraiche for the liquid, and add a little water if it seems too thick). Combine with the dry ingredients, but don’t mix too much...just enough to combine everything. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into the batter. Drop spoonfulls of the fairly thick batter onto a medium hot griddle (I use cast iron, no grease). Cook until the bubbles open on the surface and the edges look dry, then flip carefully and cook for a couple more minutes. Serve with butter and real maple syrup. You can also make these with plain bacon. Cook it first, then crumble, or chop the cheaper ends and pieces and cook until brown. Add to the batter like the candied bacon. Jim
  12. The pizza at Nostrana is probably the best approximation of pizza from Naples, and I'd bet that the typical American pizza lover would probable think Neopolitan pizza is too thin and soft. But most of the Italians I know here in Portland prefer Nostrana for pizza. Full disclosure: I sell olive oil, vinegar, and salt to Nostrana, and I've known the owners and many of the staff for years. But it's still where i willingly spend my own money for pizza. Jim
  13. Jim Dixon

    Dry frying

    I'm pretty sure I mentioned dry sauteeing in a chanterelle thread some time back. I first read of this method for mushrooms in David Arora's All the Rain Promises and More, a great guide to wild mushrooms. I don't always preheat my cast iron skillet, and I think the method works best at medium heat. It drives the moisture out of the mushrooms, and depending on the weather when they were harvested, some may be dryer than others. Jim
  14. Creamed onions have always been part of our Thanksgiving. My general approach (details here) is to make a cheese sauce using some kind of sharp cheddar, something blue, parmiggiano, and, this year, some farmstead Brindisi from a local cheesemaker. I also add a shot of Bourbon and top with buttered, toasted bread crumbs. It used to be easy to find canned pearl onions from a local canner (Diamond), but not so anymore. I may switch to the frozen onions, but having boiled and peeled fresh before, I don't think I'll go that route. Jim
  15. Our getaway is a yurt on a ridge just south of The Dalles, so we've been spending a lot of time in the historic little town. The yurt in winter The Baldwin is one of the few decent places to eat in TD (local shorthand for The Dalles), but it's for sale, so that may change. Petite Provence, an offshoot of Le Province in Lake Oswego, opened early this year and offers the only decent espresso in town as well as French pastries, breakfast, and lunch. There are a few taquerias worth visiting, including the trailer on Chenowith Loop just west of Home Depot, a truck up on East 10th and Kelly, and the place inside the gas station at the same intersection (great sopes). If it's open, Erin Glenn Winery (check the website) downtown is definitely worth a visit. The cinder block exterior, a later addition, hides the very cool old mint built back when Wasco County extended to the Rockies. The downstairs is a warren of old vaults built with blocks of local basalt. Heading back toward Portland, Good River Cafe in Mosier is a nice stop, and be sure to hit Double Mountain in Hood River, a brewpub with great beer and killer pizza. Jim
  16. Since I make the same things every year (basically the Thanksgiving meal I've eaten as long as I can remember, details here), it goes pretty smoothly. But I almost screwed up the gravy, which would've been a real disaster. I baste the turkey with beer (malty hat tip top my Jersey Italian in-laws who inspired this), and I usually use one of the local winter seasonal beers such as Full Sail's Wassail or Bridgeport's Ebenezer. These are typically dark, malty, and slightly sweet. But I've been enamored with Deschutes' beers this year, so I used their annual winter beer, Jubelale. Everything was going well....small heirloom turkey beautifully browned and resting, flour mixed with cold water into a smooth paste, long-simmered turkey stock warm on the back of the stove, gravy whisking up nicely...until one of the boys tasted the gravy and announced that it tasted "weird." I tried a spoonful, and he was right. It needed salt, but their was something else in the background that I couldn't place. I adjusted the seasoning, added a bit more water, splashed in a little cream, and it got better, but still not quite right. I resisted all suggestions (add sugar, vinegar, etc) since I'd never tweaked the gravy with any of those, and since everything else was headed for the table, decided it had to be okay. And it was, once ladled over mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and everything else. The next day, before my first plate of leftovers, I tasted the cold gravy and realized that the strange taste was a distinctive bitterness, the residual flavor of hops. Lesson for next year: taste the beer more carefully and go with a maltier, less hoppy brew. Jim
  17. Tommy Habetz cooked an incredible offal dinner back in the glory days of ripe (more here). He did the trotters by cooking them long and slow, pulling everything off the bone and cartilage, then making crispy little fritters. He did lamb's hearts with some kind of salad greens, too. mmmmm, offal Jim
  18. The sticky residue is old oil that wasn't cleaned off the first time. Scrub the skillet with detergent, then put it on a lit burner on the stove to dry completely. Cook something with plenty of oil. I've got a couple dozen cast iron skillets that I use every day. They lose their 'seasoning' all the time, but it doesn't really matter. Just use a little more grease. Jim
  19. I use yogurt, specifically Nancy's from Oregon, but anything with live culture should work. It's a stretch to call it a recipe, but my approach is on my web site here. And it gets thick, too thick to pour, but you've got to let the culture work long enough. Jim
  20. I've got a couple of fava bean recipes that can be made with peas: crostini with favas (or peas) and mint and a few more here, but these crocchette di piselli (sweet pea croquettes) are killer. Jim
  21. Thanks for the plug, trillium. I just got the 2006 harvest oils from Sicily (both Leonforte, which is form the interior, and Madre Terra from the sw coastal town of Sciacca), and I'll have them both at the opening of the Portland Farmers Market this Sat (4/7). clarklewis also uses the Portuguese flor de sal from Necton, and I'll have it for sale, too. The Leonforte currently served is from 2005, and it shows how a well-made oil can hold its flavor for much longer than the one year than many cite as the shelf life of extra virgin oil. Ling, I'm glad you made it to clarklewis before Jason heads off to Alaska. Next time you'll have to visit Nostrana (I'm sure Jason has told you about it, too, since he worked there as well). Jim
  22. Ling, You should add Nostrana to your list, if only for a fall back lunch or dinner. It got a lot of bad publicity over service early on, but things have improved, and the food has always been incredible. I always eat at the counter in front of the pizza oven. You can watch the action, and the pizza cook will be your server. I like the pizzas, but there's are a lot of other great things on the menu, and since you're eating Brian's pizza on this trip, try something else. If the squid-chard (inziminio, I think) is on the menu, get it. Full disclosure: I sell olive oil and salt to Nostrana (but that's why the food is so good!) Jim
  23. Jim Dixon

    Kosher Salt

    From the Salt Institute, an industry group: I know that Cargill produces Diamond Crystal by injecting fresh water into salt deposits, then extracting the brine and evaporting under pressure to create the pyramid-shaped crystals. I'm not sure if that's the Alberger process mentioned above. Jim
  24. Based here in Portland, Culinate offers a nice variety of food writing, interviews, and recipes. But it also has a guiding philosophy: I'm a contributor, and my first article is about (what else?) olive oil. Jim
  25. "Pure" is an older designation for non-virgin olive oils, typically blends of virign and refined oil. It's been replaced by "olive oil" (number 3 in the regs below). I suspect it evolved from marketing adjectives used when "extra virgin" didn't apply. Virgin oil is typically used as the blending agent with refined oil, so it's rare to find it in the market. Here are the complete definitions for the different grades of oil, at least in the EU. The Berio spokesperson is right about the major labels. They have reputations to protect, and the oils they sell are true extra virgins. However, the oil in the bottle is a blend of bulk extra virgin oil from a variety of sources. While firms such as Berio and Bertolli are justly proud of their ability to produce a consistent flavor in their blends year after year, the results are typically milder flavored than estate oils, which come from a single source and can vary in flavor depending on the agricultural conditions of any given year. The major brands are good cooking oils, but to my palate don't have the flavor for use as a condiment (and my palate is, I'll admit, jaded). And unfortunately, the majority of olive oil on a typical supermarket shelf are not from Berio, Bertolli, or one of the other major labels. This is especially true at the upper end of the price range. The COOC sued and won to stop the use of California place names on oils not produced in those places (it's the only state, as far as I know, with laws that protect use of place of origin). And there are many "extra virgin" oils on the shelves packaged in clear bottles, some of them a shocking green tint. A true extra virgin wouldn't last too long in a clear bottle under the direct light of the market, and that green tint, which in true extra virgins comes from the chlorophyll in the olive skins, would fade even faster. So it's still a bit of a crap shoot to buy olive oil. The COOC petitioned the FDA to adopt the IOOC definitions, and if they do that will help even things out. Jim
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