My initiation into the world of food was a San Francisco test kitchen. This should have been heady stuff: developing recipes for national brand clients like Dole, Del Monte and Sunkist. But the fact was, my boss was a wacko. So frankly, after three months on the job, the first real payoff came via phone call from my cousin Ron back in Washington, D.C.
“Jan, what are you doing this weekend?”
“Well, not much, why?”
“I was sort of hoping you could spend it with Carol and me to look over the recipes in my book. Maybe even give some of them a test run. If you're willing, there will be a ticket for you at the United Airlines counter for this Friday.”
The book, one of Ron's ongoing personal hobbies, wasn't associated with his day job, of course. He was one of the more influential lobbyists inside the Beltway. But one of his loves was cooking. The current project was titled “Cooking With Booze,” and he'd be handing it out to friends at Christmas.
Of course I went. I've always loved hanging out with my cousin and his wife. And Carol made it clear she was relieved I'd shown up. For one very practical reason: “Frankly, Jan, I'm just worried about the litigation. I mean, couldn't some of these bourbon-soaked recipes explode?!?”
Aside from a bit of editing to bring a common structure to the recipes and a tiny amount of tasting and testing during one afternoon of cooking from the book, I'm not sure how much help I was for Ron's project. But I had a wonderful time. At one point I met him downtown for lunch at one of the city's trendier restaurants. Sans Souci, Ron explained, had become the fashionable gathering place for the Washington elite. “In fact,” he added, “I'm, going to introduce you to a real four-star general. Be impressed!”
Over soft-shell crab and a divine salad, my cousin advised me on love (“Dump the guy!”), life (“Just picture where you'll be in five years and ask yourself if what you're doing now is even on the route.”) and work (“You're too good for them, Jan.”).
Reflecting on that weekend, it's obvious that helping Ron with his recipe development was pretty much a ruse. He had sensed my arrival at a significant crossroad. Direction was called for, and as only a loved one confident in his message and my ability to hear it can do, he was unfolding his road map and laying it out on the table.
Ron isn't the only member of our family who's found food to be a natural bridge between giving advice and taking it: My own brother and I have resolved multiple dilemmas while standing over a simmering crab pot; my mother heads for the tea kettle when her daughter is in need of council; and I've learned that some of the most heartfelt thoughts spring from a granddaughter's brain while making caramels and taking turns on the crank of the ice cream maker.
With that in mind, here are a few simple summer recipes to inspire conversation and encourage dreams while you enjoy some lazy moments on the deck or on the trail with those you care about.
Nida's Simple Sangria
Makes 3¾ quarts of sangria.
This is the wonderful wine cooler that my Aunt Nida used to serve at her summer house in the Sonoma Valley on balmy summer evenings.
1 (12-oz) can frozen pink lemonade
4 can measures (using the frozen lemonade can) of club soda
4 can measures (using the frozen lemonade can) of dry red wine
1 can measure (using the frozen lemonade can) of triple sec (or other orange-flavored liqueur)
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh slices of lemons and limes for garnish
Combine all of the ingredients in a beautiful glass pitcher. Stir well. Serve over ice.
Note: The recipe can be increased or decreased as desired by keeping the ingredients in correct proportion. Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.
Heavenly Sauce for Jasmine Rice
Makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce.
The ingredients may seem a bit odd, but this really does produce a similar flavor as the original sauce. For more inspiration, go to www.cafeyumm.com and explore their menu and recipe options.
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 C toasted slivered almonds or toasted whole hazelnuts
1⁄3 C cooked and drained garbanzo beans (canned is fine)
¼ C cooked and drained soybeans (canned is fine)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 C water
1/2 C fresh lemon juice
1⁄3 C nutritional yeast (this is not the same as “active dry yeast”)
2 tsp ponzu seasoning (it's sold with the soy sauce), or soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried basil
¼ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
1⁄8 tsp ascorbic acid (for “zing”)
In a blender, combine the oil, nuts, garbanzo beans, soy beans and garlic. Run the motor, stopping several times to scrape the sides of the jar and push the mixture into the blades. Once the mixture is a rough puree, add the water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, ponzu seasoning (or soy sauce), salt, basil, curry powder, cumin powder and ascorbic acid. Continue blending until the mixture is relatively smooth (it will remain grainy because of the nuts). Scrape it into a container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or so.
Wild Rice Salad with Walla Walla Sweets and Smoked Turkey
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Pack this simple salad into a thermos for a tasty snack on your next day hike.
1 C long-grain brown rice
1/2 C wild rice
1 tsp salt
3 C homemade or canned chicken broth
1/2 lb smoked turkey breast, cubed
1 lg or 2 med Walla Walla Sweet onions, diced
1 C peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1/2 C chopped green onions (white and green portions)
1/2 C each seeded and chopped green and red bell peppers
¼ C finely chopped fresh parsley
1 C fresh or frozen peas (thawed, but not cooked)
1/2 C coarsely chopped water chestnuts
1 1/2 C mayonnaise
2 TBS rice vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the brown and wild rice, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the broth. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, 40 to 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat, toss lightly with a fork and set aside to cool.
In an attractive salad bowl, combine the smoked turkey, Walla Walla onions, cucumbers, green onions, bell peppers, parsley, peas and water chestnuts. Toss gently with the cooled rice.
In a small, deep bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and the rice vinegar, mustard, marjoram, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Adjust seasonings, adding additional vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the salad and stir well, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The salad makes a perfectly lovely meal simply served on a fresh lettuce leaf, garnished with a few green onion slices and toasty cheese bread.
• Omit the smoked turkey and serve the salad with grilled chicken breasts; or marinate and grill chicken breasts ahead of time, then cut into chunks and add to the salad.
• Add sugar snap peas if available; just throw them in along with everything else.
Garlic-Shallot Marinade for Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Breasts or Steak
Makes enough for two pork tenderloins, four steaks or eight chicken breasts.
This wonderful marinade from Eastern Oregon shallot grower Jim Robison has become the Dominguez and Roberts family specialty for all feasts.
3 TBS soy sauce
3 TBS sugar
1⁄3 C bourbon or dark rum
1 tsp salt
5 cloves garlic, smashed or chopped
3 TBS minced shallots
1 TBS grated fresh ginger
Pork tenderloins, steaks or boneless/skinless chicken breasts
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sugar, bourbon or rum, salt, garlic, shallots and ginger. Place the marinade in a self-closing plastic bag with the meat of your choice and refrigerate overnight for steaks and pork tenderloins or 5 to 6 hours for chicken breasts.
Remove the marinated meat from the refrigerator and drain for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Either discard the marinade or pour it into a saucepan and cook it at a slow boil for 5 to 10 minutes then set aside.
Grill the meat over hot coals until cooked to desired stage of doneness. When ready to serve, drizzle some of the reheated marinade over the meat, or serve it on the side.
Marionberry and Peach Crisp with Homemade Marionberry Ice Cream
Makes one 13- by 9-inch pan.
Here's one of those “standing around the ice cream maker” recipes I was talking about. Taking turns with the crank always provides opportunity for sharing thoughts and dreams.
4 C peeled and sliced peaches
4 C marionberries (or other Oregon blackberry)
Juice of half lemon
1¾ C flour, divided
1 1/2 C old fashioned oats
2¼ C brown sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
2¼ tsp nutmeg
1 C butter, softened
Marionberry Ice Cream (see recipe) or commercially made ice cream of your choice
Place peaches in a lightly greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Layer marionberries over peaches. Sprinkle with lemon juice and ¼ cup of the flour. Combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour with the oats, brown sugar and spices. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a blender or two knives until crumbly and well blended. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over the fruit and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown on the crust and very hot and bubbly.
Marionberry Ice Cream (makes 1 1/2 quarts): Puree 4 cups marionberries (or other blackberry variety) in food processor or blender. Remove the seeds by pressing the puree through a wire sieve with a wooden spoon or spatula). You will have about 2 cups of puree. Combine the puree with 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of half and half and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; chill thoroughly. Transfer the chilled berry mixture to an ice cream freezer and process according to manufacturer's instructions.
My inspiration for the Heavenly Bowl concept comes by way of Cafe Yumm!, a small, Earth-friendly restaurant chain that got its start in Eugene and has a location in Bend. The most popular item in the cafe is the Yumm! Bowl. It begins with rice and ends with Yumm! Sauce. In between, the layers can include such complementary delights as black beans, avocado, shredded cheese, fresh salsa, sliced olives and sour cream. Here's how I do it, including a variation of their popular Yumm! Sauce.
1 recipe of Heavenly Jasmine Rice (see recipe)
1 1/2 C of Heavenly Sauce (see recipe or note)
2 to 3 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 ripe Haas avocados, peeled and diced
2 to 3 med tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 C sliced black olives
About ¾ C chopped green onion
1 C black beans, canned or fresh-cooked
1 1/2 C salsa (use a high quality fresh one from the refrigerated case)
To serve, place the rice, sauce, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, olives, onions, black beans and salsa in individual bowls. Set the bowls out on the counter or at the table. Let each diner assemble his or her own Heavenly Bowl.
General directions for assembling individual Heavenly Bowls: Place a serving of the rice (hot, warm or cooled) in a bowl, then top with a bit of the Heavenly Sauce, followed by the other ingredients listed and ending with the salsa. Add another dollop of the Heavenly Sauce, and bon appetit!
Note on heavenly sauce: If you don't have time to prepare a batch, consider picking up a bottle of Yumm! Sauce, which is the sauce my recipe is based on.
Heavenly Jasmine Rice
This rice is heavenly, tender and flavorful, with all of the heady aroma within the rice supported by the butter and onion. I like to keep a pot of it in the fridge for all my “Heavenly Bowl” hits.
1/2 C chopped yellow onion
2 TBS butter
1 1/2 C jasmine rice
3 C water
¾ tsp salt
In medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, saute the onion in the butter until the onion is soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the rice and saute to evenly coat the grains. Add the water and the salt, increase the temperature to medium-high and bring the water to a boil, stirring occasionally with a flat-bottomed utensil so the rice won't scorch. Once the water has boiled, reduce the temperature to low, cover and cook the rice at a very slow simmer for 20 minutes without uncovering the pot.
After 20 minutes, check the rice. If all the water has been absorbed, the rice is done. Gently fluff the rice with a fork. If not serving immediately, place a paper towel over the top of the pot and put the lid back on to keep the rice hot (the paper towel absorbs condensation from dripping back down on the rice and making it soggy).