Hot dogs aren’t just backyard or campground fare

I outed myself in a previous post for serving such low-brow dishes as boxed macaroni and cheese with canned tuna. So I might as well fess up to another food that, with a few extra fixings, masquerades as a meal.

Sausages, frankfurters or, in the words of Anthony Bourdain, “meat in tube form” are handily kept in the fridge or freezer. My family is much less inclined toward hot dogs at backyard gatherings or campfire fetes, preferring to doctor them up for impromptu lunches and dinners (OK, maybe even breakfasts)

Our usual bill of fare is Foster Farms fresh turkey sausages on a Franz pub roll with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard, sauerkraut (if we have it) and a side of sweet-potato fries. That array seems positively gourmet next to my husband’s unwholesome craving for pigs in blankets.

You know the drill: Pop open a canister of refrigerated biscuit dough and wrap said dough around hot dogs and maybe a few other odds and ends like cheese, pepperoncini or onions. He occasionally goes upscale with a cheddar-studded frank from Taylor’s Sausage in Cave Junction.

Sausage aficionados know that Taylor’s country store is the place to save on the varieties stocked at grocers, as well to procure items, such as blood sausage, that Taylor’s doesn’t sell elsewhere.

Like any local, small-batch product, Taylor’s sausages don’t come cheap. So what’s a few more dollars spent on some sophisticated toppings?

This Spanish-inspired recipe would be ideal with smoked chorizo. Pecorino or Asiago cheeses could be substituted for the Manchego.

Tribune News Service photo

Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs

2 large garlic heads

5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1/2 cup roasted, jarred red peppers, drained and diced

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

6 grilled hot dog buns or 2 1/2-inch-wide pieces of ciabatta cut to hot dog length and split lengthwise

6 grilled all-beef hot dogs

2 ounces Manchego or hot-pepper cheese

Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Trim the top ¼ to ½ inch from each of the garlic heads. Place each head, cut side up, in center of a square of foil; drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Enclose garlic in foil. Place packets on oven rack; roast until garlic is tender, for about 45 minutes. Open packets; cool 15 minutes.

Squeeze garlic cloves into a small bowl. Mash enough to measure 1/4 cup (reserve remaining garlic for another use). Transfer to bowl. Mix in remaining 3 teaspoons oil, the red pepper and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper.

Arrange the hot dog buns on plates. Top each with a grilled hot dog, some of the cheese, garlic relish and a drizzle of the vinegar.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Detroit Free Press from Bon Appétit magazine’s July 2009 issue.

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Watermelon trivia is a slice of summertime fun

Washington Post photo

Ways for improving lackluster watermelon recently have seeded this blog.

So why eat watermelon whose flavor and texture aren’t up to snuff? Apart from not wasting such a large piece of produce, nutrition is a compelling reason. The liquid-laden fruit, as I acknowledged in a 2010 post is one of the highest in vitamin C.

Nutrient content isn’t the only surprising aspect of watermelon. For more, take this quick quiz, courtesy of the Washington Post.

1. Settlers in the New World were growing and harvesting watermelons as early as:
a) 1576
b) the early 18th century
c) 1629

2. Cakes baked and decorated to look like watermelons were first developed in:
a) the mid-1950s
b) the late 1800s
c) 1965

3. Famous Americans who grew watermelons include:
a) Thomas Jefferson
b) Henry David Thoreau
c) both

4. The best way to tell whether a whole watermelon is ripe is:
a) Thump it; listen for a hollow thud.
b) Look for a yellow spot on the underside where it rested on the ground.
c) There isn’t one; you have to cut it open.

5. Internal cracks in watermelon flesh (harmless, and caused by extreme weather during growing) are known as:
a) snap lines
b) fruit fault
c) hollow heart

6. Those white things (edible!) that look like seeds in your seedless watermelon are:
a) bugs
b) seed coats
c) seeds

7. Once a watermelon is cut from the vine, it has a shelf life of:
a) 2 months
b) 1 week
c) 3 to 4 weeks

8. Watermelons consistently stored at a cool room temperature (about 70 degrees) have higher amounts of:
a) lycopene
b) water
c) potassium

9. A 15-pound watermelon yields about how many cups of cubed flesh?
a) 15
b) 11
c) 8

10. Which one of these is not the name of a watermelon?
a) Stars ‘n’ Stripes
b) Sweet Favorite
c) Big Baby

Sources: Library of Congress;; the Cambrige World History of Food; the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (Second Edition);

ANSWERS: 1. a, 2. b, 3. c, 4. b, 5. c, 6. b, 7. c, 8. a,9. b, 10. c

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Two-melon shake mingles sweet fruit with bitter

Call it textural difficulties: that mealy mouthfeel that can ruin watermelon, one of summer’s quintessential eating experiences.

One not-so-classic way to remedy it is deep-frying, mentioned in this blog’s previous post. With less muss and fuss, but not nearly so much panache, is my fallback plan for overripe or otherwise undesirable fruit. Just blend it up and drink it, even better if there’s an inherently challenging fruit to force down.

In this case, it’s bitter melon, the green, pebbly, pickle-shaped fruit beloved in Asian cuisines and found at markets specializing in those ingredients.

Washington Post photo

Two-Melon Shake

2 small bitter melons (about 5.3 ounces total; may substitute peeled seedless cucumber; see headnote)
3 cups coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
1/2 cup low-fat coconut milk
12 to 14 small ice cubes
Pinch kosher salt
Ginger ale, as needed

Cut away some of the bitter melon’s bumpy, outer skin, if desired. Cut fruit open; scrape out seeds. Coarsely chop to yield 1/2 packed cup.

In a blender jar, combine in this order from bottom to top: the watermelon, bitter melon, coconut milk, ice cubes (depending on shake’s desired thickness) and salt; puree until smooth.

Divide between tall pint glasses; top with the ginger ale. Serve right away.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Washington Post from a recipe at

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Frying lends a welcome crunch to watermelon

Melon, I’ve confessed in this blog, has never been one of my favorite fruits. But in a bid to win watermelon’s favor with my 2-year-old, I’ve tried to give this summertime staple a second chance.

It isn’t the flavor, I’ve decided. What’s to dislike about pure sun-warmed sweetness?

Like so many foods, particularly those vying for a 2-year-old’s approval, it comes down texture. Sub-par watermelons often are pithy; still others are rubbery. Picking a perfectly ripe melon fresh from the farmer’s field or home garden, of course, promises the best eating experience.

If you’re stuck with a less-than-stellar melon, consider distilling it into watermelon molasses, according to the recipe in this week’s A la Carte. Or fall back on a technique that makes just about any food better: deep-frying. If you can deep-fry pickles, after all, why not watermelon? Botanically speaking, cucumbers and melons reside in the same family of fruits.

This crunchy-juicy starter looks like sushi-grade tuna when the pieces are cut open. The accompanying chimichurri balances the dish with spice and acid.

Washington Post photo

Bacon-and-Cornmeal-Fried Watermelon

1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded or unseeded, stemmed and cut into chunks
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup packed, coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups flour
Kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/4 cup regular or low-fat milk
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cooked, finely chopped bacon
Twenty 2-inch cubes seedless watermelon (no rind)

For the chimichurri, combine the jalapeno, basil, parsley, olive oil and vinegar in a blender or food processor; pulse to desired consistency. Taste and season with the salt as needed.

Transfer to a serving bowl or airtight container; refrigerate until ready to use. Chimichurri may be made and refrigerated a few days in advance. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a medium bowl and season it lightly with salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In a third bowl, combine the cornmeal and bacon.

Working in batches, dip and coat the watermelon pieces in this order: seasoned flour, egg-milk wash and cornmeal-bacon mixture. Each piece should be completely coated. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes or just until golden-brown. Immediately transfer to paper towels to drain; sprinkle lightly with salt right away.

Discard any used egg-milk mixture, bacon-cornmeal mixture and flour. Serve with chimichurri spooned on top.

Makes 5 servings.

Recipe courtesy of the Washington Post from Jerome Grant, executive chef at Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, National Museum of the American Indian.

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Prepare pantry-staple pasta from fish, nuts, herbs

It’s fortunate that long holiday weekends are the stuff of indulgent eating: bacon-and-egg breakfasts, salads boasting mounds of succulent shrimp and the compulsory fried-chicken picnic.

After the delights of my mom’s well-stocked kitchen, we returned home to a refrigerator almost devoid of fresh produce with only the leanest of dairy products (not even cream for my coffee!). My husband, fully aware of the slim pickings, advocated take-and-bake pizza.

Or we could have saved the $16 and fallen back on a dish that’s seen us through similar predicaments, as well as pure and simple mealtime exhaustion. In our house, boxed macaroni and cheese (usually white-cheddar shells) almost resembles a well-rounded meal with a can of good-quality tuna, a cup of frozen peas and some fresh herbs. Foodies may scoff, but there’s no denying the comfort-food appeal, economy and ease of this recipe.

Then I ran across a nearly identical concept with just a tad more sophistication. It’s still accomplished with pantry staples: pasta and the olive oil-packed tuna purchased by the case from Chuck’s Seafood in Charleston. Hazelnuts aren’t in my everyday repertoire, but I imagine this dish would be just as delicious with pine nuts, always squirreled away in the freezer.

Dill, usually dried, is the de facto seasoning of our tuna mac-and-cheese for good reason, so there’s no doubting its inclusion here. This recipe’s raw garlic flavor can be muted by popping the whole cloves into the pasta pot for a few minutes, then let them cool before mincing. This pasta is ready in 20 minutes.

Photo for The Washington Post by Dixie D. Vereen

Tuna, Dill and Garlic Pasta With Hazelnuts

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water

8 ounces fresh linguine

1/2 cup hazelnuts (skin-on or skinned)

3 garlic cloves

Small handful fresh dill

10 to 14 ounces (from 2 cans) good-quality tuna packed in olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a good pinch of salt, then the pasta. Cook just until tender, then drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, toast the hazelnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan often to avoid scorching, just until nuts are fragrant and lightly browned in spots. Cool, then coarsely chop.

Smash, peel, then mince the garlic. Finely chop the dill.

Place the tuna and its oil (to taste; if you like a lot of tuna, use entire cans) in a pasta serving bowl; use a fork to break up any large clumps of fish. Add garlic, dill, just-cooked pasta and reserved cooking water; toss gently to incorporate. Mix in a few grinds of the pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Divide among bowls; garnish with toasted hazelnuts. Serve right away. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Washington Post from “Cooking With Three Ingredients: Flavorful Food Easy as 1, 2, 3,” by Andrew Schloss (HarperCollins, 1996).

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Historic berry crop puts the blue in patriotic pie

As searing heat shatters weather records throughout the state, one silvery-blue lining to such extreme temperatures is a bumper crop of blueberries.

The haul could hit a historic 100 million pounds, the Oregon Department of Agriculture reported last week as the earliest blueberry harvest in decades got underway. A mild winter and spring made for excellent growing conditions. The largest blueberry harvest statewide was 93 million pounds in 2013.

To meet demand from European and Asian countries, where consumers have bought into blueberries’ healthful properties, Oregon farmers have planted more than 9,300 acres of the antioxidant-rich fruit. The berries have become key ingredients in health- and beauty products, including skin care, and even high-end pet food.

That popularity comes with a $106 million price tag for berries grown in Oregon, where the crop could break into the top 10 agricultural commodities this year, the ODA reported. Oregon also could emerge as the nationwide leader in blueberry production, edging out Georgia, Washington and Michigan.

Consumers frequenting farmers markets and roadside stands snap up 4 million pounds of Oregon blueberries, particularly after Fourth of July when the harvest shifts into high gear. With months of blueberry picking ahead, now is the time to pair them with other peak-season fruit, namely strawberries.

Although I don’t like to fuss over holiday-themed foods, this recipe offers just enough opportunity to tap into my creative side. If I’m serving kitschy fare, I’d much prefer this to a star-spangled sheet cake.

And it invites the kids to play, too. Recipe testers for Tribune News Service found an extra pair of small hands, positioned in a “V,” were helpful when forming the blueberry wedge.

Test-kitchen cooks also theorized that King Arthur Flour either manipulated the image of the pie pictured on its website, or added the stars-and-stripes outer crust toward the end of baking. The pie tends to over-brown, even covered with aluminum foil about halfway through baking.

Tribune News Service photo

American Flag Pie

Pastry for a double-pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

For strawberry-rhubarb filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup pie filling enhancer (such as cornstarch)

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups lightly packed diced rhubarb, fresh or frozen

2 cups hulled, quartered strawberries, fresh or frozen

For blueberry filling:

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons pie filling enhancer (such as cornstarch)

2 cups blueberries, washed and drained

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

White sanding sugar, for garnish

Line a 9-inch pie pan with about 2/3 of the pastry. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

To make strawberry filling, stir the sugar, enhancer and salt together in a large bowl; toss with the rhubarb and strawberries. Set aside.

To make blueberry filling, stir together the sugar and enhancer in a smaller bowl; toss with the blueberries, then stir in the lemon juice.

Fill a 90-degree wedge of pie shell with blueberry filling and remaining 270-degree wedge with strawberry-rhubarb filling.

Roll remaining crust into a 10-inch-long rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. Cut dough, lengthwise, into 5 to 6 3/4-inch-wide strips. Cut three to five 1 1/4-inch stars from remaining dough.

Place strips parallel to each other over strawberry-rhubarb section, cutting any excess off ends and pinching them to edge of crust. Place stars atop blueberry filling.

Brush stars, stripes and outer crust with water and sprinkle with the sanding sugar, if desired.

Place pie on baking sheet (to catch drips) and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust nicely browned. (Recipe testers covered pie with aluminum foil about halfway through to keep it from overbrowning).

Remove pie from oven, and let cool for at least an hour before serving.

Makes 1 pie.

— Recipe from King Arthur Flour

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Soy sauce, honey are tried and true with salmon

Salmon fishing usually doesn’t come to my mind in high summer.

Perhaps it’s because I spent my formative fishing years in bays and estuaries during the actual seasons that lend their names to Oregon’s chinook runs. So it was something of a surprise when a friend offered up salmon just plucked from the Umpqua River for grilling a couple of weeks ago.

With fish this fresh, I tend to be a purist. Just a little salt, pepper and butter or oil are all I need to appreciate salmon’s distinctive flavor.

My husband tends to lean toward marinades and sauces of any and all varieties and invariably asks me what we should put on the fish. Judging from his reaction, my answer must lack inspiration.

So we tend to fall back on that tried-and-true combination of soy sauce and honey, one that gives my dad’s smoked salmon its savor and sweetness. Garlic and ginger also are no-brainers. Bringing still more flavor, along with texture, to the fish is this recipe’s crust of sesame seeds that I also would try on scallops and calamari steaks.

Tribune News Service photo

Sesame-Crusted Salmon

4 tablespoons unhulled sesame seeds

4 skin-on salmon fillets (4 to 6 ounces each)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated, fresh ginger

1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and quartered lengthwise

1/2 Holland or cayenne whole chili, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 200 F. Place the sesame seeds on baking sheet. Season the salmon with the salt and pepper and press both sides into sesame seeds to coat evenly.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Place salmon skin side down and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn fish over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from heat; transfer salmon to plates and keep warm in oven. Wipe skillet clean.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice and honey. Set aside. Heat the garlic and ginger in remaining oil in skillet. Add the bok choy and chili, if using, and toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon soy-sauce mixture and cover pan with lid. Steam until tender, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour remaining soy mixture into skillet. Increase heat and boil until slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve salmon and bok choy with sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from Organic Life magazine, courtesy of Tribune News Service

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Baking with yogurt sauce keeps egg whites tender

Recent news reports of a nationwide egg shortage have renewed my household’s long-standing debate over backyard chickens.

As everyone with a few square feet of space behind their tract homes seemed to be raising chickens, my husband, Will, held firm in his stance that a flock is not in our future. Forget that our home sits in a semirural setting on a half-acre. Forget that our kindly neighbor (Will’s mom) would gladly install the coop and all its infrastructure on her property.

Forget, more recently, that our 2-year-old son likely would delight in helping to feed the hens and collect the contents of their nests, thereby supporting his one-a-day-organic-egg habit. None of those factors have dissuaded Will from the belief that chickens are noisy, messy and easy pickings for predators.

Predictably, it took the testimonial of one of Will’s firefighter friends to soften his stance. Mark’s measured enthusiasm, also predictably, came with a play-by-play of converting a prefabricated metal shed into a coop, adding automatic feeding and watering systems and safeguarding the run with a fence of landscaping cloth.

Will’s uniquely unpredictable response? “Let’s make chickens next year’s project” (!)

Until then, I’m crossing my fingers that grocery-store rationing of eggs doesn’t come to pass. If so, there’s always local Craigslist sources for farm-fresh eggs, even at premium prices.

Worst case scenario, we can limit our consumption to dishes that show eggs at their best, with tender whites and runny yolks intact. This recipe for baked eggs (also called shirred eggs) gets a flavor boost from an onion-y yogurt sauce and a liberal dusting of sumac.

The latter is one of my favorite spices for accenting white foods or light-colored foods, such as feta cheese, sour cream and, indispensably, hummus. A friend’s trip to the Middle East provided me with a generous supply of this ground fruit, which has a bright, tangy flavor.

Paired with buttered toast, this dish isn’t just for breakfast. Add a green salad for a simple, rustic brunch or dinner.

Tribune News Service photo

Baked Eggs With Spinach, Yogurt and Sumac

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Big handful baby spinach leaves

8 large eggs

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon grated sweet onion

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 slices good bread, for toasting

Ground sumac, for garnish

Arrange rack in center of oven preheated to 375 F. Set a large kettle of water to boil.

Generously brush 4 (6-ounce) ramekins with some of the melted butter. Line bottom of each dish with 1/4 of the baby spinach. Crack 2 of the eggs into each dish.

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, onion and salt with a tablespoon of water to make a sauce similar in consistency to heavy cream.

Spoon a couple tablespoons of sauce over egg whites in each dish, avoiding yolks so they will stay a lovely bright yellow. Season each egg with a pinch of salt.

Place ramekins on a 2-inch-deep baking dish and place dish in preheated oven on center rack. Fill pan with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of egg dishes, taking care not to get any water in eggs. Bake eggs for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until whites are cooked and yolks are still bright yellow and jiggle when shaken. Toward end of baking time, toast and butter the bread.

Remove baking dish from oven and carefully remove each ramekin from hot water, drying off ramekins. Drizzle eggs with more melted butter and dust with the sumac. Serve immediately, placing each hot ramekin on a plate with buttered toast.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen” by Maureen Abood (Running Press, April 2015, $30)

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Use oven-safe skillet for no-stick, no-flip frittata

If cooking with what you have is the goal, frittata is a fitting strategy.

Local author Tod Davies recommends the Italian egg dish, along with omelets, tortilla Espanola and eggs baked in a toaster oven within the pages of “Jam Today Too,” discussed in this blog’s previous post. Inexpensive, quick-cooking and infinitely adaptable, eggs are yet another food that confirm Davies as a culinary kindred spirit.

And it’s appropriate, given my unfailing love of eggs, that a 2010 ode to frittata is this blog’s most popular entry to date. Internet search engines apparently home in on the phrase, “no-stick,” but in hindsight, I also should have touted my method for frittata, gleaned from several sources, as no-flip.

Davies tackles the tricky business of flipping a frittata, when she didn’t have oven-safe skillets, by turning it out of a smaller pan into a larger one. Better for all concerned are cooking vessels that go from stove to oven to table. If you have one, expand your egg repertoire with kuku, a slightly spongy, frittata-like dish incorporating mashed potato, instead of sliced spuds in the Spanish tradition.

Take Davies’ advice and always bake more potatoes than needed for a single meal, stretching others into dishes like this Persian recipe from Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo

Fresh Herb Kuku

6 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives or scallions

1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/3 cup fresh chopped dill or 2 tablespoons ground dill

1 large potato, peeled, cooked and mashed, or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Break the eggs into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, salt and pepper. Beat with a fork. Add the garlic, chives, parsley, cilantro, dill and mashed potato or flour, and mix together thoroughly.

Place the butter or oil in an 8-inch, ovenproof baking dish or skillet and put dish in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour in egg mixture and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until a light golden-brown. Serve from baking dish or a platter. Cut into small pieces and serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “New Food of Life; Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies” by Najmieh Batmanglij.

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Local author to read from food memoir in J’ville

Cookbooks I have but rarely use, a confession already divulged in this blog.

And food memoirs I’ve read but so rarely relish, whether they be Judith Jones’, Ruth Reichl’s, Julie Powell’s or — gasp! — Julia Child’s. I apparently lack the requisite curiosity about such well-known figures because I didn’t grow up watching “The French Chef,” come of age reading The New York Times or begin blogging until the medium had long since been pioneered.

Or maybe I just need something more home-grown, something that more closely resembles my own life. Enter Tod Davies, author of two books about how to cook and eat. Her second, “Jam Today Too,” headlines a Thursday evening event at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville.

Davies is a fellow Rogue Valley resident who frequents many of the same sources for locally produced and organic foods that I do. But my affinity for Davies’ writing comes neither from its regional origins nor the likelihood that she and I have crossed paths, despite decades of experience separating us (She was a Mail Tribune employee when I was in grade school).

I felt like I knew Davies personally after reading the first few pages of “Jam Today Too.” It isn’t just her unpretentious, slightly irreverent voice. It’s her way of giving voice to my own inner conflict around cooking (after urging so many people to do it, I, too, was at risk of throwing in the towel).

More than identifying with Davies, however, I appreciate her approach to cooking and eating. Although I don’t live in such a rural setting as she does, I also ascribe to the philosophy of “cooking with what you’ve got,” as opposed to always schlepping to the grocery store. Mastering that art (and Davies is one such master) frees a cook from the tyranny of recipes.

On that topic, I love that Davies’ book is devoid of recipes per se, but instead offers lists, ratios and “algorithms.” Like me, she couches cooking in loose, conversational terms, rather than scientific formulas devised for precise replication. Outside of a professional restaurant setting, what’s the point of faithfully reproducing a dish? If cooking is a passionate pursuit, where’s the fun in cranking out carbon copies?

Enjoying good food isn’t an exercise in snobbery or absolutes, though, attests Davies. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a store-bought pie crust (“they’re pretty good”) for an otherwise homemade quiche, or to cook farm-fresh green beans until mushy. Davies endorses frozen spinach and peas but decries boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which have “no taste, no taste at all. You might as well be eating protein powder.”

Yet Davies’ laid-back approach to healthy eating (eat what makes you feel good, be it full and satisfied or light and energized) is refreshing. So is her way of effortlessly and joyfully bringing vegetarians and carnivores to the same table.

Sounds like the stuff of sympathetic dinner-table conversation to me. Find out if Davies’ food sensibilities speak to your own as she reads from “Jam Today Too,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 18, at South Stage Cellars, 125 S. Third St. Books will be for sale at the event.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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