Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

10 medium-sized tomatoes
3 red peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large or 2 smaller sweet onions, like Walla Walla, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
tablespoon dried basil
pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups vegetable stock
juice of 2 oranges
juice of 2 lemons
1-2 cups heavy cream
avacado, diced (optional)

Turn the broiler on high. Stem the tomatoes and cut in half. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. It might take 2 batches to do all the tomatoes; it did pour moi. Broil carefully, till the tomato skins have black charred blisters and look pretty wrinkly, 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and slip the skins off the tomatoes with tongs or your fingers (be careful, they're hot!). Place the tomatoes in a non-reactive bowl. Repeat as necessary.

Cut the tops off the red peppers. Or do as I do: using thumbs, press the stem inward till it breaks from the flesh, then remove it. Cut the peppers in half the long way, removing the seeds and white membranes. Place cut side down on the baking sheet, and repeat broiling process. The skins are a little harder to remove than the tomatoes. Enlist the help of a knife if necessary. Cut the peppers into strips, then add to the bowl of tomatoes.

In a large, non-reactive stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, then add basil and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking until onions are just about translucent, about 5 or so more minutes.

Add tomatoes, peppers and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.

Puree soup in batches in a blender. When working with hot liquids, never fill the blender more than 1/3 full. Some recipes now strain the soup, but not me.

Return the blended soup to the pot. Add orange and lemon juice. Taste. Salt and pepper it, and taste again. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Add as much cream as you are comfortable with, then bring the soup up to a gentle simmer again. You might want to taste it again and add more salt.

Serve in a shallow bowl with diced avacado mounded in the center. This soup would go well with a green salad, or even a toasted cheese sandwich.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Le Hana

The first restaurant just opened in the South Waterfront district. Le Hana is an interesting mix of Japanese and French cuisine. I was leery till I checked out the menu and found it's mostly a Japanese focus where you can also order a Kobe tenderloin, a Strawberry Mountain ribeye, sake diver scallops, and pan seared Copper River salmon. The menu has a lot of sections:

Seafood Entrees
Meat Entrees
Vegetable Entrees
Fusion Sashimi
Assorted Sashimi
Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri Sushi Combination
Hand Maki
Regular Rolls
Specialty Rolls
Baked Rolls
Meat Lover's Rolls

Bf and I ordered a lot. Miso (didn't order, it just came), tempura shrimp, the small assorted sashimi platter, hamachi sushi combo, Iro Iro Maguro roll, and the Scent of Shiso roll.

The miso and tempura were good, on par with most sushi places in town. Assorted sashimi came with 2 pieces each of hamachi, salmon, albacore, escolar, octopus, maguro, shrimp and snapper. Salmon and hamachi are my favorite, they were both buttery and smooth. The fish was cut a little thicker than I'm used to, but I viewed it as a plus. High quality, though I've never been to Murata or Hiroshi, so I can't say how it matches up. I really loved the pure-white escolar, although recent health warnings gave me pause.

The hamachi sushi combo was supposed to include 8 pieces hamachi roll, 2 pieces of hamachi nigiri and 3 pieces of chef's choice nigiri. What we got was 8 pieces spicy salmon roll, and 6 pieces of assorted nigiri, luckily most of it tuna. I was not at all upset, as the spicy salmon roll was outstanding. The spicy sauce gently coated the delicate salmon pieces without overwhelming the mild fish.

The Iro Iro Maguro roll consisted of blue fin tuna, avacado inside, lightly seared toro outside with a lime caper sauce and tobiko on top. Loved this and would order it again in a heartbeat, despite the $18 price tag.

The Scent of Shiso roll was just as good. Salmon, avacado and dungeness crab with shiso and halibut on top. Shiso is an herb leaf that reminded me of mint or cilantro with lemon notes as well. It added a little fresh crunch and burst of brightness to every bite.

The interior has booths along two walls, a sushi bar and a regular bar. Big, round, creamy-colored lanterns hung above the entry beckon from blocks away. Red lamps hover over each booth at varying heights. Watch out for those booths; they are definitely built for little people.

Le Hana
3500 SW River Parkway
Portland, OR 97239

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Heirloom Tomato and Bread Salad

I really was inspired by Molly at Orangette on this one. She mentioned, in passing, in one of her old, old posts (I'm going through the archives) from 2005, about a great summer pastime, eating tomato and bread salad. I have heard of such a thing, but never thought much about it. Shame, shame on me. It's so easy and delicious. Just do this:

cube some good bread (can be day-old or not)
toss bread in a bowl with olive oil and some halved garlic cloves
toast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes on a sheet pan
dice heirloom tomatoes in large chunks and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic
mix croutons with tomatoes and season with salt & pepper
add some cheese (fresh mozz, shaved parm, whatever) and basil
*edited to add: let sit for 5 minutes
eat (Orangette says to eat aggressively)

If I knew how to get my pictures from my camera onto my computer, I would add a picture here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Le Pigeon again..

Finally took bf to Le Pigeon last night. We showed up at 6:45pm and were told there was a short wait. No problem, we'll leave our cell number and head over to Doug Fir. Oops, before we could order a drink at Doug Fir, Le Pigeon called back! That was fast. So this was my first time sitting at the bar. This is the way to go, folks. Talk about an open kitchen; at this bar, you're right on top of them. We ordered:

  • Beets, cucumbers, lemon creme fraiche
  • Foie terrine, brioche, truffled apricots
  • Beef Cheek Bourguignon
  • Flat Iron, tomato, leek, anchovy

I like how simple the menu is. It doesn't mess around with wordy descriptions. Of course, you have to ask how the pork is prepared, but that doesn't bother me.

Beet salad rocked, but I can't think of a better combination than beets, cucumbers and lemon creme fraiche. I hogged this to myself. The foie terrine was interesting. I'm not to sure about foie yet - it's the texture. Anyway, it came as a big slice layered with fat with a spoonful of truffle apricot jam on the side, and a plate of brioche. Bf ate almost all of this. It was really rich, with a hard butter texture, and I liked it with the brioche. I actually would prefer a crostini with it, something crunchy.

The beef cheeks were served with a couple slices of potato, a bunch of carrots, and some onions or fennel. It all blended so it was hard to tell. The cheeks are huge, though, and with your fork you can pull off a bite of thready, juicy, beefy goodness, spear a carrot and a bite of potato, swirl it around in the burgundy reduction and try to make it to your mouth before it drips on your new blouse. Ahh, bliss. Bf's flat iron came a very red medium-rare (all the better) sliced and stacked on a pile of sliced tomatoes, leeks and anchovy. It was very good, but I liked mine better.

That we were going to order the apricot-bacon cornbread with maple ice cream was a given. It was the whole reason I brought bf there! It was just as good as last time. I am quite enthralled with the flavor of the maple ice cream. Maybe next summer I will buy an ice cream maker.

Our dinner, including one beer and one glass of pinot noir, came to $87, and I took home more than half of my beef cheeks. Also, the cook burnt our cornbread and had to remake it, unbeknowst to us, so they comped it! Totally unnecessary, but a nice gesture.

We look forward to visiting Le Pigeon often. The menu changes all the time, and you are guaranteed to find something that you've never had (pigeon cherry tart, anyone?), or something put together in a way you never would have done.