Garlicky Celery-Leaf Pesto

Sauces & Spreads

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Yesterday it stormed at the West LA farmers’ market. The wind howled and was indiscriminate in its punishment, knocking over A-frame signs and garbage bins and ripping canvas away from tentpoles. Lori and I scuttle from stand to stand. It is like being back in Seattle. Lori walks right down the middle of the street, her rain jacket zipped all the way up to her huge grin.

“I’ve missed this,” she says. I tell her Mmm-hmm or something just as non-committed, but what I’m really telling her is Yeah, me too.

We stop to sample chocolate, primarily to warm up the shivering woman behind the table. Conversation is what keeps all of us warm. We approach and she comments on the weather, telling us to please come closer. It really is like being back in Seattle, where strangers begin conversations with talk about the weather. Some of the chocolate has sugar and some doesn’t, but every melted morsel is delightful in our mouths. A man passing by sees the warmth and joins the three of us, all of us now hovering closely under the tent.

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Dry again, back in the car, we eat breakfast dumplings with pork and eggs. A woman steamed them in a wok on a camping stove.

“We meant to eat brunch,” Lori says. She’s right. Sometimes these mornings–our schedule full of lines to cross off–slip away, and we forget about the in-between lines that assure us the leisure we keep meaning to make time for. We dip the dumplings in organic ketchup. The clouds are bursting. This is the first road food we eat in Lori’s new car and this stormy morning feels more special because of that.

Lori is pretty sure she doesn’t have to begin writing her essay just yet, so we buzz over to our new favorite coffeeshop. It feels like months since we had a Sunday off together.

“It’s homey in here,” Lori says. “It feels broken in.”

We sip spiced lattes and I chat with the barista as if I know why origin and growing altitude matter for this particular cup of coffee. I don’t, but the barista is nice enough to treat me like an adult.

The sun begins to peek out, but the storm is about to get fiercer. We will soon lose power. Leaves and sticks will fly around outside. One of the bulbs on the string of outdoor lights will burst. Down the street, a tree will fall onto a Range Rover.

But I won’t notice any of that, because I’ve got this babe with her new car that smells like potstickers and coffee and this badass bunch of celery leaves the farmer decided not to hack off.

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The Christof Manheim Burger

Grilled, Meat, Pork, Sandwiches, Sauces & Spreads

Christof Manheim Burger

Makes 4 burgers

I have been fretting lately about my city’s inexcusable lack of interesting food inspired by German cuisine.  For those German bars that serve up pretzels with eight separate mustards, ich libe dich, but sometimes I need to swoon over more than your flat palettes of yellows and browns.  I’m not expecting anything like The Generator (although, Philadelphia, you’re not doing so badly, yourself), but, come on, Germans were some of the earliest immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, and yet we struggle to incorporate their food traditions into our own, insisting on keeping them separate from the others, like some black sheep we don’t want mingling with our prized flock.  We hide them in stained-wood bars, below the sidewalk, or at the bottom of menus.

Well, not today.  It’s sunny today, so I decided to barbecue.  In the fridge are jars of curried sauerkraut I made back in December when the green cabbage was sweet and crisp.  But, since January, I’ve hardly touched the stuff.  You see, I too have been struggling to incorporate the German food into my diet, even that one that’s insanely good for you.  I guess that fermented cabbage never sounds good with black beans or salad or pizza.

Then it hit me: I was making the same excuses as my city.  Well, guess what? Sauerkraut is not meant for only sausages and potatoes!  And, if you give me a chance, I’ll show you why…

Arugula Pesto

Sauces & Spreads, Vegetables

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Lori and I are preparing to leave for a couple weeks. Just about everything is done. Even the weather has taken a turn for the worse, so I don’t feel so bad about leaving Seattle in the summer. I was feeling sort of guilty because one of the places we’re going to is colder and rainier than Seattle. (Yes, it turns out there is such a place. And, no, it’s not Olympia.)

But there is still some food we need to eat or preserve. We go through pains to use food, me probably more so. I think I am just more fearless when it comes to eating old food. That’s how I’ve fortified my gut against bacteria like Mithradates protected himself against poison. (Except that one time in Syria, but that was Syria!!)

Arugula was one of those foods. But how do you preserve arugula? You can freeze it, but then you have to blanch it and pack it and–eew, I have to stop myself. A better way is by whizzing it into pesto. Arugula can be dangerous, though, in amounts too high, like cilantro. It gets bitter.

We went for it, anyway, and the result was amazing, like arugula essence but with tact and self-awareness and manners. Walnuts keep the arugula grounded; parsley takes off some of the edge.

Muhammara (Syrian Pomegranate Dip)

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

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I love watching people try this for the first time. Its flavor is mystical, almost indescribable. So enchanted by it am I that I feel incomplete if I don’t have any stored in the fridge.

Variations of this mesmerizing dip abound. Some are coarse, some are pureed, some are burgundy, some are orange. But all of them share a few traits: pomegranate, walnuts and red peppers.

Basic Salmonberry Vinaigrette

Fruit, Sauces & Spreads

Basic Salmonberry Vinaigrette

For those who find themselves with but a handful of salmonberries, this recipe is a great way to extract and extend their wonderful flavor. This is an effective way to make use of those salmonberries that have begun to bruise and turn to mush in the refrigerator. Use this vinaigrette as a base. The addition of garlic and mint, for example, may be most welcome, while others may prefer a pinch of chile flakes and cumin. For an example, see our pairing with cured salmon and fennel.

Smoked Whitefish Schmear

Sauces & Spreads

This is a product of leftovers.

  • 1/3 cup smoked fish (sea fish such as sardines or mackerel)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, minced (for dried chives, use 1 Tbsp.)

In a food processor, grind the fish until a paste. Add the cream cheese and grind until homogenous. Add the lemon juice and zest, to taste. Finally, add the chives at the end. Waiting to add the chives will prevent the schmear from turning green. Slather on your favorite bagel. This will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Smoky Nettle Pesto

Sauces & Spreads

Since nettles are weeds, they are also a free and prolific source of food. Right now they are concentrating their energy in producing seeds. Regardless, their phenomenal nutrient content still makes them worthy of consumption.  They are one of the highest plant-based protein sources around.  They are loaded with calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.  Nettles also have detoxifying properties, making them great for your kidneys and adrenal glands.  Not to mention, they are absolutely delicious.

This smoky nettle pesto is a great way to cook with nettles late in their season.  The leaves have adopted a subtle bitterness and the overall flavor of the leaves is slowly dissipating.  You still get to taste the essence of the nettles with this, but the roasted nuts and smoked cheese–variations of aging–really complement the nettle’s complex and quiet flavor, as the plant enters its new cycle.