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…

Caldo Gallego (Galician Stew)

Beans, Meat, Pork, Soups & Stews

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Caldo Gallego is a tradition. It was born in the rural, northwestern Spanish province of Galicia. Bringing together dried white beans, potatoes, fatty bits of cured pork, and hearty greens, it is a beautiful arrangement of the area’s harvest and the farmer’s prescient attitude of using as much as that harvest as possible.

Each autumn, I prepare Caldo Gallego and freeze it through the winter. While I have thawed and eaten it in the spring or summer, it is never as satisfying as eating it on a cold night next to a fire’s flame. It is heavy, warming and full of flavor.

Pork Sirloin with Brussels Sprouts, Chestnuts & Farro in Pomegranate Sauce

Meat, Pork

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This pork roast is quintessential Pacific Northwest, comprising three seasonal ingredients: farro, chestnuts, and Brussels sprouts.

Washington, it turns out, is a huge producer of the nation’s farro, an ancient relative of the wheat berry. Meanwhile, chestnuts continue to gain popularity, as they too are suited to our weather. And Brussels sprouts? Another delicious green product of our abundant, year-round Brassica farming.

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.

Lobster Bisque (Bisque de Homard)

Seafood, Soups & Stews

Traditionally a bisque is a thick and creamy soup with a base of mirepoix and shellfish served with the diced meat of the latter. Right now, our beloved New England lobsters are on sale at one of the markets I shop at: an astounding $7.99/lb.!

With the temperature dropping, becoming as cold as the sea nearby, and the climate drying up before the rains begin to pelt us, nothing sounds better than to cozy up in my warm apartment with a bowl of steaming lobster bisque.

I cannot emphasize how incredible this soup is. It is the perfect balance of flavors–a touch of sweetness, a well-mannered but full-bodied saltiness with a succulent savory finish–the prize being the true essence of lobster that lingers in the mouth well after the last bite.