I hit my head on the overhead luggage compartment as I took my seat on the plane. Wham! Audible gasps, groans, and “ooohhhs” arose from the rows all around me. The kind-eyed man seated next to me got up so as to let me and my bruised head slip past him into my assigned window seat: seat 17F, right on the wing. I smiled at him in thanks.
“Oh, I’m alright! Really it’s okay. I do that all the time.”
It was possibly one of the weirdest things I could have said. For starters, it wasn’t even true – just a complete bold-faced lie. I hadn’t even flown in over three years. Also, casually telling someone that I hit my head all the time makes me seem insane, and now this gentle giant of a man in 17E would most likely sit in wonderment over the peculiar woman to his right. I inadvertently glanced down at his phone, which he was now attempting to set on “airplane mode” per attendant Pam’s instructions. He succeeded, but not before I was able to make out the fact that he was listening to Taylor Swift. It wasn’t even her new album, this had to have been at least a couple albums ago, if my musical calculations are correct. So, on second thought, maybe it was I who was going to be doing the wondering …
Our plane began to creep higher in the sky and as I eased my chair back in an attempt to further relax and calm my now throbbing head, my mind wandered right on back home; to last Tuesday to be exact …
Lunch? Check. Snack? Check. Do her socks match? Oh wait, no check … better fix that. I scanned all of Elle’s belongings to make sure they had the requisite initials, “EM,” emblazoned somewhere easily visible to her teacher. Her brand new teacher. Her f i r s t e v e r teacher. I watched Elle as she stood at her little brown art table just outside our kitchen, scribbling away with her crayons and markers in happy contentment. She hummed to herself as she drew, seemingly oblivious to the fact that in approximately T-minus five minutes, we would walk out the front door and drive off to her first day of school. I however was not oblivious to this. In fact, I was probably overly aware of it. How are we already here? Just yesterday I was holding her hands as she took her first steps, her legs all weebil-wobbly as she worked in focused determination to make her way. That was yesterday, right? No? Somehow I blinked, and now she’s in school. How does that happen? Where … does … the … time … go?
“Ma’am? Would you like something to drink?”
Yes. Yes I would. Pam’s question snapped me, momentarily, from my reverie and I promptly ordered a water, squinting to read the miniscule “menu” of snack items displayed on the side of her cart. Did I remember to pack my glasses? Please tell me I didn’t forget those. Oh darn, I think I did. My mind began wandering again, to earlier today this time, as I hurriedly packed my bags in preparation for my trip …
Lunch? Check. Snack? Check. Do my socks match? Do I care? Not really, turns out. Because today marks the first time in nearly three years that I’m getting to take a little time for myself and venture away from home, just for a few days. I scan all of my belongings to make sure they adhere to the requisite flight protocols and I add another pair of shoes and a long-sleeved sweater to my bag. Maybe it will be chillier than predicted; maybe it will be warmer. Never can tell what I’ll feel like wearing once I’ve arrived at my final destination. Good grief. You’d think I’d never gone anywhere, never left home before. But it feels different when you leave your kids for the first time – not bad, just different. Particularly when you’re flying away from them, as opposed to driving a short distance. A i r p l a n e m o d e. It all feels sort of new again, this act of leaving. Leaving with no strollers, car seats, bottles, or diapers. Leaving by myself. Leaving on a jet plane …
I am currently writing this post from my seat on that jet plane, from a cozy cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (or so they tell me), and I can see the likes of Eastern Oregon’s high desert through the window to my left. It’s all deep blues and browns and wispy white clouds from up here, and I’m beginning to feel the all-too-familiar brand of excitement one experiences when nearing their destination. Portland today, for me. Much to my total amazement and utter delight, I won a food photography contest run by one of my favorite foodie websites, Food52.com along with Feast Portland – a celebrated food festival held in Portland each year. My prize? Tickets to said food festival as well as a slew of wonderful prizes from some talented Portland-based makers. From small-batch caramels and gumdrops to coffee, honey and sausages, my kitchen has been filled with artisanal products made by people who are clearly passionate about what they do. It’s nice to win things from time to time, I’ll admit. Winning prizes, specifically. I think the last thing I won an actual prize for was the title of “most improved” at the family bowling tournament two Christmases ago. I won a small stuffed bear dressed appropriately in a bowling uniform. Not a bad prize when you have children, I’ll admit. Not a bad prize when you don’t.
But when it comes to this most recent prize winning – the lovely collection of trinkets and wares with which I was bestowed last week – there was one prize about which I will admit to being particularly excited. As an admittedly salt-obessed cook, I have long harbored an interest in various salts from around the world and enjoy adding unique varieties to my collection. As part of my Portland prize pack, I received a boxed set of flavored salts from Jacobsen Salt Co., a prize that elicited an audible squeal of delight as I opened its package.
“Harvested from the cold, pristine waters of Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast,” the array of salts I received are packaged in attractive little vials and come in intriguing flavors such as “ghost chili,” “coffee,” and “lemon zest.” I was besotted right out of the gate with these, not wasting a minute of time before putting them to use. I had a baby watermelon in the fridge that immediately met its fate in my blender as I hurriedly turned it into a fresh pink agua fresca. Elle and I each drank a glass, however mine was rimmed with a thin coating of the ghost chili salt, and it was unbelievably delicious. I made some homemade chocolate mousse the next day which was finished with some of the coffee salt – a flavor combo so satisfying that I was half inclined to walk it around the neighborhood, offering samples to the neighbors. I refrained, however.
The most popular of all my salt recipes, though, were the ice cream and the pasta. We ventured to my favorite local orchard last week and wove our way in and out of the rows of raspberries, Elle eating far more than ever actually made it into the little container. The blue skies above were cloudless and the September sunshine was abundant, but not oppressive. The best kind of sunshine. I noticed the small field of herbs growing just past the berry patch, and made a mental note to use up the fresh basil I had at home. My Mom was in town visiting and I had a pasta recipe that I was dying to try on her. It is virtually impossible for one’s mind not to wander and imagine and brainstorm about meals-to-come when you’re surrounded by so much seasonal freshness. It’s inspiring to say the least.
We filled our little blue containers with fresh berries and wiped the evidence from our deeply stained fingers before heading home. I ducked into the orchard’s little market to snag a bushel of the season’s finest plums, and promptly began daydreaming about what would become of the day’s bounty. I had a vial of my prized vanilla salt waiting for me at home and I felt like a laboratory scientist awaiting the results of my latest experiment. Eventually, I decided upon a recipe that would showcase the plums and berries simply, something that would highlight their seasonal greatness. Late Summer’s last blast came for us in the form of some poached plums and a fantastic no-churn (read: no ice cream maker necessary) raspberry ripple ice cream that was impossible for me not to “test” several times before its actual freezing.
As for the pasta, I almost feel compelled to call it “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover Linguine.” The word “anchovies” tends to send a lot of people running in the opposite direction, but they completely make this dish. This is my favorite pasta to make and both my husband and my mother gave it rave reviews and said it was as good as anything they’ve ever had in a restaurant. That’s not due to anything I did, really. It’s the anchovies that did it. Once they’ve cooked and simmered in the butter and oil, they get nutty and toasty and incredibly delicious. Topped with tons of parmesan, some fresh basil, arugula and a flourish of some bright lemon salt to finish, the dish is a stunner through and through. This pasta is really so simple and unassuming and if I didn’t take the time to really sell it here, its name and very un-flashy appearance could cause you to keep right on moving, scrolling along to the next recipe. But you might just be surprised at how much you like this one. It makes the best side dish or, topped with some grilled shrimp or scallops, a knockout main course. Give it a try and then let me know what you think. All I’m saying is give anchovies (and peace) a chance.
They just announced our descent into the Portland area and as predicted, I am already feeling the pangs that come with missing your kids. Geez that was fast. It was probably the crying baby a few rows up that did it. Airplane mode … But they’re in good hands with Dad and Ganny back at home, and they will be fine. I will be fine. I know that the next few days will be filled with family that I love, fun experiences in a city that I love, and some amazing food that will undoubtedly make its way back to this very blog in the not too distant future. So until next time, this is Harvest and Honey signing off from Portland, OR.
P.S. Seriously, give the anchovies a chance!
Hibiscus & Honey Poached Plums with No-Churn Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream and Vanilla Salt
4 or 5 fresh plums, left whole (these will be poached whole)
1/3 cup honey
5 hibiscus tea bags (sometimes referred to as “red zinger”)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
12 ounces sweetened condensed milk (I usually buy a 14-oz can and save the leftover sweet milk for Thai iced tea)
The seeds from one vanilla bean (or you can use two teaspoons of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons raspberry all fruit spread (this is a seedless product)
For the ice cream: Place the berries in a small saucepan over medium heat along with 3 tablespoons of water. Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir. Let the mixture simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until all of the berries have burst and released their juices. It should look like a very chunky sauce at this point. Strain this berry mixture over a bowl, pressing on the solids to make sure you get as much juice out as possible. Return the strained juice to the saucepan and add the all fruit spread (this will thicken the sauce just enough). With the pan still over medium heat, stir to melt the all fruit spread. Remove the pan from the heat and place in the refrigerator until needed (should be at room temp when you use it in the ice cream).
Meanwhile, make the vanilla bean ice cream. Place the heavy whipping cream in a mixer and mix on med-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Fold in the vanilla bean seeds and the condensed milk, gently folding until everything is well-combined. Pour the ice ream into a freezer-safe container. Using a knife (this is what I like to do) swirl some of the cooled raspberry sauce into the ice cream, creating the “ripple” effect. When it comes to the amount of sauce to use, I honestly eyeball it, using as much as I feel like at the time. 1/2 cup is usually good. Alternatively, you can simply stir the raspberry sauce into the ice cream completely, creating fresh raspberry ice cream, with no ripple. Up to you here! Place the ice cream into the freezer until firm and frozen, usually a few hours.
For the plums: Using a small paring knife, score the plums all the way around, starting and ending at the stem (you want to create a small slit in the skin).
Add 2 cups of water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the hibiscus tea bags to this and bring to a gentle boil. Remove the tea from the heat now and let the it steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add the honey to the tea in the saucepan; stir. Add the plums and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the plums cool in the poaching liquid.
Halve the plums, remove the pits, and return to the poaching liquid until needed. Serve with the ice cream.
Sweet Onion Linguine with Anchovies, Arugula, and toasted Walnuts RECIPE
1 lb. linguine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Calabrian chili paste (or any red chili paste that you can find; you can often find some in the produce section)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 – 3 cups fresh arugula
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
Plenty of freshly grated/shaved parmesan cheese
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped (to toast, place nuts in a shallow pan over medium heat and toast for about 2 – 3 minutes, or until fragrant; then chop)
Lemon salt, to finish (visit http://www.jacobsensaltco.com to purchase, or simply combine some flaked sea salt with a bit of lemon rind in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine)
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, anchovies and chili paste. Cook this mixture until the onions have caramelized and turned a golden amber color. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, but make sure to add a couple tablespoons of salt to the cooking water. This will add flavor to the pasta from the inside out, contributing to a more flavorful dish in the end. Reserve about 1 cup of the starchy cooking water. When it is al dente, toss the pasta with the onion and anchovy mixture in the pan. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta, helping to create a sauce and allow the onion mixture to adhere to the noodles. Add more if needed.
Add about a cup of grated parmesan to the pan, and toss to coat (this doesn’t have to be exact). Lastly, add the arugula and basil and lightly toss to mix. Serve the pasta topped with some chopped toasted walnuts, extra parmesan, and a sprinkling of lemon salt if desired.