Tango Mango

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There’s a flat, easy bike and pedestrian trail in Astoria, Oregon. It runs by the Columbia, River, under the grand Astoria-Megler Bridge, through fishing docks and piers, and by an assortment of breweries and pubs. Part of the trip takes you by relics of an earlier time, where old gas pumps, rail cars and abandoned fishing boats are rotting where they sit.
Every time we’ve pedaled by this boat over the years I’m drawn to it. A long time ago, its owner decided it was no longer needed. I wonder why.

There’s a flat, easy bike and pedestrian trail in Astoria, Oregon. It runs by the Columbia, River, under the grand Astoria-Megler Bridge, through fishing docks and piers, and by an assortment of breweries and pubs. Part of the trip takes you by relics of an earlier time, where old gas pumps, rail cars and abandoned fishing boats are rotting where they sit.

Every time we’ve pedaled by this boat over the years I’m drawn to it. A long time ago, its owner decided it was no longer needed. I wonder why.

Homemade hummus
I’m pretty sure I was making hummus before hummus was cool.  A friend of mine gave me a cookbook over 20 years ago that included a recipe for it, and even though I had never heard of hummus at the time, it sounded delicious. If you make it yourself you can control the amount of fresh lemon juice (I like my lemony), and use your own good olive oil.
It’s great served with chips and raw vegetables, but my favorite accompaniment is warm triangles of fresh pita bread.
Ingredients:
1/4 cup roasted tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
Juice of one juicy lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons warm water
3 cloves chopped garlic (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Optional garnishes:
Additional olive oil to drizzle on top
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Sprinkle of paprika
A few reserved garbanzo beans
Directions:
Put all ingredients (minus garnish ingredients) in food processor and blend until smooth. Check the taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it. Add more warm water 1 tablespoon at a time if it’s too thick.
To serve, put hummus in a pretty bowl and top with optional garnishes.

Homemade hummus

I’m pretty sure I was making hummus before hummus was cool.  A friend of mine gave me a cookbook over 20 years ago that included a recipe for it, and even though I had never heard of hummus at the time, it sounded delicious. If you make it yourself you can control the amount of fresh lemon juice (I like my lemony), and use your own good olive oil.

It’s great served with chips and raw vegetables, but my favorite accompaniment is warm triangles of fresh pita bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup roasted tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 (15 1/2 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • Juice of one juicy lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper

Optional garnishes:

  • Additional olive oil to drizzle on top
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Sprinkle of paprika
  • A few reserved garbanzo beans

Directions:

Put all ingredients (minus garnish ingredients) in food processor and blend until smooth. Check the taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it. Add more warm water 1 tablespoon at a time if it’s too thick.

To serve, put hummus in a pretty bowl and top with optional garnishes.

We woke up to rain yesterday morning. The sound of it hitting the windowpanes was like unfamiliar music. Could it really be? I walked through our dark house and looked out the sliding glass door in our family room. The bricks on the patio were wet and I watched rain splash in the birdbath. I made myself an espresso and went into our outdoor room, where I could better experience with my eyes and ears this rare occurrence.

Mother Nature has delivered odd and extreme weather all over the world. Oregon’s no exception. This “rainy state” has been so dry our Sequoia tree shows signs of dying. We hear on the local news that we’re living in a tinderbox – they caution the smallest spark outdoors is all it takes to start a fire.

As it turned out, this precious rainfall was short-lived. By late morning the sun was out again and the wet pavement was just a memory. This weekend’s high temps are predicted to hit 90 degrees.

I’m ready for the rain.

Pictures: raindrops on our asparagus plants yesterday.

Grow. Harvest. Use.

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At this time of year, I often look through the lens of a project manager when I decide what to prepare for a meal. The goal for this growing season is simple, but not easy: to use all of the vegetables that we harvest. In order to achieve that goal, I need to keep up with what is picked every day.

I constantly keep that objective in mind during September, but it’s easy to fall behind. It is only a matter of time before the huge blue bowl of tomatoes will need be made into sauce and frozen. Luckily, the zucchini are slowing down, but the kale is growing tall and begging to be picked.

Last night I made a gorgeous, delicious quiche using sweet cherry tomatoes, sliced zucchini and fresh spinach. It was a distinct success from all perspectives.

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My quiche recipe has appeared here in one form or another three times over the years. I love its taste and texture. I change up the extras from time to time, but never, ever fiddle with the proportions of the custard. If you’re interested in making this, I posted the recipe three years ago, back when tango mango was a baby. You can find that recipe here.

Here are some extra pointers for this specific quiche:

  • I salted the zucchini slices fifteen minutes prior to adding them to the filling. It drew out a lot of unneeded moisture. After fifteen minutes I rinsed the slices and patted them dry with paper towels.
  • After you squeeze out all of the moisture from the blanched spinach, fluff it up in a large bowl. Then combine it with the cheese and the zucchini. Pile it into the blind-baked pie crust, top with halved cherry tomatoes and then pour on the custard.

Tonight I tackle the green beans.

A Portland gem – Cathedral Park, located under the St. John’s Bridge

Summer isn’t over yet in Portland, Oregon. It’s been hot. Yesterday’s high temp was 90 degrees and today’s predicted high is supposed to be even hotter.

I know I sound like I’m complaining, and I guess I am a bit, but the good news is the humidity is low, and the tomato plants are still pumping out pounds and pounds of tomatoes. We bike every weekend and are still cutting the grass. The trees look distressed from the record-dry conditions, but the rainy season will be here all too soon, so we’re making the most of summer.

Yesterday we got together with friends and picnicked at one of our favorite spots – Cathedral Park. We set up our lawn chairs under shade trees and spread our tablecloths over picnic tables. The coolers were unpacked and we sat and laughed and ate and drank the afternoon away. We saw two wedding parties, babies trying out their first steps, happy dogs catching Frisbees, and people of all ages enjoying the afternoon.

I brought my camera along, but as the day went by felt less and less like taking pictures. This morning I had a little time and decided to go back. The vibe was different today. A film crew was there filming an advertisement for an athletic company, and I watched in amazement as a guy created enormous bubbles. Today a few of the picnic tables were occupied by business people talking quietly together.

In the top photo you can see the park, located under the bridge supports. There’s an air quality advisory today for the area due to huge forest fires burning an hour or so east of the city. Perhaps you can detect the haze in my pictures.

Cinnamon pull-apart bread

If I had loads of time this morning I would wax poetic about how amazing this is and how we devoured half of it right when it came out of the pan, etc, etc. However, I’ve got way too much to do today, so I will cut right to the chase.

A few important notes about preparing this easy, incredible bread:

  • I used my favorite IKEA bread loaf pan, which is more long and narrow than a traditional loaf pan. It worked fine. Just stack the leaves of dough in a pan and when the bread rises, it will fill all the cracks.
  • This is a recipe from Ree Drummond, and she says that you end up with extra cinnamon-sugared leaves of dough, but she doesn’t say what to do with them. I used the extras to make another (small) loaf. You could probably also stack them up in 4-5 muffin cups, but remember they’ll be done before the large loaf. Her version includes a thin icing that you pour over the hot loaf, but I really didn’t think it needed it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (additional) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

To make the dough, combine milk, canola oil, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large saucepan. Heat it until very hot. Turn off heat and allow to cool to warm.

Sprinkle in the yeast and add 4 cups of flour. Stir to combine, then put lid on the pot and allow to rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, stir in additional 1/2 cup flour, along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. If dough is overly sticky, stir in another 1/2 cup flour. Place dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to make it easier to work with. 

Roll out dough onto a floured surface. Drizzle on melted butter and smear so that it covers all the dough. Mix together the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it all over the surface of the dough. (This will seem like too much, but it’s important to use it all!)

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Cut the dough into 6 to 8 strips, then stack all the strips into one stack. Cut the stack of strips into 6 columns. Place the stacks sideways into a buttered bread pan. Do not cram the slices into the pan.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover bread with a dish towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Place the pan(s) in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to make sure it’s not getting too brown on top. It’s important to bake the bread long enough to ensure that the middle won’t be too doughy, because if it is it won’t pull apart easily. If the top looks like it’s getting too brown, cover it lightly with aluminum foil for the rest of the baking time.

Remove the pan from the oven when it’s done. Run a knife along the edges and take the bread out of the pan.

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