Saturday, January 29, 2011

Today's Discovery - Two Tarts Bakery in Portland, OR

Today I spent a wonderful day in Portland, OR walking around the Pearl District and Nob Hill neighborhood. I visited my usual favorites like Stumptown Coffee and Vivace Cafe. But the highlight of the visit was a discovery of a new bakery "Two Tarts" on NW 23rd Avenue. This bakery specializes in pint-sized artisan cookies. They have a website/blog and can even ship you their cookies :) For more details check out Two Tarts Bakery website.

Of course I could not resist and bought 13 cookies which came in a nice box :)

I bought a variety that included the following cookies: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Cappuccino Creams, Hazelnut Baci, Peanut Butter Creams, Earl Grey Shortbread and few others. We enjoyed them later in a day while walking in Japanese Garden in Washington Park.

My favorite were Cappuccino Creams :)

After eating few :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beef Mushroom Barley Soup

It is winter and you want some soul food. I love beef mushroom barley soup. I adopted this recipe from Food Network and you can find original recipe there.

But this is how I make it and it comes out delicious!


Olive oil for cooking
1 thick rib eye steak, about 1lb with bone
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 celery stocks, chopped
6 cups of water
7-8 large white button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes
½ cup of barley, rinsed
1 teaspoon of dry thyme
Salt and Pepper


      1. Salt and pepper rib eye steak generously on both sides. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and on medium high sear rib eye until it is nice and brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Take it out from the skillet and put aside on a plate.

 2. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large soup pot. (This is the pot you will make the barley soup in so make sure it is large enough to fit about 7-8 cups of water). Turn the heat to medium high and let oil heat up a bit, about 30 seconds. Next, add carrots, celery and onion and saute them for 10 minutes until soft.

      3. Next add rib eye steak and water to the pot, bring to boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium low, close the pot with the lid and let meat and vegetables cook for 2 hours. 
      4. After 2 hours, add barley, tomatoes and thyme to the pot, close the lid and let cook for another 45 minutes.

      5. In a meantime, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the clean skillet and on medium high fry mushrooms for about 10 minutes until they get nice brown color. Next, I usually turn the heat to very low and close the skillet with the lid and let mushrooms finish cooking. They might release extra water, but you can pour it out later.

      6. After 45 minutes pass and barley is cooked, add sauteed mushrooms to the pot and boil for additional 15 minutes.
      7. The next step is to serve the soup with some crusty fresh bread. Enjoy! Soup also tastes even better on a second day, so save some for that work lunch the next day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chicken Thighs with Herbes de Provence, Shallot and Parsley sauce

This is a recipe my husband taught me. It is easy to make and chicken comes out very tender. A good dish to make for a large group of people.


4 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons of Herbes de Provence
White wine
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of cold butter
2 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Wash chicken thighs, pat dry. Salt and pepper on both sides. Preheat oil in a pan on medium high heat.

2. Put chicken thighs skin side down in a pan, let them cook on medium high for about 5-7 minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and let chicken cook skin side down for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carefully turn chicken over and let cook in a pan on medium low for another 30 minutes. Transfer chicken on to a plate and keep warm, in the oven preheated to 175-200 F.

3. To make a sauce pour out the chicken fat from the pan leaving only about 2 tablespoons. It is good if you have chicken bits left in the pan as well. Cook the sauce on medium high heat. Add shallots and dried herbs to the pan, fry for about 1 minute and then deglaze with a splash of white wine. Add a chicken stock and cook until reduced. Next, add parsley and cold butter and stir. Take off the heat. The sauce is done.

4. To serve place a chicken thigh on a plate and pour a little bit of sauce on top. Goes well with mashed potatoes, grilled or steamed vegetables.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Cilantro

It is Tuesday night and I am thinking about healthy and tasty dinner to make. I decide on a quinoa salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and cilantro. I will serve it with chicken and mushrooms. I adopted this recipe from PCC Natural Markets, even though I have never seen the actual recipe for this type of a salad they serve in their deli. But this is how I make it and I love it.


½ cup of dried regular white quinoa
1 cup of cold water plus 2 tablespoons
2-3 Roma tomatoes or 1 big heirloom tomato, chopped
½  of English cucumber, peeled and chopped
¼ cup of chopped cilantro
juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

1. In a pan combine dried quinoa and water. (Ratio of quinoa to water should be 1:2, but I noticed that when cooking half a cup few extra tablespoons of water are needed). Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat so that quinoa is boiling, cover the pan with a lid, let cook for about 10-15 minutes until all water is absorbed and you can fork the quinoa. Transfer cooked quinoa to a big bowl and let it cool off.

2. Once quinoa cooled off you can make the salad. To the bowl of quinoa add tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Adventures in making Duck Confit – the Girl and the Fig way

Making Duck Confit has been a dream of mine for a long time. Over the years I heard about how it takes several days to make it, baking it in a duck fat and then chilling it for few days. Sounded so complicated. Plus where will I get duck fat? 

During the last few years I got more comfortable experimenting with new recipes and after my trip to Sonoma Valley in California and the Girl and the Fig restaurant I decided I was going to make Duck Confit for Christmas. I ordered Duck Confit at the restaurant and bought their cookbook from Amazon.
So, here is how I made my Duck Confit for the Christmas Dinner following the Girl and the Fig recipe.


3 Duck Leg Quarters that I bought from PCC Natural Markets
Rendered Duck Fat about 7 oz. that I also got from PCC Natural Markets from the butcher
Fresh Thyme
6 garlic cloves peeled

Day 1: Wash duck and pat dry, trim the excess fat of the leg quarters and save fat trimmings for later. Generously salt legs with salt, put in a glass dish with thyme springs in between and garlic cloves on top and underneath the legs. I put duck in a fridge for a day and a half. Recipe calls to keep it refrigerated for 24 hours.

Day 3: Preheat the oven to 325 F. Take the duck out of the fridge, wash the salt off, pat dry, put in a deep ovenproof glass dish. Next, put the rendered duck fat, reserved duck fat trimmings, and 1/4 cup of water in a pot and slowly bring to simmer. Continue simmering until the water evaporates and the fat has liquefied. Pour the liquefied duck fat over the duck in a glass dish, cover the dish with foil and put in the oven to bake for 3 ½ hours. After 3 ½ hours take the duck out of the dish and transfer into another dish, let it cool. Once the duck has cooled off, cover the dish with foil and put in a fridge. Recipe says to chill it for at least 4 hours. I left mine in a fridge for a day and a half. 

Day 5: It is Christmas Day and I am cooking the duck for dinner. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan until hot. Fry duck skin side down in a pan for about 1 minute. Then transfer pan to the oven and cook the duck for another 15 minutes, until skin is crisp. Take pan out of the oven and remove duck with a spatula, very carefully, try not to break the skin. I was very careful. This step takes patience! But I did it. I served duck with Turnip Galette, which I made following the recipe from Saveur Magazine. I also made a side of fried chanterelles and shallots (the recipe was posted earlier) and green salad. I was very happy with the result. Thank you the Girl and the Fig for a great recipe that was easy to follow. The Duck Confit turned out delicious!!!!