Summertime Raspberry Syrup (A Template to Syrup Making)

Did you know that it’s actually incredibly simple to make a real fruit syrup?  Like, mind-blowingly simple.  And all it really takes is fruit, sugar, and water.  And a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.  And perhaps some sparkly water, or shaved ice, and your liquor of choice.  If you don’t believe me, scroll on.

First, you gather some fruit.  Today I found an overgrown raspberry patch just a few blocks away from my house, so I seized the opportunity for a solo neighborhood cleanup excursion (there was also a blueberry patch in a neighbors yard, it looked poisonous so I volunteered myself for the dangerous role of guinea pig).

Next, you rinse the fruit and throw it in a saucepan with somewhere between half to three-quarters the amount of sugar as fruit.  This is dependent on the sweetness of the fruit and the desired sweetness of the batch.  Also add equal parts water (to fruit) to the saucepan (for instance, if I had a cup of fruit I would add a cup of water, and then half a cup to 3/4 of a cup of sugar).  Stir to dissolve the sugar and then bring to a boil on medium heat.

Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to stir until the fruit integrates into the sugar/water mixture creating a compote like consistency.  Cook for about 15 minutes in total, then turn off heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.  Pour the mixture into the strainer (or cheesecloth) that is resting atop a larger bowl.  Press down on the pulp, allowing the juices to drip into the bowl.

And that, my friends, is how you make a real fruit syrup!

Now, if you’re like me and have a super rad mom who buys you cool gadgets like a SodaStream carbonated water maker, then you can really take these syrups up a notch.  While straining, get your carbonation on.

Combine a couple tablespoons of the fruit syrup in a glass of carbonated water, with a bit of liquor for good measure and a few cubes of ice…and you’ve got yourself the absolute perfect summer beverage.

Of course, you could also add more ingredients to the mix if you want to be a fancy-pants.  Like vanilla, lemon and lime juice/zest, ginger, cinnamon,  lavender, or fresh herbs among others.  In that case you’d want to add those ingredients to the mixture before straining and allow the flavors to combine with those of the fruit while atop the stove.



Salt & Straw: Worth The Hype?


Today in Portland, it’s was hot. And sunny. And my day off. So what a better way to celebrate than to throw on my straw happy hat and jump on my bike for a ride around the city with Tim, with no particular destination in mind. First things first, I brewed a large batch of iced tea, in a large mason jar obviously (it’s Portland), and drank it. Then we were off! Pedaling our way through the neighborhoods headed in the direction of nowhere, it wasn’t until we’d stumbled upon the Alberta neighborhood way up north that we knew we were in for something good. Real good.

It’s called Salt & Straw, and yet it’s a local ice cream parlor having seemingly nothing to do with either salt or straw. Except maybe the salted caramel used in one of the flavors? Maybe there’s a catchy backstory, or some deep meaning behind it. Anyways, it seems like every local company is going with alliteration these days in Portland: Salt & Straw, Plate & Pitchfork, Cloth & Canvas. Aside from the name and the fact that you should expect to pay the same amount for one ice cream cone as you would a pint of Ben&Jerry’s, I really have nothing bad to say. In fact, I must admit I’m quite envious of it all. If you check out their website,, you will read about how they started from a bike cart and an idea and turned it into a successful and fulfilling business. On the website you can also check out their seasonal flavors, all made in small batches using seasonal and local purveyors almost exclusively. It’s quality, truly, and that is what you are paying for.

Is it all worth it? I think so. After sampling about five flavors (there’s no limit on sampling, mind the lengthy line of annoyed fanatics behind you) and chatting a bit with the very friendly staff, I made the toughest decision I’ve made in a long time. I chose one flavor: pear with blue cheese. Blue cheese? In ice cream? YES. And it was amazing. The flavor was mostly creamy pear, with small pieces of blue cheese and candied pear mixed throughout, so it wasn’t overwhelmingly stinky like you might be imagining. It actually reminded me of this amazing salad with pear and blue cheese that my mom often makes. Being the emotional wreck that I am, I always have time for nostalgic moments.

Although the ice cream was quite soft and melted quickly in the heat, I left feeling very satisfied with my choice and experience at Salt & Straw as a whole. When it comes to grassroots food pursuits, you can count me in.


Cherry Rhubarb Compote

So today I went to the Farmer’s Market. It’s something I strive to do at least once a week, but usually don’t get around to it somehow and end up running to the grocery store for those items I run out of every few days. While I aspire to include it into my weekly routine, it still feels like a novelty to get up in the morning having placed the farmer’s market into the first priority slot of my day. It makes me so excited and anxious that I will literally jump out of bed upon the first sight of daylight, completely skipping the obligatory daily puppy cuddle sesh we’ve grown accustomed to in this household in order to make it before the best selection is gone. This morning was the first that I had planned to bike to the market, all the way across the river, not realizing that it was warming up to be a sweltering afternoon here in Portland. Not yet having installed a basket on the back of my bike for exactly this sort of activity, I was soon to pay for my oversight.

Ideally, before my trips to the market I’d have prepared a list of items that I will buy in order to have these ingredients for meals I would make in the days following. I’d walk down the rows of vendors, scouting out these items for purchase and place them neatly into the brown wicker basket on the back of my bike and then ride home, bright eyed and smiling and waving to people along the way. In reality, today went a little something like this: compose a mental list of ingredients that I may way to buy, jump on my bike with a giant backpack on to compensate for my lack of bike storage, get to the farmer’s market completely sweaty from said backpack, walk around in awe of the vast selection, become overwhelmed by the feeling of wanting to buy everything but having to hold back due to a lack of money in my bank account and storage space, losing my focus in the selection and crowds and scurry around buying a few random items, realizing upon attempt that the backpack is a terrible form of produce storage but no longer having a choice in the matter, and then hopping back on my bike to attempt the sweaty ride home, giant backpack in tow.

The items I purchased today consisted of local strawberries, cherries, garlic, kale, agrietti (what the?), house-cured bacon, and rhubarb. While I don’t regret these purchases per se, I’m now stuck with a bunch of random items that don’t necessarily go together but are worth a few attempts. It’s fun, I guess. Like a puzzle, figuring out which pieces go together and how to do so. For instance, it’s pretty much common knowledge that strawberry and rhubarb go well together, and I would imagine that the kale, garlic, and bacon do as well (you might also add agrietti, a Mediterranean succulent I learned today). But I was in the mood for some a little different. Not too different though, because last time I tried something like that it didn’t work out so well for me. So instead, I went with the cherry/rhubarb combo and created something that I think you might enjoy. I made a cherry rhubarb compote, and it was pretty dang easy. I like it that way, simple, because adding too many ingredients I’ve found to conceal the flavor of the produce. And it just makes thing easier for me, but for the sake of my cooking reputation I’ll keep with the latter.

Cherry Rhubarb Compote


  • About a pound of fresh cherries, pitted
  • About a pound of fresh rhubarb, chopped
  • About 4 Tbsp sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • A nice grate of fresh ginger

I put the chopped rhubarb in a saucepan with zest and lemon juice, ginger grating and 3 Tbsp sugar (reserve one for later) and put on medium heat. While the rhubarb was cooking, I removed the pits from the cherries (this can be a tedious task or an enjoyable one, depending on how you look at it) and diced roughly while periodically returning to stir the rhubarb. Once the rhubarb was 3/4 of the way cooked, I removed the pulp from the saucepan in order to prevent overcooking of rhubarb, then added the cherries to the rhubarb juice and allowed to simmer, about 10 minutes. When the cherries looked about half way broken down, I reincorporated the rhubarb pulp and allowed to simmer on low heat for about ten more minutes. Using my wooden spoon I mashed the fruits in the saucepan to assist in the breakdown. Lastly, I removed it from heat and allowed it to cool for a few minutes and then placed in a glass mason jar.

Since I didn’t do the whole hot water seal thing, I imagine that this compote will be good for a week or two. In addition to simply spreading it on bread with butter, there are other ways I hope to use it. The compote came out with really nice flavor but a little tart, so I suggest pairing it with something sweet, such as vanilla ice cream. Or, yummm, with pancakes (or french toast) and maple syrup. Or with a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Or even in a smoothie. It’s all about versatility, people!

Horray for my first attempt at preserving fruits. Hopefully at some point soon here I can learn how to legitimately get going with all of this canning business. But for now, amateur attempts like this one are juuuuuust fine.

Lucia’s Lemon Confit

This one time, I ate a meal at the house of my wonderful friend Lucia.  It was simple and clean, a salad with just well dressed greens, a warm frittata and some red wine.  Nothing fancy, nothing extravagent or complicated, and yet it was probably one of the most memorable meals I’ve eaten in a long time.  The reason for this is still very much so on the tip of my tongue: the dressing.  And you know what’s funny?  That was simple too.  Three ingredients to be exact.  Nothing more than a healthy dose of olive oil, some lemon and salt.  So, what I learned from this meal is that it’s not the ingredients themselves that can make the meal, but rather how you use them.

With every bite there was something new that I tasted in that dressing, on a warm spring night at Lucia’s, sitting on her balcony overlooking Mount Sopris.  The dressing itself had so much flavor, an “umami” quality describing a depth of flavor that is rarely present in food.  I asked her how she had prepared the dressing, and rather than tell me she simply got up, walked to her kitchen and showed me what she knew I was so curious about.  She retrieved a jar from her cabinet that contained a yellowish gel-like substance, similar looking to a marmalade but more opaque and thicker than the traditional.  She explained that what I was tasting was lemon confit, or lemons preserved in salt and their own juices and that it wasn’t a flavor that could be achieved easily.  Much like preserving or pickling, it is a process that occurs over several weeks or months even in order to achieve the ideal taste and consistency.  Still tasting the flavors of that confit in my mouth long after the culmination of the meal, I practically got down on my knees and begged her for the recipe.  She hesitated, as a magician would hesitate to tell his secrets to a young apprentice if at all, insisting that this was a recipe I couldn’t take lightly as it must be prepared with proper tools, ingredients and with great care.  We spent the next hour documenting and discussing the recipe, her recounting the story of how she came about the recipe long ago with intense physical expression and exclamation in her voice that exuded a passion rarely seen, me listening intently and asking many questions along the way.  At the end of the dinner I left her house carrying the recipe on a piece of lined paper as if it were sacred, handling it with care and placing it folded neatly into my Joy of Cooking hardcover that I protected diligently throughout my entire journey from Aspen to Portland.

And just like that, I find myself in Portland, Oregon, living in a newly rented house scattered with luggage, boxes and recently purchased thrift store essentials.  A few days ago, as we eagerly unloaded what possessions we were able to carry with us along the journey from Tim’s exhausted sherpa of a vehicle into our new place, there were a few items that I just couldn’t wait to bring back into the light of day.   One of these was my Joy of Cooking, and not because of the necessity  of those thousands of recipes in it.  Rather, it was the lemon confit recipe that I had been dreaming about since the night I left Lucia’s house a week or so before leaving Colorado.  I had explained to her that night that I, very unfortunately, wouldn’t be able to start it until after arriving in Portland because of the time constraints.  And now that I had arrived, it was time.  Within a few days I had collected all of the necessities of the recipe, including an air-tight clear glass container that I found in the back of a dusty shelf of a vintage furniture store just a few blocks down the way, and after purchasing I practically sprinted home to get the party started.

Yesterday, I gathered the ingredients in my new somewhat cute, somewhat disheveled kitchen and went for it with much enthusiasm.  Although it will be time before I can sit down and enjoy my own homemade salty sour deliciousness, I wanted to share the recipe with whoever my still be reading this sorely neglected blog, in the language of the beloved Lucia, so that you too may enjoy such a delicacy in only a few week’s time.

Lucia’s Lemon Confit


10-20 good quality lemons

Salt (must be course, good quality, I used Kosher but Lucia prefers sea salt)

Olive oil

A wide-mouthed, clear, glass, air tight container

Take 5 or 6 (depending on the size of the lemon, however many you think will fit into the jar) remove ends and cut in quarters lengthwise, but leave one end still connected.  Take each lemon and place in the jar one by one, pouring a generous tablespoon of salt into each quartered lemon, and pack them in tightly.  Juice the rest of the lemons and pour the juice into the jar to fill about 3/4 to the top.  Top it with a generous tablespoon of olive oil and seal it tightly.  I first sealed it with saran wrap and then closed  the lid as tightly as possible.  Place it in a dark place, such as the back of a cabinet, for a month at least, tipping it ninety degrees each week.

Honestly, this recipe reminded me of the joys of doing a fourth grade science experiment!  Not only was it pretty easy and basic, but it was also messy and fun and contains in it the excitement of knowing that you are responsible for its creation and nurturing until it is ready for using!  And just as I find myself in a time of growth and transformation in this new place filled with all kinds of exciting and awesome things to do and see, so too is my beloved lemon confit.  So bear with us (the confit and myself) as we do a little bit of adjusting and at the very least by the end of the month I will have a delicious new creation to add to my cooking adventures.

I’ll keep you posted.


Week 2

This blog will be resuming shortly, I promise.

So, after a month or so of driving around the country, visiting friends and family, camping and working on a chestnut farm, we have finally arrived in the promised land: Portland, Oregon! To write about my travels would take a novel, and while I do enjoy the occasional soul spilling essay, this blog is specifically about my recipes, experiences in the kitchen and any other food-related happenings that I want to share with the world wide web. So, with that in mind, please put me back in your bookmarks and expect to see my blog come to life once again very soon (and especially now that I will be getting Internet at my new house tomorrow morning!!). But for now, I will leave you with two newfound loves of mine: Juanita’s tortilla chips (I never knew a simple corn tortilla chip could stand out so heavily from the rest) and secret aardvark habanero hot sauce.