Porky Piña Cole-Slaw-Da Slidas’

It’s not easy moving to a new city.  I knew this before moving to Portland, but I didn’t really think about it all too much before our arrival.  That is, until we pulled into the driveway with a car full o’ crap, a puppy and merely the clothes on our backs.  Now luckily we had a place to call home for a couple of weeks in a small trailer on a chestnut farm just outside of Portland, which we had arranged through WWOOF.  

But other than that, there was no plan laid out ahead.  No house to call our own, no jobs lined up, no family to greet us with love and hugs.  As exciting as it may have been, to say that the uncertainty wasn’t overwhelming would be a lie.

It’s certainly a comfort to know of a few people in the big bad city, to know that if you absolutely need somebody to call, there are people out there.  Aquaintences, facebook friends maybe who you rarely, if ever, talk to.  But it’s absolutely a great feeling when someone reaches out a hand to make you feel especially welcomed.  I have Alice to thank for that (yes, the same Alice who I took a cheese making class with a while ago).

Alice is an old friend who I met back in my days at Vassar, once upon a time when I played soccer competitively.  Through a series of events I found myself, for the first time in my life, not only living in a new city but one that was entirely across the country from everything and everyone that I ever knew.  I wouldn’t call Alice my first friend or even my closest friend during my freshmen year, but she was always the nicest and friendliest of teammates despite the seemingly inherent senior-freshmen discrepancy.  Before I knew it, I was a sophomore and she a graduate moving on to continue her chem studies at UC Berkeley.  There, she played soccer on the same adult league team as my sister (who lives in San Francisco) as well as myself for the season that I spent in San Francisco.  And then, I left for Aspen.

Somehow the stars aligned once again, and fast forward two years later we have found ourselves both living in Portland.  It was about a week after moving into our new place that she invited us to her upcoming get together. In this Iron Chef-style competition, attendees bring dishes or drinks highlighting one key not-so-secret ingredient.  The first one I was able to attend was an avocado theme, and with little preparation time I whipped up a porcini mushroom and avocado salad with a lemon parsley vinaigrette, Lucia’s recipe.  It was good, but most other dishes were better. 

A few months later, Iron Chef: Cilantro was underway.  I stepped up my game with Tequila Lime Cilantricles, boozy popsicles tasting somewhat of a jalapeno cilantro-spiced margarita similar to the ones described in an earlier post.  I was in the running, but was eventually beat out by my more savory-minded counterparts.

And this past weekend, I competed in my third event, Iron Chef: Coconut.  For this one, I decided to take a bit of a different approach.  Instead of featuring the themed ingredient, I decided to use it as more of a backdrop, incorporating coconut into my dish in many different, yet subtle, ways.  I wanted to use an ingredient that paired well with coconut, so naturally I went in the direction of pineapple.  But I didn’t want to make a sweet dish, and I also wanted to use meat as a challenge to myself more than anything.  I’m fairly sure I’ve heard of others using pineapple juice in a marinade for pork, so that’s when the idea of a pulled pork slider came into play.  Pulled pork and coleslaw, naturally.   After a few days, I settled on my plan.  Pineapple pulled pork slider with coconut cole slaw.  Frankly, my idea was pretty awesome if I do say so myself!

After an hour of pacing back and forth through the aisles of New Seasons checking off my grocery list and doubting that I had everything I needed, I went home to begin prep.  Six hours of slow cooking the meat, reducing a sauce, and chopping veggies went by and before I knew it I was out the door and on my way to Alice’s house with about ten different tupper-wared components in tow.

These Iron Chef parties are, I’ve learned, not to be taken lightly.  There is extensive planning, countless shit-talking emails, graphic designing, outfit wearing, and libation-consuming to be had before the entries even get plated, and it’s exhausting!  But moreso awesome, because as soon as the party starts chaos ensues in the kitchen, with everyone putting last minute touches on their dishes, starting with drinks and appetizers and continuing to main dishes and then desserts.

At the end of the event, after everyone’s bellies are stuffed and we are no longer capable of taking another bite, we all roll ourselves into the living room and the votes are tallied, with each person getting a total of 6 points awarded to their top three votes (three for first, two for second, one for third).   The winner is awarded the coveted Golden Frying Pan for the duration of their reign, bragging rights and the choice of the next theme ingredient.  Unfortunately for me, my “Porky Piña Cole-slaw-da Slidas'” were beat out in the final ballot by a point, putting me at a tie for second with Alice’s coco-licious cheesecake.  The bar was set high for this battle, and I’m comforted by the moment of silence that overswept the room as they bit into my sliders.  A moment of tasty bliss, I’d like to believe.

It is a victory I can and will still look forward to.  Someday, perhaps.

Alas, here is the somewhat informal recipe of my sliders, dedicated to my friend Alice (and her fiance Mike as well as many of their lovely friends).  Thanks for making me feel so welcomed in this little big town called Portlandia.

Porky Piña Cole-Slaw-da Slidas

Apologies but no measurements here- I don’t generally use measurements but more so just go by sight and taste.


Pulled Pork:

  • Humanely-raised pork shoulder (I asked for about two lbs. from the butcher)
  • Pineapple juice
  • Whole grain dijon mustard
  • soy sauce
  • Coconut juice (or water, with pulp if possible)
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar, splash
  • Salt/Pepper

Cole Slaw:

  • Napa cabbage
  • Red cabbage
  • Carrot, 1 or 2 grated
  • Pineapple chunks, minced
  • Dried coconut flakes, toasted lightly
  • Vegannaise (can also use regular mayo or other mayo substitute)
  • Coconut Milk
  • Whole-grain dijon mustard
  • Apple cider vinegar, a splash
  • Small jalapeno pepper (optional), finely chopped
  • Chives, minced for garnish
  • One loaf of challah bread, sliced evenly


  • Pineapple Juice
  • Coconut juice (or water)
  • Maple syrup

Begin by placing the pork in a slow cooker and turn the timer onto 6 (or more, if you have the time) hours.  In a small bowl, combine 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part dijon,  1 part soy sauce, 2 parts coconut juice, 1 part SBR’s BBQ sauce, and a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add to the slow cooker with the pork and leave it be.

You can wait a few hours before preparing the rest of the components.

In a small saucepan, combine 2 parts pineapple juice, one part coconut juice and 1/2 part maple syrup.  Stir on low to medium heat for at least fifteen minutes, until the water has evaporated and the syrup will coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Begin your coleslaw by finely chopping your cabbages either by hand with a knife or with a mandolin, and collect into a large bowl.  Add grated carrots, minced pineapple chunks (if the chopping of the pineapple creates residual juice, add that to the mix as well), chopped jalapeno and a handful of toasted coconut flakes.  In a small bowl, combine equal parts Vegannaise and coconut milk, a small spoon of dijon and a splash of AC vinegar.  Combine well and then fold into the cabbage and carrot mix.  Season with salt and pepper as needed, then keep in the fridge until service.

At this point you can toast the challah slices at about 250 degrees on each side until golden brown, should take no more than 15 minutes in the oven.

One the meat is fully cooked and tender enough to break apart with a fork, turn off the heat and remove any super fatty pieces.  To assemble sliders,  put a heaping spoonful of pulled pork on a slice of toasted challah, drizzle lightly with pineapple glaze, top with an equal portion of coleslaw to pork and top with a light sprinkle of toasted coconut and minced chives.  Top the slider with another slice of challah,  and stick a large toothpick through to keep it in place.

For the next battle, Iron Chef: Persimmon…Allez Cuisine!


Portland Culinary Workshop: Cheese-Making 101

You know a blog post is overdue when the cheese starts to mold.

Although it’s not because it wasn’t absolutely delicious, because it was.  It’s just that I had so much of it!  How much?

This much, to be exact:

Yeah, that’s a lot.  And the best part is that it was homemade.  Well actually, not technically made at home but rather made by my friend Alice and I at the Portland Culinary Workshop.  

A couple of weeks ago, Alice and I signed up to take Cheese Making 101, a three hour introductory course on the basics of making cheese.  As you may deduce from my blog, I love to eat cheese in any and all forms, and I’m pretty dang good at that.  My skills are quite novice, however, when it comes to cheese making.  I do believe that the last time I attempted to make cheese in any form was in first grade when a parent showed our class how to make cheesecake.  So as a wannabe chef, it goes without saying that a lesson in the art of making cheese was well overdue.

Upon arrival I was immediately awed by the beautiful open-air layout of the workshop, as well as the incredible collection of kitchen tools and ingredients that I hope to one day have in my home collection (ah, to be young and broke…sigh).  Is it too cliche to say that I felt like a kid in a candy store?  Probably, but it’s true.After a short introduction, Alice and I along with our dozen or so fellow classmates took to our respective stations and immediately commenced the lesson. Milk was heated to specific temperature ranges, acid in various forms was added, and stirring continued (or ceased) until curds and whey had separated.

The curds were then strained over cheese cloth (or in this case, butter muslin) and then refrigerated until firm. The process was repeated using various techniques and ingredients to make three separate batches: lemon cheese (with lemon zest and fresh herbs), farmer’s cheese and paneer cheese.  We spent the last hour playing with pre-made mozzarella curds like play-doh, melting it in hot water, shaping it into small balls, and rolling out basil and sun-dried tomato roulades (my hands were too oily and food-soaked to take pictures for this part, although this picture is a grilled cheese I later made using the roulades). 

It need not take biography of our instructor Susana to tell that she knows what she’s doing in the kitchen.  Having instructed at Le Cordon Bleu in Portland among a slue of other noteworthy professional experiences, her confidence and comfortability with the lesson plan and material is reflective in her ability to convey the enjoyment derived from working with food.  She was approachable, she was helpful and she was just downright cool.  

I left with not only substantial amounts of delicious cheese to take home, but also with the lingering feeling of  excitement for the tangibility of cheese-making as another skill in my culinary repertoire.  

Now, back to the moldy cheese.

Having embodied Little Miss Muffett (on her tuffet) for these past two weeks, I am sad to see the last morsels of the fruits of my labor go to spoil.  But with honesty, it’s fair to say that the end product alone is worth the cost of the class (I’ve used the cheese in salads, omelettes, grilled cheeses, tacos, you name it and there was still a tiny bit left!).  The value and experience of taking a class with Portland Culinary Workshop is worth far more than what you pay, and if you are reading this from the Portland area I encourage you to sign up for a class (click here for a calendar and schedule of classes).  I hate to see good food go to waste, but I suppose it’s also just a sign that I should be signing up for my next PCW class soon.  Anyone care to join?

Plate & Pitchfork: Champoeg Farm est. 1856

This gallery contains 20 photos.

Yesterday began my first experience as a staff member of Plate & Pitchfork, a Portland-based company that brings the dining experience to farms throughout the greater Portland area in the summer season.  Each weekend Plate & Pitchfork hosts these events, which include a farm tour, guest speakers, and an ingredient-driven coursed dinner with wine and beer … Continue reading

CRMPI: A Permaculture Experience

Honey, I’m home!

My sincere apologies for being gone for so long, it’s just that my seasonal job finally ended last week and since then I’ve been doing, well…not much.  You would think that since I’m not too busy these days I have a ton of time cook up a storm in the kitchen, right?  That’s the logical way of thinking, and what I also thought would happen.  It’s strange, though…I have this weird issue where the more I have to do, the more motivated I am to actually get stuff done.  Likewise, the less I have to do, the less likely I am to be productive with my time.  Hence the neglect of my blog.  It will not happen again, promise.

See, when you no longer have a steady income and simultaneously have to save your money for a road trip/big move in a month, there’s only so many free or cheap activities you can do during the off-season to pass the time.  Yes, the mountains are still technically open but if you saw how little snow there is (or should I say slush) you wouldn’t waste your time either.  Thus, my days recently have been filled with long walks with the pups, cooking a little bit here and there but nothing so exciting that it deserves a blog post, reading a fair amount, and accompanying Tim on his rides up the mountain in the snowcat.  I’ve been sleeping in, which is a nice change of pace from the previous five months (how do all you year-round 9-5ers do it?).  Mostly though, it’s a practice in perfecting the art of relaxing.

Yesterday, however, I got the opportunity to do something a little out of the ordinary: accompany Nozomi to her weekly volunteering gig at CRMPI (Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute) to help out and finally learn what this place she speaks so highly of is all about.

CRMPI is a permaculture institute, which is basically fancy way of saying an organic farm that  attempts to maintain a sustainable ecosystem similar to what one might find in nature.  Jerome, the guy who runs the show, has developed  a waste-free, completely organic system in which the animals (including humans) are eating a diet consisting mainly of the greens and fruits that grow in his garden, the waste of which is turned into fertilizer bringing nutrients for the plants to grow.

As simple as this cycle may sound, it takes a strong effort on the part of Jerome, a man of few words despite his vast knowledge in the permaculture field, as well as the volunteers whose time and effort is vital to the success of the institute.

I want to share my photos of this truly inspirational place with you all, just so you may get an idea of what flourishing sustainable agricultural land use looks like.

Nozo and I (above and below) with newborn goats, the newest little additions to the CRMPI family. Just under a few weeks old, these little buggers were probably the cutest animals I have ever seen.

Sarah feeding the baby goats.

Chicken coop.

CRMPI's primary greenhouse and plant nursery. So many different varieties of plants, mostly all edible.

Baby basil. We spent a good amount of the day transplanting these little guys into larger pots so they could have more room to grow.

Beautiful rainbow chard!



Kale of many varieties!

Baby eggplant!


Solar powered dehydrator. Drying carrot slices and various herbs and spices. Such a rad idea

Filming Jerome for the CRMPI website's permaculture tutorials

Nozo's got skillz

There's something about the look and feel of this kitchen I really enjoyed.

For lunch, Stephanie made a delicious salad to go along with some quinoa pasta. Mmm mmm good.

From left: volunteers Sarah, Rosie and Nozomi. We tried to sit outside but the wind made it near impossible. Beautiful day, beautiful view, beautiful ladies.

At the end of the day he sent us home with tons of greens, peppers and a few eggs straight from the chicken coop.  Both last night and tonight I made simple salads using CRMPI’s greens, and this morning I cooked a couple of the farm eggs.  I do believe that my next recipe will include some ingredients from the Institute.  Stay tuned!

An Aspen Farm-to-Table Experience

A few days back, while browsing around The Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus, I saw a flier for a farm-to-table dinner at The Cheese Shop in Aspen.  Considering that “farm to table” is the sustainable food movement I strive to follow as much as possible, it was imperative for me to jump aboard this opportunity.

I enlisted the company of my good friends Vanessa, JB and Clay and tonight we all sat down to a meal so special and inspiring that I felt compelled to share it with you all.

JB and Vanessa (I'm sorry Clay but you didn't make the cut)

This event was put on by Sarah and Andrew Helsley,who took over The Cheese Shop back in December of 2011 and have pledged to maintain the same integrity that the store was originally built upon by carefully selecting the finest local handmade and artisan food products available.  Another significant contributer to the event was Banks Baker, the manager of The Other Side Ranch in Old Snowmass who provided the chicken for the entree course of the meal.  As he described, his ranch is committed entirely to sustainable farming with a predominantly grass-fed diet for all animals, including cows and chickens, and soon to be incorporating Berkshire pigs into the mix as well.  All of his butchering takes place on the premises and he believes very strongly that the treatment of the animals, including diet and exercise, has an incredible affect on the quality and taste of the meat product.  He hopes to move into various other dairy production, such as milk, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in his future endeavors.

The menu was created using entirely local ingredients, including the freshest seasonal produce as well as cheeses from Avalanche Creamery, a company based in Basalt that gets their goat’s milk from Paonia, just outside of the Roaring Fork Valley.

Even the Pinot was local.

deviled duck eggs

The appetizer course was freshly baked bread and raw butter as well as deviled duck eggs, which as I mentioned in previous posts has a far richer flavor and larger yolk than chicken eggs.

arugula and mizuna salad with carrots, turnips, beets

The next course consisted of two salads, an arugula and a spinach.  The arugula and mizuna salad was lightly tossed in olive oil and lemon juice with raw carrots, turnips and beets thinly shaved on top.  I believe they used a mandolin to slice the veggies, a necessary kitchen tool that I must purchase very soon.  The other salad (not pictured) consisted of wilted spinach with Avalanche Creamery Midnight Blue Cheese, turnips and roasted radishes.

tagliatelle with broccoli rabe, cherry tomatoes, chili, garlic lemon and parmesan

The pasta course consisted of freshly made pasta, a simple dough mixture of duck egg, flour, olive oil, salt and pepper pressed to form thin fat noodles.

poached chicken with sorrel and pea shoots, red wine braised chicken, butter braised carrots and bok choy with saffron, olive oil mashed parsnips and sunchokes

Next, we moved onto the entree course (as if this wasn’tenough food already).

goat cheese mousse with walnut streusel and poached apricots

Lastly, a deliciously light and not overly sweet dessert to cap off the meal.

While the food was undoubtedly amazing, it was what I learned tonight that made it a truly special occasion.  I’m realizing more and more that my style of cooking isn’t so much about how you can transform many ingredients into a complex dish, but rather a few simple flavors prepared in a way that can allow the ingredients to shine on their own.  This is the food that I like to eat, and this is how I intend to cook my food.

A big ol’ thanks to The Cheese Shop of Aspen for putting on this delicious production, as well as Vanessa, JB and Clay for coming out to the community dinner with me.