April 20, 2012


     There is a restaurant on NE 28th Ave in Portland called Tabla. I lived here for 5 1/2 years, and walked by the place innumerable times, before stepping in the door. It is a higher-end, small plate place--the sort that is usually out of our price range. You know, the kind of restaurant where the more you are paying, the less food you actually get.

     But, we were celebrating and so we decided to give it a try. It was definitely pricey, but it was also an extraordinary and memorable meal. The food was worth every penny and the service was among the best I've ever had. I don't think we will go back often, but I certainly hope we go back. I especially liked the creamy polenta that was the foundation of my meal. I had another delicious bit of polenta at Tasty and Sons a few months before, so now I was really sold on the idea.

     See, I used to hate polenta. A church in the small town where I grew up used to do these fundraiser dinners where they sold polenta, and I just did not like the stuff-- no matter how much my mom tried to make me eat it. It was just too mushy and bland. THIS stuff, on the other hand was deeply satisfying and savory, and a wonderful base for the rest of the dish.

     I am officially a polenta convert. Since Tabla, I've started making polenta at home. It is sold very inexpensively in many bulk food sections. Polenta is easy to make and goes with all kinds of meat and vegetable dishes. It's nice to have something a little different to swap for the usual rice or potatoes.
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth, additional as needed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons butter 
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring broth and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Whisk or stir in polenta, until completely incorporated.
  2. Turn down the heat to low. Add the butter and cook the polenta, stirring occasionally, for up to 30 minutes (cooking time will depend on the type of polenta you are using). When it's ready, the polenta will be soft and the broth should be fully absorbed. If you want a thinner consistency, add a little more broth.
  3. Add grated Parmesan, adjust salt and add pepper to taste. 
  4. Serve immediately.

April 1, 2012

Easy Garbanzo and Sausage Stew

     It may be warm and sunny where you are, but it is--surprise-- cold and rainy here in Portland. A hearty stew still sounded good a few nights ago.

     I had garbanzo beans and I wanted to use them. I searched, I googled, and most of the recipes I found called for lemon. Well, I didn't have a lemon and I didn't feel like going out into  the cold, rainy dusk to get some. So I kept on searching.

     What I ended up finding is the inspiration for this stew. It reminds me quite a bit of gumbo, with chickpeas instead of rice. It has the roux, it has the sausage. It is delicious. Velvety, hot and savory. If you are in the Pacific Northwest, you might give this a try soon. If you happen to be in a very strange heatwave (like a lot of the country), maybe save this recipe for next fall or winter. You will be glad you did.
Garbanzo and Sausage Stew

  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 links andouille sausage, chopped
  • 1 whole white onion, chopped
  • 1 orange, yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced, fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning. or to taste,
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup orzo, or other pasta
  • 2 cups baby spinach, torn
  1.  Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown. Remove sausage, draining any oil back into the pot. Set aside.
  2. Add remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Turn heat to medium. Add onions and bell pepper to oil and cook until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic and cook a couple of minutes more.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Sprinkle flour all over and stir until the mixture becomes paste-like and a light golden brown. Gradually add the tomatoes, stirring to combine. Add the chicken stock and stir. Turn heat up to medium, bringing the stew to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and smooth.
  4. Stir in the basil, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir in sausage. Cook over low heat for an hour or two, until the flavors have a chance to combine. Add garbanzo beans and stir. 
  5. About 10 minutes before you plan to eat, return stew to a simmer and stir in orzo. 5 minutes before eating, add torn spinach leaves. Adjust seasonings, stir well and enjoy!
Serves 4-6