Thursday, January 22, 2009

All roads lead to the kitchen...

“WRU?” (where are you)

The text popped up on my cell phone just as I de-boarded the plane at Medford airport in Southern Oregon, my dad and step-mom waiting for me inside with my winter coat and gloves. The text was from my friend, Jessie. We’d met at a bar in Turks and Caicos two years earlier and spent a week, with another friend, Tress, singing karaoke and soaking up the sun.

Ok, correction (Jessie is forcing me to write this): I sang karaoke – Tress and Jessie said it was the worst they’d ever heard and were afraid I’d get us all kicked off the island. Apparently my rendition of “Killing Me Softly” wasn’t quite Lauren Hill-y enough.

But I digress.

Jessie had been living in Colorado when we first met, then she worked in St. Thomas for a while before heading up to a farm in British Columbia to learn about organic farming. Ah yes, someone as wayward and with as much wanderlust as me. We’ve kept in touch by emailing each other every few months or so to get the stats on where each other might be.

“Just landed in S O, U?”, I replied. “NW, M2! Where?”

It’s funny how life is sometimes, giving you just what you need, when you need it. As luck would have it, Jessie is now living near Medford and only about 5 minutes from my parents’ house, of all places, working as an amateur cheesemaker, vegan baker and babycaretaker. It was a totally unexpected, but much appreciated surprise…

Through Jessie, I was invited for beer and pizza at the home of some newly made friends.
I drove out through the winding back roads of Ashland, twisting and turning through the frozen, silvery fields and cow pastures, past barns and horses, cows and sheep and down a bumpy, unpaved road. In a converted yellow barn, a welcoming group gathered around the stove. The house smelled grainy and yeasty and warm. Pots brewed away – one with the beginning of a Heffeweisen, another containing what would soon become Pale Ale.

I knew that I’d found the coolest people in town when “beer and pizza” night meant brewing our own beer and making the pizzas from scratch!

Grains were "sparged"

and "malted"

and "mashed"

and "hopped"

Everyone had a task. Along with the Weissen and the Pale Ale would also be a Double Bock and a Blonde.

We drank sparkling dandelion wine made last summer, hard cider and plumb wine made last fall and beer made just a few weeks ago.

Jessie brought a wheel of goat Camembert she had whipped up in her kitchen, which we ate with bread made from the grain used to make beer, homemade hummus and homemade pita bread. I made a chicken liver pate and a smoked salmon pate – which I, naively, served with some store bought bread – blasphemy!

Jeff and Michelle, our totally awesome hosts, had made pizza dough and there were bowls full of toppings.

And, eventually, there was beer.

Cooking with friends, making everything from scratch, being close to the source - I'd say it was healing, if it weren’t so gluttonous!

Smoked Salmon Pate

8 oz. Smoked Salmon (preferably “hot” smoked), skin removed and meat flaked
8 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 Teaspoon fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Place salmon, shallot and garlic in food processor and process until finely minced. Add remaining ingredients and process into a smooth paste. It's best refrigerated overnight so the flavors make merry together. I serve it with rye crisps and slices of dark Danish rye bread…

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