Passover, Hardboiled Eggs and…Pickling?

Jar of Pickled EggsThis Friday evening, Passover begins. While I have some fond memories of childhood Passovers, it’s hard to forget the torture. Seriously. Ask an introverted child to sit at a table with lots of relatives she barely knows, force that child to listen to an endless at-home religious service (the Seder), and prevent the child from eating anything other than bitter herbs and unleavened cardboard for what feels like hours. And to make matters worse, tell the child she can’t eat pizza or bagels for a week! Okay, maybe not the most traumatic experience, but…

Symbolism and Leavened Food

About ten years ago, I put together my own Haggadah (the text for the Seder), and I fell in love with the metaphors the holiday embraces. My favorite: hametz, the leavened food that we clean from our house before the Seder, represents all that is puffed and bloated in our lives, things like self-doubt and resentment, that prevent us from achieving internal freedom. But I didn’t sit down to write about glutenous food I rarely eat these days. I’m here to talk about the draft. Oops, wrong story—I’m here to talk about the glorious egg.

Hardboiled Eggs and the SederSeder Plate

During a Passover Seder, a plate is set on the table to hold the symbolic foods: a roasted shank bone, a roasted egg, maror (bitter herb), karpas (green vegetable), and matzah. Most Haggadah say the roasted egg represents the Festival Offering that Israelites brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, yet other than placing it on the Seder plate, we don’t do anything with the roasted egg. We do eat hardboiled eggs, but not during the Seder, and though we say prayers before eating other symbolic foods, we don’t say a specific prayer for eggs. Nonetheless, dinner at all Seders I’ve attended began with dipping a hardboiled egg in salt water, and several rabbis consider eggs the richest symbol of the evening.

I’ve heard the Exodus from Egypt referred to as the passing through a narrow place, not unlike the egg, which has passed through the chicken. Yet the journey is not complete until the chick breaks through the shell. Emancipation represents only a beginning of the journey, a time when the hard work of breaking though the shell has yet to happen. Some say the dipping of the eggs in salt water represents the sorrow we experienced as slaves, but I think it represents the sorrow that comes before a repressed people can break through the barriers that still exist after emancipation.

Pickled Eggs

Pickled EggsPickled hardboiled eggs are not a traditional part of the Seder. This year they will be part of mine. At first I didn’t think of the symbolism of it; I just thought that if Passover were celebrated on my fantasy world of Awan, the Telem would probably pickle their eggs. The Israelites may not have had time to wait for their bread to leaven, and they wouldn’t have had time to pickle their eggs, but if I were wondering the dessert for forty years, I’d want pickled eggs. And now that I think of the symbolism of how vinegar changes the egg without the egg losing all it’s glory, it seems a good symbol to add to my Seder.

And now on to the Pickled Egg recipe…

Pickling Spice Blend

1½ tsp    whole Allspice
4                Bay Leaves, crumbled
1½ tsp    whole Cardamon seeds
1½ tsp    whole Cloves
1 Tb           whole Coriander seeds
1½ tsp     whole Dill seeds
1½ tsp     whole Fenugreek
1 Tb           whole Mustard Seeds
1 tsp         ground Nutmeg
1-3            dried hot peppers, crumbled

Pickled Hardboiled Eggs

10-15 *    hardboiled eggs
1 cup        water
1½ cup   white vinegar
1                large onion, sliced
12              garlic cloves, peeled
8 slices    fresh Ginger
1 batch    pickling spice
1                pickling jar *

* We prefer to pickle 15 eggs in a 1½ liter jar with a clamp down lid. If you use a 1 liter or 1 quart jar, use only 10 eggs.

Sterilize jar

Sterilize jar by submerging in boiling water for ten minutes. For more information on this visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation site.

Green-Free Hardboiled Eggs

  1. Place eggs into a sauce pan large enough to allow the eggs to lie in one layer, and fill the pan with cold tap water so the eggs are submerged by a couple of inches of water.
  2. Partially cover the pot and bring to a full rolling boil.
  3. Completely cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer for thirty seconds.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat, keep it covered, and let the eggs stand in hot water for twelve minutes. (Since pickling continues to “cook” protein, this is less time than if you are going to just make hardboiled eggs. If you don’t plan to pickle the eggs, then allow them to sit in hot water for up to fifteen minutes.)
  5. Bring the pot to the sink and run cold tap water into the pot for five minutes.
  6. Drain out the water. Close and shake the pot vigorously to crack the shells.
  7. Refill the pot with warmish water so that water can seep into the cracks. (This makes peeling easier). Peel the eggs.

Pickling Eggs

  1. Add the water, vinegar, onions, garlic, ginger, and pickling spice mix to a small pot and bring to a full rolling boil.
  2. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  3. Place the hardboiled eggs, onions, garlic, ginger, and spice mix into the jar in layers so that they are evenly distributed throughout the jar. To ensure that the eggs will be fully submerged in pickling liquid, top the jar with a layer of onions, garlic, ginger, and spices.
  4. Pour pickling liquid into the jar to the very top.
  5. Close and seal the jar. Label the jar with the date and place it in the refrigerator. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least five days.
Posted in Blog Roll, Entrees, Gluten-free, Holiday, Jewish Holidays, Jewish Traditions | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Living in Portland: Favorite John Gorham Restaurants

Radicchio SaladJust when I thought spring had come, and I was celebrating the blooming of flowers and the lengthening of days, Portland decided to revisit winter. It’s gotten cold and wet, and a tad depressing. But despite that, I have something to cheer about—my son is coming home from school for a week. My husband and I plan to fill his vacation with very Portland activities, such as Argentine Tango (hmm, I’m going to have to write a blog about that one) and eating at our favorite neighborhood haunts.

My Living in Portland section features a few of those destinations, but I’ve yet to add a blog about the John Gorham restaurants we frequent, until now. John Gorham owns several restaurants in Portland including Toro Bravo, which serves Spanish-inspired tapas; Tasty n Sons, a ‘new American diner’ that prepares Pacific NW versions of international breakfast dishes; and Mediterranean Exploration Club (MEC), which embraces Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. There is also Tasty n Alder, Plaza Del Toro, his gastronomic society, and the soon to open Pollo Bravo in Pine Street Market. While his restaurants have different themes, they all serve family style and encourage sharing, my family’s favorite way to eat.

Toro Bravo

Toro Bravo, graced NE Portland in 2007 and quickly became a family favorite. But we were not the only ones to love the place. It became so popular, wait times for a table sometimes hit the two hour mark. If you didn’t mind the narrow community table in the entrance, though, you could order drinks and tapas off the menu long before you got a private table. If I could afford it, and eat that much, I’d order everything on the menu, but, alas I can’t. There are, however, a few must-order items: Radicchio Salad, French Kisses, Salt Cod Fritters, Fried Spanish Anchovies, and Oxtail Croquettes. And I don’t think I’ve ever gone to Toro Bravo without ordering the Olive Oil Cake.

Tasty n Sons

ShakshukaOf all the restaurants in Portland, we probably dine at Tasty n Sons more than any other, partly because it is in our neck of the woods, but mostly because they serve one of the best breakfasts in town. My family loves breakfast, especially when we can eat it after noon any day of the week. While there are many items on the menu, every time we go there for breakfast we must order the Radicchio Salad (which is completely different from the Toro Bravo version) and the Shakshuka, a dish of eggs stewed in vegetables that’s popular in Israel. At Tasty n Sons, they stew the eggs in tomatoes and peppers, and the result couldn’t be any more fabulous. But Tasty n Sons serves more than just breakfast, they also serve dinner and a late-night happy hour, which makes it a great place to dine after an evening Tango class.

Mediterranean Exploration CompanyTurkish Coffee

There’s so much to love about MEC from the atmosphere to the menu to the fact that it’s walking distance from Portland Center Stage. It’s a great place to go after a play for dinner or just dessert. My favorite dinner items include the Octopus, Lamb Ragu, and yet another version of Radicchio Salad. But my all-time favorite things to order there: Turkish coffee and chocolate covered pistachios. Talk about making your heart sing!

Yup, we’re John Gorham fans. So much so, my son just told me that when we pick him up at the airport, he expects us to take him directly to Tasty n Sons for breakfast.

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Mardi Gras meets Portlandia

Mardi GrasWhile my neighborhood market sells King Cake during Carnival season, the people of Portland don’t really celebrate Mardi Gras. So, what’s with the title of this post? The answer—I just came back from New Orleans and while I was there, everyone I met loved hearing that I was from Portland. Many said, “Is it really like Portlandia?” or “I really want to go there”, which is exactly what most of my friends here said when I told them I was going to New Orleans. So, is Portland like Portlandia? Sort of, just taken to a wonderful extreme.

It amuses me that I went to the Big Easy during Carnival. I’m an introvert who tends to stay away from crowds, which is why I left New York and moved to Portland. It never occurred to me to dive into the Mardi Gras mayhem, but when my husband told me he had a conference in New Orleans, there was nothing that would prevent me from joining him. I’m not sure why the conference was scheduled during Mardi Gras, but hey, I’m not going to complain. I had a hoot.

Cafe Du MondeBoth Portland and New Orleans have things in common: art galleries, live music, a strong food culture, good coffee, and the scent of marijuana. But New Orleans has more of everything packed into a small area, which makes it a great walking city, and you can get beignets and coffee at 1:00 AM any day of the week. While there I spent my days going from gallery to gallery, talking to artists, and my nights with my husband dining in fun restaurants or listening to live music. Oh yeah, did I mention the parades. During Carnival in NOLA, parades happen…often. Many people plan to watch them, but even if you don’t plan it, you’ll see them anyway. There’s no avoiding the flying beads and marching bands. Who would want to?

It surprised me how easy it was to leave the mayhem when I needed a break from it. MostApple Barrel tourists flock to the French Quarter, and while I did wander the streets there, especially Royal Street with all of its galleries, I enjoyed strolling along the river or visiting the other neighborhoods. I loved the restaurants, museums, and artist owned galleries in the Warehouse District and the music along Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. While Portland has many streets with restaurant after restaurant, we don’t have anything like Frenchmen Street, a stretch of bars with live music every night. And the quality of that music is over the top.

Frenchment Street

We passed through a number of other neighborhoods on the streetcar, neighborhoods that may not have recovered from Katrina as well as others. All of the neighborhoods that draw tourism have been revitalized, but what about places where lower income people live? I wonder how much gentrification resulted from the rebuilding of the city. But then, isn’t gentrification happening in most cities? It certainly is happening in Portland, a topic I discuss in a guest blog I did for Backwords, Williams Avenue—Culture Found and Culture Lost.

Still, there’s much to love about New Orleans, and despite how enamored I am with Portland, I look forward to returning to the Big Easy. Though, maybe next time I’ll go during Halloween.

Royal Street


Posted in Blog Roll, Living in Portland | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Favorite Portland Bars: Expatriate

ExpatriateI love whiskey, not for knocking back and getting drunk but for savoring. For me, sipping a good bourbon, rye, or scotch is like gazing at art or strolling through a garden or eating a damn good donut. It’s one of those activities that lets me relish life. Normally, I prefer my whiskey neat, but every now and then I desire a cocktail prepared by a talented bartender. And there’s no place with better bartenders than Expatriate.

Expat Atmosphere
While Portland draws some foreign tourists, it doesn’t have a significant expat community. In all the times I’ve sat sipping a drink at Expatriate, I’ve never run into diplomats, foreign aid workers, or itinerant students. According to my husband, who lived abroad, that doesn’t stop it from achieving the vibe of an expat bar, a place that transports those far from home to a comfortable spot where they can mingle with other displaced souls. The patrons of Expatriate may not live a life of self-imposed exile, but the atmosphere feeds the cosmopolitan yearnings of those wishing to leave the mundane behind.

BellwetherThe day’s stress melts away when I sink into my favorite seat at the bar. Perhaps it’s the Asian decor, subtle lighting or beautiful wooden furniture. Though, the eclectic music playing on the Technics turntables may have something to do with it. As soon as I’m settled, I get a warm greeting from the bartenders, all of whom treat me like a regular, which is sweet considering that my budget doesn’t allow me to frequent the place as often as I’d like. Lack of frequency aside, I’m welcome when I come, and I enjoy the conversations I have with the staff on topics ranging from the music of Rodriguez to the art of Picasso to the poetry scene in Portland.

Drinks and Food to Savor
Usually I order a Diplomatic Pouch, which means I chat with the bartender about what I am in the mood for and set him free to create. The bartenders always remember my preference for a complex, yet balanced drink that celebrates the glory of whiskey. They’ve never given me the same drink twice, and they always satisfy my craving for the sublime. But all of Expatriate’s drinks evoke the classic cocktails you’d findSundowner at an expat bar anywhere in the world, albeit with a Portland spin. They serve killer whiskey drinks, like the Bellwether and the Ornament and Crime, and unexpected drinks like the Sundowner, a vermouth, mezcal, and grapefruit liqueur concoction with a complexity of flavors that linger long after the drink is finished. They do have cocktails made with vodka, rum, and gin; I just haven’t tried them. Sorry folks, I’m a whiskey girl.

All bars in Oregon are legally required to have food, but not all bars are owned by a James Beard Award winner. Expatriate’s drinking snacks are as artful as its cocktails, including my personal favorites, the Hot and Sour Indian Spiced Fries and the Crispy Brussels Sprouts. Lots of places serve Brussels sprouts but nothing like these babies. Hmm, maybe I need to order some today.



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Living in Portland: Chinese Garden

Painted Boat in Misty Rain

Painted Boat in Misty Rain at Lan Su Chinese Garden

As unbelievable as this sounds, there’s more to Portland than donuts. I know it’s hard to get enough of those fried gems, but alas, for those of us trying to reduce our gluten, we need to find happiness elsewhere. Lucky for us, Portland has many places where we can embrace the small pleasures of life. Among these places, the Lan Su Chinese Garden tops my charts.

A Sensual ExperienceCobblestone Path
The name Lan Su could be translated to mean “Garden of Awakening Orchids.” I don’t know about the orchids, but my senses awaken when I visit. The sights, the scents, and the sounds of the garden, all so different from what I experience on a daily basis, transform me into a soul capable of appreciating the moment. A friend has told me that she enjoys walking barefoot along the cobblestone paths because the stones hit all the major acupuncture points in the feet. Hmm, I’ve no idea if that’s intentional, though it does sound kinda Chinese, albeit a little weird. But hey, it’s Portland; we like it weird! If Neil Simon can go Barefoot in the Park, so can we.

Tea and Cosmic ReflectionsLotus
If you thought I’d write about the hundreds of native Chinese plant species in the garden or the colorful koi swimming in the pond, then you’ve never read my blog. Don’t get me wrong, the plants, which change appearance seasonally, daily, and even hourly, are beautiful, and I find watching koi mesmerizing, but for me, a trip to the garden isn’t complete without a visit to the Tea House inside the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. (Okay, let’s pause a moment to reflect on the awesomeness of that name! Just the idea that sipping tea allows you to contemplate the cosmos…sigh.)

Reflection in pond

Each table in the Tea House differs in height and shape, and some are surrounded by chairs while others are surrounded by benches. Yet all the furniture and decorations work together to create one cohesive space in concert with the feng shui of the garden, which you can view through the large windows.

They offer a choice of white, green, oolong, puer, black, and herbal teas provided by Tao of Tea, a Portland based company. I tend to order green tea while my husband favors the Tea snackoolong and my son the puer, a fermented dark tea from Yunnan province. They serve many of their teas loose in gaiwan, lidded bowls. Those of us unschooled in drinking tea from gaiwan need not worry; the servers are happy to instruct each tea drinker on proper gaiwan technique. They’re also happy to refill your cup with hot water as often as you like. Yea! Along with tea, you can order some light snacks including rice noodles, tea eggs, moon cakes, and my favorite, turnip cakes. Both the noodles and the Lo Bo Gao (turnip cakes) can be served gluten free, insuring for me that a trip to the garden remains a guilt-free pleasure.

Moon Locking Pavilion and Tower of Cosmic Reflections

Moon Locking Pavilion and Tower of Cosmic Reflections

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Living in Portland: Donuts

Blue Star Donuts in PortlandBefore I start this post, I should caution the reader that it reflects the opinion of this writer and not the opinion of every Portlandian. So if you live in Portland and have strong opinions about donuts, please leave a comment. I want to know all about the donuts you crave! Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

When my family and I moved to Portland from NYC in 1999, people from back east knew it rained in Portland, but that was all they knew. People didn’t talk about its restaurants or food carts because it had yet to become the food town it is today, and no one considered it a destination for donuts. That changed.

Voodoo Donut display at PDX airport

In 2002, Voodoo Donuts hit the scene, and before we knew it, tourists came flocking to Old Town Portland to stand in long lines. To be honest, I’m not a Voodoo fan. I don’t love the texture of their donuts, and they’re too sweet for my palate. But there are many people who disagree with me. I suppose folks are drawn to their toppings: Oreos, Fruit Loops, Captain Crunch, and the ever popular Bacon Maple Glaze. Whatever the reason, Voodoo Donuts now has six locations, including one in Taiwan. Back in Portland, you can’t go to Third Avenue or the PDX Airport without seeing giddy tourists carrying the iconic pink box. The airport even sells Voodoo Donut T-shirts and Rogue Brewery’s Voodoo Donut beers so tourists can get their fix before leaving the City of Roses.

Ten years after Voodoo opened its doors, Micah Camden and Katie Poppe, introduced the brioche donut to Portland, and there was much rejoicing. You won’t see Blue Star Donut memorabilia at the airport, but on National Donut Day, June 5, 2015, Blue Star Donuts was crowned the victor in the Donut Deathmatch. And this Portland resident couldn’t agree more. Blue Star donuts are well worth the occasional detour from my usual gluten-reduced diet.

Blueberry Bourbon with Basil donutTheir donuts are light, flavorful, and not too sweet. To make them even more tempting, they have a slew of creative, exciting varieties. My favorites include the Orange Olive Oil Cake and the Blueberry Bourbon and Basil donut. There are few things that make me happier than bourbon. But if you’re willing to forgo whiskey for filling packed with flavor, then you can try one of my husband’s favorites, the Marionberry Pepper Jam with Peanut Butter Powder donut. Talk about PB&J taken to the next level!

Marionberry Pepper Jam with Peanut Butter Powder donutBlue Star opened their first shop on Washington Street in downtown Portland, and now has four Portland locations and one in Tokyo, Japan. On October 21, 2015 they will open a store in L.A, and to celebrate it’s grand opening, they’ll give out free donuts next Monday. That’s right, free donuts! Of course that would mean leaving Portland to get them, so never mind. I’m happy where I am.

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The Telem Tribe

TelemIt’s been a while since I last wrote about an Awan tribe; too long, especially since I promised a few months ago that I would write about the Telem tribe. In the spring, I published a recipe for braised brisket and I said that it was a Telem recipe even though many of the ingredients, cocoa, coffee, and chilies, do not grow in Telem. But since the Telem are the only large scale ranchers on Awan, most tribes don’t eat beef like the Telem do. The Telem love beef, so much so that they’re baffled why anyone would eat lamb or fish or most anything else for that matter.

Many things about the other tribes baffle the Telem. They can’t understand why the Uriah tribesmen would study philosophy or religion. Sure, religion has its place, but dissecting the meaning of a single word in an ancient text seems a little obsessive to the practical minded Telem. Not that the Dayag passion for water or the Napak fixation on gems and jewelry make any more sense. And while the Telem respect the Sakhar prowess in trade, they can’t understand the Sakhar fascination with exotic ports. Why go anywhere when you can find all you need at home? Which is why most Telem do not bother to visit the resorts of Ittamar, nor do they understand the Tamar propensity for leisure. No, none of the other tribes make any sense to the Telem, but that doesn’t stop them from fostering good relations with the other tribes. After all, what’s the point in large scale agriculture if you don’t have people to buy your products?

The Telem tribesmen love their homeland and their way of life. And just because they think life should be simple, doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy themselves. They tend to wake up early and spend their days working the land, relishing every moment. Only after a long, hard day of work do they relax by settling down to a meal consisting of beef, beer (or bourbon), a loaf of bread, and something pickled. Oh, and if you add a runny egg to the meal, preferably served on top of that beef, all the better. The Telem have strong feelings about pickles, by the way, and will argue with anyone who thinks that pickling should be restricted to cucumbers. But that’s a blog for another time.

Telem Facts

Tribal Land: Telemaka
Location: central Awan
Capital/Religious Center: Odera
Natural Features: Tokada River, Makawi River, and Maka Plain
Meloshan: Mineral Orange and Moss Green
Gemstone: Citrine

Posted in Blog Roll, The World of Awan, Tribes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments