"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." ~Unknown

Sunday, January 20, 2013

They Moved a Bridge, We Ate Hash

The bridge on moving day.
     We've had beautiful, cold weather this weekend.  On Saturday, engineers moved the Sellwood Bridge a few dozen feet north to make way for it's replacement.  Despite the cold, hundreds turned out by the waterfront to watch the bridge move, though it's progress -- reported to be six feet an hour -- was so infinitesimal it could not be seen. Today was equally sunny, and even colder.  North-facing roofs are still frosted.
     Originally, our cousins Drew and Anna were going to spend this long weekend with us, but were forced to cancel.  Dad and I had already planned out a meal for them however, so we decided to go ahead with it.  It, is a sausage hash recipe from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock's "Gift off Southern Cooking" Cookbook, a family favorite.

     The hash consists of onions, celery, and sausage in addition to the potatoes.  Now, in the latter stages of cooking, everything simply rests in a pan, bathing in the cream and chicken stock.

     The hash was excellent - simple ingredients prepared well. Warm, rich and wintry, the ketchup on top made it feel like it belongs in the winter of an era before we could get fruits and veggies from the southern hemisphere in winter.  If you have a potato and a few vegetables, hash is definitely the meal to make.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Elusive Cheese

     Friday, after my swim meet was finished and we had picked Mom up from work, the family went to Uno Mas, a new taqueria on NE Glisan.  Cyrus ordered one taco which he spoke glowingly of, and since my hunger had not yet been sated, I ordered one more taco, the one Cyrus recommended.
     The fried cheese taco was very good, but the moment I bit into the semi-soft, white cheese, I went back in time.  I had tasted that cheese before, in a small village in Costa Rica.  It was in a sort of breakfast quesadilla, which I suddenly remembered that I had loved.
     It was nearing closing time for the taqueria, and went to the counter to ask what kind of cheese they used.  Let's say that since the waiter wasn't there, I asked the chef what kind of cheese they used.  He didn't speak English, so I asked him in Spanish, "QuĂ© tipo de queso use?"  His answer, was a kind of cheese I had never heard of before, asadero.
     Asadero is semi-soft, in between cheddar and brie.  It's also squeaky, and is, according to Wikipedia, similar to un-aged monterey jack.  I instantly knew what I wanted to make tonight.

     The breakfast quesadilla my host-mother made for me in Costa Rica was two thick, fresh, homemade tortillas, dipped in egg, like one was going to make french toast of them, and turned into a grilled cheese sandwich with what I now know to be asadero in the middle.  It was amazing, in the early tropical morning, and was accompanied by sides of sliced papaya and mango which I had picked from the trees just outside the front door the night before.

     So today, we went in search what turned out to be an elusive cheese.  We first checked a tienda on Powell, to no avail.  We drove a little ways down the road to Food 4 Less, figuring if an ethnic food item existed, we could find it there.  Much to our dismay, we discovered that Food 4 Less had closed, apparently for good.  Checking decreasingly likely stores, we made stops at Fred Meyer, and New Seasons, not surprisingly, neither store had what we were looking for.
     Returning home to cook, we were forced to settle for other kinds of cheese, a mix of queso oaxaca and monterey jack.  I mixed the masa harina according to the recipe on the back of the package, and set to pushing them into tortilla shape and cooking them.  Most of the tortillas Dad made more traditional quesadillas with, and I took a few to make Costa Rican style.  I beat an egg, and dipped the tortillas before throwing them in a pan.  I would have liked to put a slice of semi-soft asadero cheese in the quesadilla, but I had to settle for a mix of grated queso oaxaca and monterey jack.
     After several minutes, I flipped the quesadilla out of the pan and onto the plate.  The two Costa Rican quesadillas I ate were both nearly spot on.  The one thing I know it was missing was the right kind of cheese.  The tortillas, dipped in the egg, were just the way I had them in Costa Rica.
     Mom has said she will continue to search for the illusive asadero cheese.  If we find it, I know I'll try to create these again.  They were too good two and a half years ago to pass up finding now.