Penne Pasta with Braised Kale and Lemon Parmesan Sauce

I got my first weekly pickup at my CSA, Rosemattel’s. The first pickup included kale, chard, beet greens, french carrots, radishes, green onions, lettuce, broccoli — a treasure trove! I got a double dose of kale because I didn’t want the chives or fennel. What to do with kale? Meanwhile, my husband has been suggesting lemon pasta. I dug through my recipe pile and the internet for ideas and combined and modified a few of them to use what I already had in the kitchen and farm basket.

Pasta with Braised Kale and Lemon Parmesan Sauce

  • 1/2 pound dried pasta – mini penne is my preference
  • Salted water for boiling pasta
  • 1 large bunch of torn kale leaves, with stems and large veins removed
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or chicken broth (1/2 can if you have canned)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  1. Fill large saucepan with water and add salt to boil pasta per package instructions.
  2. Wash kale, remove stem and large veins, tear into pieces approximately 1 inch long.
  3. Heat chicken broth in saute pan and add kale. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer kale while broth reduces.
  4. Zest one lemon into medium serving bowl.
  5. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into the medium serving bowl.
  6. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to the serving bowl. Mix to allow the flavors to blend.
  7. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to the serving bowl.
  8. Drain any remaining liquid from the kale and add the braised kale to the serving bowl.
  9. Toss and serve.

This produces 4 or more servings of pasta when used as a side dish. We loved it, it was one of my biggest successes with pasta. The kale had no off earthy flavors, it was a pleasant green addition to the pasta.

Farrar's Bistro

Pulled Pork PlatterI was searching for a good place for our anniversary dinner in Vancouver and got a coupon for Farrar’s Bistro in Felida. I checked their menu and thought it would be worth a try. The bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I called in the morning and spoke with Debbie and with the chef, Terry, to see if they could accommodate my husband’s food allergies. Yes, they could make him a filet and mashed potatoes, while I could sample their usual fare.

Farrar’s Bistro is a small place behind an antique shop, off NW 36th Ave. Although it’s on the opposite side of Vancouver from us, it’s an easy drive and we even spied a bald eagle coming in for a landing at the Salmon Creek Greenway. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. It doesn’t have a luxurious feel, but is comfortable. Arriving on a Monday evening, there was one person drinking at the small bar, a group of runners arrived and had drinks, and another couple arrived and had dinner.

The wine menu includes Northwest selections at $6 per glass and bottles for under $25. They had some of our less-expensive favorites, but we chose Washington state cabernet and shiraz. I loved the shiraz. They also serve cocktails and microbrews and a full espresso bar.

The dinner menu is small and well-crafted with grilled and barbecue selections. I went for the pulled pork platter (pictured): served with “smokin’ chipotle coleslaw, ember roasted sweet potatoes & cheesy jalapeno cornbread” plus grilled vegetable and rolls. Every bite of the pulled pork and the other dishes was a flavor orgy. The pulled pork was barbecue flavored without any obvious sauce, but no ordinary flavor, a perfect balance of mustard, smoke, sweet and tangy. The sweet potato was buttery and sweet. The cole slaw was its own perfectly balanced experience with a little heat, a little sweet, a little tangy but all in balance. The grilled vegetable was broccoli in cheese sauce with the broccoli perfectly steamed to retain crunch and the cheese sauce not overpowering but still savory. The cornbread was also delicious.

The problem with the pulled pork platter is that I don’t know how I can ever manage to order anything different. It was just too good to pass up. Rich’s steak and potatoes were also very good and we enjoyed two glasses of wine. We had passed up the salads, which looked great but we hadn’t ordered one with a dressing Rich could tolerate. So we had room for dessert. We should have shared one, but I had to have the “cranberry pecan bread pudding drizzled with caramel rum sauce” and Rich chose the chocolate sour cream cake. I am almost always disappointed by bread pudding, but this one was very good. I had half leftover and our waitress (the founder, Debbie) packaged it up with extra rum sauce.

Entrees are in the $18-$20 range. Dinner is served Monday-Friday. Lunch Monday-Saturday and open at 8 am for coffee Monday-Saturday. I’ll have to try lunch sometime soon. This place is definitely a keeper. I’ve become disappointed with Lappellah after two meals and I like Hudson’s but Rich wasn’t as thrilled. Farrar’s Bistro satisfied my desire for a place to have a great dinner with wine in Vancouver. I’m going to put Debbie’s Blog on my blog reader because I see that they have wine tastings and other events. They will be closed Memorial Day Weekend. I love supporting a great small local restaurant that serves fantastic food.

Planting the Garden

Garden plotBack in March, I hired a landscaper to make me a garden. He did this by scraping up the barkdust in the “back 40″ and dumping a load of mushroom compost soil. He said I didn’t need raised beds because the plot had the right drainage profile. He also modified the sprinklers so they would water the garden bed, and installed sprinklers for each of my hanging baskets. The plot of soil looked like a large grave.

I started sprouting tomatoes, peppers, and other plants from seed at the end of March. I wasn’t aware that the real last-frost date here is really May 15, or Mother’s Day at a minimum. So informed, I’ve been sprouting and sprouting but can’t say I’ve ended up with good looking plants. I have already decided not to go this route for 2010. I shall instead just buy plant starts at the farmers markets and other plant sales.

Garden plantedI have been planting the lettuce starts for the past three weeks and eating some of the results. I put them in the front of the garden for easy access. I then have a long row of tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and peas. I’ll have to install netting for them to climb onto. Meanwhile, I have planted seeds for carrots and onions and plan to add in beets and others. Those were failures in the sprouting-indoors experiment.

I also plan to plant dahlias to bloom alongside the garden, and hide it a bit from the living room windows. But planting all of the garden was so exhausting that I’m delaying that till next weekend.

BackyardI visited The Garden Corner nursery in Tualatin to look for hanging baskets to mimic the ones Rich loves from Switzerland. The problem is that I don’t know for sure what flowers they use. My photos of the Hotel Gletschergarden don’t resolve the mystery. So instead I searched for near matches. With the help of one of the staff, I decided on making up my baskets with a mix of orange and pink geraniums, verbena, and petunias. Those should give me blooms at three levels, and I think Rich was really after the color combination more than anything else.

I made up my baskets, hung them, watered them, and sat back with wine and cheese for dinner. Ah, the good life.

Hillsboro Orenco Station Farmers Market

I am always on the lookout for a farmers markets held on Sundays. On Saturday I may be off doing a walk that isn’t near a farmers market, and need to use Sunday to stock up on veggies. At Orenco Station in Hillsboro, the Hillsboro Sunday Farmers Market opened for the season on Mother’s Day and Mom just happened to want lunch nearby. I arrived early and browsed the market. This is still early season, so the produce was slim pickings. But I picked up some excellent plant starts and could see this was a healthy-sized market that will be well worth the stop in the future. It is near the large parking lot for New Seasons Market for easy car access. And I always enjoy a stop at New Seasons itself to pick up items the farmers don’t carry.

Mom says she likes to go to the farmers market in downtown Hillsboro on Saturday.

Orenco Station is a planned community built for a car-light lifestyle. I enjoyed an hour-long stroll around the development and I think I would enjoy living there. We have often had volksmarches here. If you work nearby at Intel, you can indeed bike or walk to work. But I don’t think anybody has space out back for a decent sized garden.
Photos of Orenco Station

Parkrose and Troutdale Farmers Markets

Parkrose Farmers MarketOn my way to and from my walk this weekend, I stopped in at two farmers markets I hadn’t yet sampled. The Parkrose Farmers Market is actually quite convenient from my side of Vancouver, just south of Airport Way near 122nd. It was opening day and they were giving out shopping bags and door prizes. At this point in the season, it’s a small market. I bought mustard greens, potatoes and onions at a produce stall and bagels from Gabriel’s Bakery. They have food vendors, plants, arts and crafts and an entertainment booth.

Troutdale Farmers MarketOn my way back from the walk at Mount Hood Community College, I stopped by the Troutdale Farmers Market. Now, this one was truly tiny, just four tables. But they had exactly what I wanted, farm eggs and salad greens and some fingerling potatoes. It was a good stop.

On Sunday I stopped at the Vancouver Farmers Market and bought another 12 lettuce starts. The lettuce starts I planted three weeks ago are really going to town. The lettuce I planted in my planters is starting to take hold, but the most recent starts I made indoors are wimpy. I transplanted all of the my starts except the tomatoes, but I fear they are all anemic failures. I have good hopes for the tomatoes and pepper, which I will transplant in two weeks. I planted seeds for carrots and onions outdoors right before a big thunderstorm squall came through. I hope it didn’t wash them all away! I am thinking that next year I will plant seeds outdoors and buy starts for tomatoes, peppers, etc. rather than trying to sprout them inside. I just don’t have the right light, etc.

Farmers Market List Updated for 2009

I’ve updated the list of Portland/Vancouver area farmers markets as many are opening this weekend and next weekend.

It is still very early in the season. I’ve been going to the Vancouver Farmers Market the past month and buying last season’s root vegetables and fruit, plus some lettuce and plant starts. I’ve actually become addicted to buying a lovely bouquet of flowers for my table. It helped jump-start spring before my own bulbs bloomed.

I’ve missed the local lettuce tremendously, but the lettuce starts I bought four weeks ago are now producing enough for salads for me twice a week. And it is great to supplement that with more lettuce from the farmers markets.