Monthly Archives: August 2013

Tomato Soup

Summer is slowly fading to fall here in the Pacific Northwest though many are in denial, not wanting to lose their summer sunshine. It’s rained the last couple of days and that makes me want to cozy up under a blanket with a book and have some soup.

I created the best of both worlds tonight, warm tomato soup with a burst of summer time flavor.

3.5 lbs of tomatoes (fresh from the farmer’s market), one orange pepper, 2 shallots, 5 cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper roasted at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Cooked down the tomatoes and it’s compatriots in the pan look like this. Now you have two options to puree, either scooping some of this in a blender and doing in batches, reminder, it’s hot, remove the center area of the lid of your blender to allow steam to escape, cover with a towel to prevent a mess. Or if you have an immersion blender, move everything including any pan juices to a saucepan that will fit it all. Add 1-1.5c of stock, and start blending.

I added a 1/4 tsp of cumin, some Italian herb blend and a tsp of sugar while I was blending. Taste your soup and see if it needs more salt, pepper or anything else you desire.

I ladled mine into a bowl, tore a couple of basil leaves and added a splash of basil olive oil, my burst of summer balance with some warm comfort of fall.


Vinn Distillery – Mijiu, Baijiu & Vodka Tasting

A Portland Perks deal led me to Vinn Distillery in Portland’s Distillery Row. Vinn Distillery is a local Oregon family run business, the name “Vinn” derived from the middle name that all five of the siblings share. Their distillery is located in Wilsonville and their tasting room, open on the weekends, in Distillery Row.

What intrigued me about Vinn is that all their liquor is distilled from rice, hence it’s all gluten free. Sake is about the only experience I had with alcohol made from rice and I haven’t had any experience with distilled spirits. The tasting was educational and interesting, learning about the family history as well as the process of how each product came about.

There were four products that were served along with two mixed cocktails using their products. Mijiu Ice reminded me a bit of sherry, smooth and slightly sweet. Mijiu Fire is earthier and spicier than the Ice. It’s not like anything I had ever tasted before I found it hard to wrap my brain around what I was tasting but I really liked it. Their Vodka is made to be a sipping vodka that you could drink straight up or on the rocks. There was a clean but slightly sweet flavor and it finished smooth, nothing harsh about this vodka at all. Baijiu is similar to vodka but with much more character. The floral notes in the nose really surprised me and it was a really complex with sweet, sour and elements of subtle earthiness.

The cocktails they served introduced me to a couple of new products that I think I am going to add to my mixed cocktail recipe book. The first was a Honey Som make with the Vinn Vodka, Pok Pok Som Honey Drinking Vinegar, club soda and basil. It was so refreshing! The tartness of the drinking vinegar intermingled with the fresh basil was perfect for a hot summer day. The Baijiu Bloody Mary was delicious; Baijiu, tomato juice and J. Wilbur Bloody Mary Flavoring (also gluten-free) made one of the best Bloody Mary’s I have tasted.

I went home with a bottle of Mijiu Fire and Baijiu that day and a few ideas for cocktails to enjoy before the summer ends here in the Pacific Northwest.

Summer Soup

I found this recipe on Tasting Table for a Melon Basil Soup with Cucumbers Pimenton. It’s a simple and refreshing summer soup. It reminds me a bit of a green smoothie.


Yes lettuce, romaine to be exact. Sunday night was grill-a-palooza, great way of cooking a whole bunch of food for the week and not heating up my place. I started by grilling some zucchini I picked up a the farmer’s market, moved onto making small burgers using ground buffalo and used “kofta” style spices. Then grilling an head of romaine lettuce as the base of my dinner salad.

I am not sure who thought of trying to grill lettuce but I am so glad they did. I have had grilled Caesar salads at restaurants but had no idea how easy it is to do at home.


  • 1-2 heads of romaine or more depending on how many people you are serving. I’d use half a head per person as a “dinner” salad with additional fixings and some sort of protein
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/Pepper


  1. Wash and pat dry your lettuce, remove any ugly leaves. Trim the bottom stem but do not cut off, this holds your half lettuce heads together for grilling.
  2. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat
  3. Cut the head of romaine in half, brush or drizzle both sides with olive oil and grill starting cut side down for 2-3 minutes. You will get grill marks on the lettuce and it will wilt slightly. Turn over and grill back for another 2-3 minutes. Time may increase/decrease on how large your lettuce is as well as the heat of your grill.

You can simply season the grilled romaine with salt and pepper to taste or add a vinaigrette with other salad fixings, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, etc.

Here was my dinner; grilled romaine with heirloom tomatoes, red pepper, cucumbers, feta cheese, homemade vinaigrette, grilled zucchini and kofta style buffalo burgers.

Dinner, yum!