A Sicilian Hash Odyssey

“But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, ‘Noman is killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!’

“‘Then,’ said they, ‘if no man is attacking you, you must be ill; when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had better pray to your father Neptune.”

To this day, the above lines from The Odyssey remain my favorite – I imagine Polyphemus’ fellow Cyclopes making the crazy sign, each rolling a singular eye – hilarious! But, what does this have to do with a hashcapade? Simple. I recently finished reading Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey by Robert V. Camuto and connected Arleta Library Bakery & Cafe, which serves Sicilian Hash! So, the alignment of Homer, Camuto and Arleta for a hashcapade was preordained!

Arleta Library is on SE 72nd and Harold, South of SE Foster

Connor and I arrived right when Arleta opened, 8:30AM, and were seated right away. Soaking in the ambiance, I noted the use of recycled doors to separate the dining area from the kitchen, just as Paul mentions in Breakfast in BridgetownThe sun was streaming in the east facing window, giving the cafe a lovely warmth and charm. While Jem or similar music was playing in the background, my cup of joe, decorated with a butterfly, arrived. Butterflies, and zebras and moonbeams and fairy tales – this hashcapade was about to take wing!

Recycled doors and shutters give Arleta a funky, comfy vibe
My butterfly mug – I’m going to request each time I return!

My Sicilian Hash arrived piping hot with scrumptiously crusty, toasted Italian white bread and a lovely shot of strawberry rhubarb jam, which was epic in its own right! The plating was clever – Painted Hills beef, onion and green pepper on the bottom,  a chunky mashed red potato patty atop (but offset to) the beef, with a Parmesan cheese egg scramble and roasted red peppers perched on top. Molto bene!!! Noman can resist 😉

Arleta’s signature Sicilian Hash
Truly epic toasted Italian white bread with a shot of strawberry rhubarb

Finally, as if this hashcapade could get any better, I discovered on-line that Arleta owners, Nick and Sarah Iannarone, were featured on FoodNetwork’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. On the episode, Biscuits, Bagels and BLT’s, they made the hash and the recipe is online – WOOT!

Happy Hashcapades,


Harissa Lamb, Cucumber, Carrot and Chickpea Hash

Fresh on the heels of an Indian and Oaxacan hashcapade, it only seems fitting that the equally exotic cuisine of North Africa – Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco – be my next target. And, just as India has curry and Oaxaca has mole, North Africa boasts a signature ingredient, harissa. Put another way, harissa is to North Africa as salsa is to Mexico. Its pepper, garlic, coriander, chili powder and other spices amp up any dish considerably.

Layered Harissa Lamb, Carrot, Cucumber and Chickpea Hash

My starting point was going to involve harissa, potato, chicken and okra, but as I looked at different recipes, it became clear that I *had* to go with lamb and ditch the okra in favor of chickpeas. I also thought the food ring needed a different treatment, but what?

Lots of veggies await this North African-inspired hash
OK – this will be a bit of a tangent. I absolutely loved There Will be Blood!. Have you seen it? Well, I saw it again while celebrating Easter in Wyoming. Daniel Day Lewis is amazing in his role as a manic, independent, hard-driving oilman. Besides cunning ruthlessness, the art of oil discovery and production is in the geology – understanding the strata or layers surrounding a reservoir. Wait…layers?…eureka! Yes, a layered, food ring-based hash! (And you thought I was going to talk about milkshakes!)
Chickpeas, red onion, garlic and ginger await roasting.
Lamb loin chops – like little lamb T-bones!

Anyway, with the layer concept established, I set about grilling lamb loin chops, which the butcher characterized as little lamb T-bones. Secretly, his apt description made me giggle when I threw them on the grill – soooo tiny and cute! Next steps were roasting the chickpeas, making a shredded carrot, feta and mint salad with harissa and mixing some diced cucumbers with Greek yogurt. For the plating sauce, I used harissa and the Greek yogurt – naturally!

Harissa carrot feta and mint salad
Macro shot of Layered Harrisa Lamb Hash

This hashcapade was wicked tasty, full of exotic flavors, thanks to the harissa. Succulent lamb, crunchy cucumbers and carrots paired with the roasted chickpeas created a fabulous texture. I couldn’t stop eating and literally inhaling the hash! Contemplating the cornucopia of veggies, it occurred to me that you could leave off the lamb and still walk away with a food coma! Oh, and don’t forget your milkshake!

Happy Hashcapades,
Layered Harissa Lamb, Cucumber, Carott and Chickpea Hash
Before you go ga-ga over the harissa, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and get the grill going!
Roasted Chickpeas
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped 
> Mix all of the above in a small baking dish and roast at 425 for 15 minutes, remove, stir and set aside.
Lamb Loin Chops
3 lamb loin chops (other favorite cuts will work to), about 6 oz net
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
> Rub garlic and ginger on both sides of the three chops, then grind fresh salt and pepper
> Grill for about 6 minutes a side, medium rare for 1 1/4 inch chops
> Wait until plating to cut the lamb to maximize the juicy flavor
Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp harissa (Whole Foods is my source)
1 tsp sugar
juice from 1/2 a small to medium lemon 
1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese
> Mix all the above in a bowl, check for taste – if too acidic, add more sugar; if not enough heat, add more harissa, Set aside for plating

Cucumber & Yogurt
1/2  cup english cucumber, 1/4 inch dice
1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
> Mix in small ramekin and set aside until plating

2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp harissa
1-2 small mint leaves
> Mix above and spoon almost all on the plate in a circle bigger that the food ring
> Using a 4″ diameter, 2″ high food ring, carefully pack one layer of the chickpeas, then an equal thickness of carrot, then an equal layer of cucumber.
> Slice the lamb into 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch rectangles and overlap in a circle, filling the middle with the rest
> Spoon the rest of the harissa/yogurt plating sauce, top with a scant spoon of harissa and garnish with mint

NOTE: Makes 1 serving with my 2 inch high, 4 inch diameter food ring. You will have leftover carrot salad and chickpeas – combine for a leftover salad snack!

A Sort of Homecoming

I’m a little nervous. How do I capture the essence of my hometown in a hashcapade? Is it possible? The answer is illusory at best as I think about my formative years spent in Casper, Wyoming. But then, the panorama behind my childhood home gently reminds me, symbolizing the spirit of my youth – Casper Mountain. I spent hour upon hour in the prairie at its base riding bikes, catching horny-toads, hiking, chasing antelope (no contest there) and imagining my future. The mountain served as a landmark, protector and endless source of recreation.

Casper Mountain

So, on a gorgeous and sunny morning, my vantage from the North Platte River looking back towards the mountain was even more expansive. I started my 10-mile run with a sense of nostalgia and focus to get my pace right at a mile+ gain in altitude from Portland. Then it hit me. I have always been connected to Oregon! Hello – the Oregon Trail passed right along the North Platte, just north of Casper, and eventually showed pioneers the the rich, fertile Willamette valley! I felt a connection to these hardy souls as I continued my run across town and back. What other touchstone would reveal itself?

Prometheus by Robert Russin at the Natrona County Public Library

Refreshed and famished after my run, my twin sister and I drove through downtown, passing another iconic symbol – Prometheus. To me, the fire Prometheus brought to mankind from the Gods represents light and wisdom brought to the middle of Wyoming! Oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, wind, and sun are abundant and bring professionals of all backgrounds to places like Casper. Our credo hearkens back to a pioneer culture, a cowboy culture and a wildcat oilfield culture – entrepreneurial, rugged, grounded and fiercely independent.

Egginton’s Andouille Sausage Hash

And so here I was in a post-run glow, soaking up the sun, Casper Mountain, Prometheus and the city I left 27 years ago. Mari, Alex, Rachel and I were meeting for my first hashcapade in Casper at a restaurant called Eggintons. Would my hometown hashcapade deliver the goods? Delicious, spicy sausage and hash brown potatoes topped with eggs answered emphatically – YES!

Happy Hashcapades,

Oaxacan Chicken, Potato and Chayote in Mole Hash

Following my last exotic Indian hashcapde at Chez Clark, it only seemed fitting to stay in the exotic vein, pushing the boundary to explore the art of hash. So, I channeled an Oaxacan cooking class from Sur la Table to create a flavorful, spicy and veggie-packed dish.

Pollo, Patata y Chayote en Mole Amarillo Hash

One of Oaxaca’s culinary traditions is mole (pronounced MOH-lay), which simply means sauce. Just as the French have multiple types, so do Oaxacans – black, brown yellow, brick, red, etc. A defining characteristic is the time-consuming preparation – charring ingredients and spices – soaking chiles – blending till silky smooth. And as far as ingredients go, chiles anchor a mole, like these charred guajillo chiles soaking in hot water.

Oaxacan cooking involves charring the ingredients for moles.
Charred Guajillo chiles soaking in water.

Important lessons I’ve learned, having made this dish (not hash style) multiple times are to: 1) use guajillo chiles, 2) use masa or corn flour for the thickener, and 3) allow plenty of time. I once substituted dried New Mexico chiles and created a mole so spicy, it made Secret Aardvark Sauce seem tame by comparison!

Chayote in “Little Shop of Horrors”

The new lesson I learned on this hashcapade is that chayote (pronounced chai-YO-tay) is a dangerous man-eating vegetable, almost bit off my arm! Fortunately, I have mad ninja skills and put it in its place, sulking with the potatoes on the cutting board. Actually, you’ll be impressed with the texture and luscious goodness of chayote. In fact, I’m going to follow the Wikipedia reference above and drive some julienned in lime juice for a salad sometime – yum!

Pollo, Patata y Chayote en Mole Amarillo Hash – Take 2
This hash came together in about 2 hours, with the majority spent making the mole as other elements cooked in parallel. Rich, smoky, Oaxacan flavors permeated the hash with the squeaky beans providing a nice surprise with the softer potato, chayote and chicken. Cotija cheese and cilantro gave the dish extra punch. After this photo, I poured more mole on top – holy frijoles! Check out the recipe below…
Ever been to Oaxaca? Tell me about it!
Happy Hashcapades,
Pollo, Patata Y Chayote en Mole Amarillo Hash
The sequencing of this is set out below to minimize time by doing steps in parallel and reusing boiled stock. I’ll try to call out what’s going on when.
1 lb chicken breast, with skin
1 head of garlic, scored around the center
1/2 yellow, roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
> Place above in large pot, covering with water by at least an inch
> Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20-25 minutes
NOTE: The next two sections can be done while waiting for boi1 and simmer
Mole Amarillo – Chiles
6 dried guajillo chiles, halved, seeded and veins removed
2 cups of hot water to cover
> On medium high heat, char chiles on both sides, so that it looks leathery, but not burnt
> Remove chiles and rinse in cold water, then place in bowl with hot water, immersing chiles
> Soak for at least 20 minutes, saving the chili soaking water for the sauce itself
Mole Amarillo – Onion, Garlic &Tomatillo + Spices 
5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1/4 yellow onion, chopped roughly

2 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped

> In the same heated pan, char the garlic, onions and tomatillos until blistered, black in some places
> Remove  and put in a separate bowl

2 whole allspice
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
> In the same heated pan, briefly smoke the spices, remove as cumin seeds start to pop or before oregano is blackened
> Remove and  put in a ramekin

Potatoes, Chayote and Beans

1 Yukon gold potato, peeled, 1/2 inch dice
1 Chayote, peeled, 1/2 inch dice
4 oz fresh green beans, chopped to 1/2 inch lengths
> In the same pot used for the chicken, bring water back to boil, then add potatoes and Chayote
> Cook for about 10-12 minutes, then add green beans for another 5 minutes
> Potatoes and chaoyote should be tender, but not mushy. Beans should be firm, not soft.
> Remove them with a slotted spoon, place in a medium bow, keeping the broth for the Mole

Mole Amarillo – Making the Sauce
> Add 1 cup of the chili soaking water to a blender
> Peel the charred garlic, then add that plus rest of charred onion, tomatillos and spices

> Blend on high until smooth, then add the chiles and puree until smooth

1 Tbsp lard (traditional) or vegetable oil
> Heat a heavy pan to medium-high, add the lard, then pour in the sauce from the blender
> Stir often, scraping the bottom of the pan, for about 8-10 minutes

1/4 cup masa flour
> Add 1 cup of vegetable/chicken broth to the blender
> Add 1/4 cup of masa and blend thoroughly
> Stir in masa mixture into the cooking sauce and add 1 more cup of the vegetable/chicken broth
> Reduce to medium and cook mole until it starts to thicken and let simmer for about 15 minutes
> Season to taste – I used Maldon sea salt and fresh ground pepper

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 cup cotija cheese
> Slowly add just enough of the finished mole into the bowl of chicken, chayote and beans to coat
> It should be just enough help the mixture bind and be sticky for plating
> Add 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped cilantro to the bowl and mix gently
> On the plates, spoon more mole on the plate in a circle bigger that the food ring
> Using a 4″ diameter, 2″ high food ring, pack in the hash and garnish with more cilantro and cotija
> Spoon additional mole over hash as desired

NOTE: Makes 2-3 servings, depending on size of food ring

Mother’s Bistro

Be Nice or Leave! That’s what the sign above the hostess station at Mother’s Bistro read. I reckon that’s how a mother would scold her kids, akin to: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Perhaps it reminds people to be patient because the wait for this iconic restaurant can be considerable. Fortunately, we had arrived early and helped form an orderly, if not under-caffeinated queue on a quiet Sunday morning. My friends, Cory, Mary, their son, Jesse, Doug, Connor and I were about to have the comfort food to end all comfort foods!

Mother says…

But, before I dive further into this hashcapade, I must set the context. The night before, I had attended Michael Pollan’s lecture at the University of Portland with about 4000 other like-minded people. We were entranced by his simple dialogue on nutritionism, a “religious” belief system that has separated us from our cultural knowledge of food and interposed experts – scientists, dietitians and nutritionists – between us and our food.

Thankfully, the Slow Food movement has been reconnecting us to the land,  the farmers and the goodness of real food. (We in the Willamette Valley are truly blessed.) Summing up his talk, Michael recommended this: “Eat real food, not a lot, mostly plants.”

He also noted that a culture’s food anchor is Mom or Grandma (Nonna). So, newly recharged and thankful for my Mom’s “granola period” in the 70’s, this Mother’s Bistro hashcapade can continue in perfect congruence with Pollan’s simple advice!

No, this is not Michael Pollan!

Browsing Mother’s menu, is like consulting a holy work – awe-inspiring, yet daunting – and physically intimidating with its big, green, and solid binder with multiple chapters, and dense, yet simple culinary prose. Our high-priest, er, waiter guided us as we each selected the perfect choice. I opted for the Dungeness Crab Cake Eggs Benedict because I had ordered the Wild Salmon Hash on a previous hashcapade. So, today’s hashcapade supplicant, er, taster, was Cory, who does resemble Michael Pollan a bit!

Wild Salmon Hash & Dungeness Crab Cake Eggs Benedict

My notes on the hash describe it as superb with a creamy, rich sauce that reminded me of stroganoff. Cory’s interpretation:

In a nutshell, I would say that everything came together without one ingredient dominating the others – all while forming a harmonious “one”.

Spot on, mate, spot on!

Tell me – what’s your favorite dish at Mother’s Bistro?

Happy Hashcpades,

Chicken Curry & Potatoes with Mustard Seed Hash

Before my hash obsession, I often thought of making ravioli filled with savory Indian dishes – Chicken Curry (Murgh Karee), Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) or another favorite, Potatoes with Mustard Seeds (Sookhi Bhaji). My head was filled with day dreams of the exotic ravioli magnate I would become, that is until Ratatouille’s evil mini-chef, Skinner, stole my idea!

Undeterred and now hash-manic, I kicked it into high gear to combine my love of Indian cuisine with a food ring presentation, inspired by last weekend’s stellar hashcapade at Hall Street Grill. Surely Madhur Jaffrey’s Sookhi Bhaji could anchor my culinary experiment at Chez Clark!

Chicken Curry & Potatoes with Mustard Seed Hash

Surprised to see the finished product so soon? I’m channeling Christoper Nolan, the superb director of, among many movies, Memento. Nolan sliced the movie into several 10-minute segments and then started the film with the start of  the last segment and worked his way backward to the end…of the beginning. If you loved that show, leave a comment, backwards of course, and I’ll forget what you wrote until yesterday!

So, down to business. What’s this concoction that Clark’s devised? What keeps it together? What is the chopped green stuff? Why did I just lick the screen? The foundation of the hash is the aforementioned Sookhi Bhaji or Potatoes with Mustard Seed. Be prepared to buy lots of spices as the list is rather long, but the flavors that develop are worth every penny!

Buy Stock in Spice Islands Before Embarking on this Hashcapade!
Sookhi Bhaji (Potatoes with Mustard Seed)

Basically, it starts with heating up some spices, tossing in onions, then more spices and potatoes. Then, I shredded some rotisserie chicken, added spices, combined with potatoes and cilantro, and added a curry yogurt mixture to bind.  Finally, I plated with a garam masala yogurt mixture on the bottom, used a 4″ diameter, 2″ high food ring to pack in the hash and garnished with cilantro and more garam marsala yogurt.

Chicken Curry & Potatoes with Mustard Seed Hash – Close Up

After several food fashion shots, I eagerly tried my first bite, keen to discern all the flavors. First came the creamy/tangy garam masala yogurt, followed by the cumin-cilantro flavor of the potatoes. Next came the classic curry powder flavor of the chicken, but with a surprising pop of sweet crunchy flavor from the crystallized ginger I had added. Wow! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Please send comments on your favorite Indian dishes and perhaps another delicious sub-continent hashcapade will ensue!

Happy Hashcapades,

Potatoes with Mustard Seed (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
> Heat oil on medium-high, add spices when hot, reduce to medium when seeds start to pop

1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 green and 1 red jalapeño, diced

> Add next ingredients immediately, cook until onion are tender, but not brown

2 Yukon Gold potatoes hashed, 1/2 inch dice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 cup water
> Add above to onions and cook until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes
> Once potatoes are done, transfer to big bowl, add Chicken Curry Mix, and Curry Yogurt and stir
> Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, combine, then salt to taste
> On plate, add half the Garam Masala Yogurt, spread in a circle bigger than the food ring
> Center food ring on top, pack with hash mixture to the top
> Remove food ring, top with more Garam Masala Yogurt, garnish with cilantro

Chicken Curry Mix
1/2 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded to bite-sized pieces
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2  Tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped
2 Tbsp water
> Mix ingredients, salt to taste and set aside

Curry Yogurt (for binding)
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp curry powder
> Combine all ingredients in a small ramekin or bowl

Garam Masala Yogurt (for bottom and top)
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp garam masala

NOTE: Makes 1 1/2 servings, depending on size of food ring

Elizabeth Fuss, Hall Street Grill and Hash

I’m delighted to introduce Elizabeth Fuss, one of my twitter friends (@LizzyDishes), who graciously agreed to write this guest post! Her blog is already listed in my blog roll (Lizzy Dishes of Portland) because of her descriptive, artful and entertaining posts capturing her culinary adventures. Be sure to read here latest quest for the perfect use of duck eggs. Thank you, Liz!!!
For my whole my life, until 2007, I didn’t eat seafood.   It always tasted fishy and rubbery and smelled dreadfully unappealing.  When I went with friends to seafood restaurants, I usually ordered a burger or some other type of non-seafood.  Then, some friends and I ate at Hall Street Grill in Beaverton one night in March of 2007.  I remember it clearly – I ordered butternut squash ravioli.  The super-enthusiastic waitress said that I must absolutely order prawns with the ravioli because they just made the dish.  The prawns weren’t on the menu and I had no idea how much they cost, but the waitress – she was convincing.  And oh what a delight.  I remember thinking that the prawns, juicy and pink, tasted like little steaks.  No fishiness, no rubbery texture.  It was heaven.  And that was my first amazing experience with seafood.  And with Hall Street Grill.

Hall Street Grill Dining Room

I don’t make it out to Beaverton too often. But when I heard that Hall Street Grill was going to start offering brunch, my heart flitted a bit.  And then, delightfully, Mr. Hashcapade set up a blogger brunch/tweetup for Sunday Brunch at this very restaurant!  Always eager to try new food and meet new people in the food/blogger/twitter community, I said yes.  

Amidst food talk and writing talk (my two favorite kinds of talk), I ordered the “Porkstrami” Hash.  Clark ordered the Duck Confit Hash.  Others at the table ordered both kinds of eggs benedict, aebleskivers and a frittata.  The chef came out and talked with us, or rather with Paul Gerald, Mr. Breakfast in Bridgetown himself, and then brought us a complimentary order of aebleskivers (Danish pancakes) with Ginger Rhubarb compote, lemon curd and butter.  The aebleskivers were chewy and dense and tasty with the lovely toppings.

Porkstrami Hash (left) and Duck Confit Hash (right)

My hash was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  There were hidden bits of caramelized onions peeking out beneath the salty, intensely flavorful pastrami.  The potatoes were cooked well and everything melded together so that I couldn’t distinguish between the elements in my mouth.  There was a Russian crème fraîche that got a little lost in the hash – I couldn’t taste it.  I didn’t mind, though, because it tasted complete without it.  

The benedicts were reported as tasty, if a little salty and the frittata was good, though rich.  Here’s Clark’s description of his amazing sounding Duck Confit Hash: 

When I order an entrée that was prepared using ring molds, I promise myself that I will buy a set to improve the plating of my hash. After my lovely Duck Confit Hash, I’ve take a solemn, double-pinky-swear oath to procure some! The hash was very flavorful with the goat cheese and caramelized onion enveloping the confit in savory goodness. The butternut squash and blood orange reduction was sweet and tangy, completing the dish. To Executive Chef Travis, well done!” 

This was only their second week doing brunch and I have no doubt the chef and delightful staff will continue to refine the dishes and produce stellar food.  I love Hall Street Grill.  That fond memory of my first ever prawn stands out in my head as one of my first great-food-appreciation moments.  And now I have the hash to remember, too.  Mmmm.  Thanks for the hashcapade, Mr. Hashcapade!

A final note of thanks to Mary Rarick, whose genius idea of having Liz write a guest post has opened a new frontier for me and, hopefully, my readers. Danke schön, ÜberMary! And to Executive Chef Travis who kindly sent photos after reading my note about my dead camera…that is service!!!

Happy Hashcapades,