Every Saturday at the Portland Farmers Market, a favorite Portland-area chef demonstrates how to turn seasonal ingredients into simple, delicious dishes. Last Saturday, our very own Cathy Whims cooked alongside Portland Monthly’s Allison Jones and Real Good Food’s Jim Dixon. Together the three of them provided the crowd with some serious inspiration for their next dinner party. Read on for a taste of the event.
As the Chef in the Market, Cathy demonstrated three Catalan-inspired dishes and instilled in her audience the importance of starting with the best ingredients. “If you have great ingredients than whatever you make is going to taste delicious,” said Cathy, who for five consecutive years has been nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef: Northwest. She focused her recipes around the juiciest ingredients currently available at the farmers market, including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and microgreens.
Another key to maximizing the flavors in simple dishes is using high-quality extra virgin olive oil and unrefined sea salt. Olive-oil connoisseur Jim Dixon explained to the audience that the majority of olive oils sold in grocery stores are actually refined blends. The term “extra virgin” is not regulated in the US. Jim’s advice is to look for the COOC Seal of Certification on the back of the bottle. To maximize the flavor of sea salt without any of the bitterness, Cathy uses an unwashed and unrefined sea salt from Sicily. Such sea salt tastes superior to refined ones and is high in healthy minerals.
Lastly, if you want to get rave reviews from your dinner guests, it’s worth making a separate trip to your favorite bakery. For the Pan Bagnat, Cathy used a loaf of Nostrana’s own ciabatta, baked in our wood-burning oven, which perfectly soaked up all the juices from the tomatoes, olive oil and red wine vinegar and the flavors from the fresh herbs and garlic. At the end, samples of her dishes were quickly devoured by the audience.
Enjoy the Pan Bagnat recipe below at your next dinner party and we hope to see you soon at Nostrana for more culinary inspiration from Chef Cathy Whims.
Recipe for Pan Bagnat
Adapted from Delicioso, The Regional Cooking of Spain, Penelope Casas
- 1 lb assorted ripe tomatoes, all colors and sizes
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp salted capers, soaked 10 minutes in water and rinsed
- 3 T best quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
- sprinkle of red wine vinegar
- pinch red pepper flakes
- dozen red basil leaves
- dozen Italian parsley leaves
Slice tomatoes in thick slices or wedges. Season with salt and pepper. Add everything except half of the basil and parsley leaves. Let marinate 5 – 10 minutes.
Split bread or rolls and pull out some of the crumb. Spoon tomato salad on the bottom half. Lay basil and parsley on top and cover with the top of the bread. Wrap in aluminum foil and weight with a heavy object. Unwrap and eat in about an hour.