If you’re recipe dependent, you may mumble, “Wait, what?” while paging through “The Myrtlewood Cookbook, Pacific Northwest Home Cooking” by Portlander Andrew Barton.
What’s great: 100 nearly meditative recipes for soups, salads, sandwiches, dinners, pastas, accompaniments, breakfasts and sweets, organized by season. “Our book was truly made at my home, shot in real time over 18 months,” said Barton, who worked with photographer Peter Schweitzer and a small team of collaborators.
What’s alarming: The ingredient lists can be laconic, calling for just “1/2 bunch” or “lots of.” Many recipes specify no quantities at all. But breathe deeply. The text is dotted with Barton’s hints and tips that reveal and coax. For example, pesto requires “enough basil to fill your food processor’s chamber.”
The directions are intimate, as though Barton is standing next to you, encouraging what he calls “that spark of intent.” A preschool teacher, he conducts after-school cooking classes for the kids. “In its own funny way, that informs how I instruct the reader in these recipes, helping to build confidence,” he said.
“I try to encourage people to discover their favorites, and commit to them,” Barton said. “You gain confidence in the kitchen by making things you really want to eat. Techniques start to come naturally when you cook with a strong sense of self and awareness of appetite.”
“Andrew food” includes “tarragon, mushrooms, fish — throw in pears, eat a handful of nuts after a sandwich.” As the season shifts, he’ll seek out local yellowfoot or winter chanterelles for grilled cheese sandwiches or to poach in soup broth. And for salads, spicy black radishes soaked in salt water and lemon juice “to remove some of the funkiness.”
Barton — who has never worked in a restaurant — and his partner, Sofie, recently bought a small house on one-third acre in deep Southeast Portland and are plotting how to turn it into a homestead. If you poke around the book’s website, you might stumble across hints of how the team is rethinking Secret Restaurant Portland — their pop-up dining project — for this new incarnation.
Russet/Rye Apple Pie
“There is a stand at the Portland Farmers Market called Old World Apples. They have an orchard planted with innumerable heirloom varieties but only a handful of trees each. I go nearly every week in the fall. Russet apples, in early November, are a favorite. This pie happened for the first time on a quiet evening alone, when I had a fresh bag of rye flour and a bowl of russet apples on the counter.” — Andrew Barton
Active prep: 50 minutes (Allow time to chill dough and bake pie) | Average
8 or 9 servings
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- A generous 1/2 cup (70 to 80 grams) dark northern rye flour*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 to 8 teaspoons (100 milliliters) ice water
*Barton recommends the fresh-milled variety sold by the bag at Tabor Bread in Portland
- 5 apples, preferably heirloom (if it’s November and you can find Brown Russets, those are the ones!), or 5 Bosc pears (these have the matte warm brown skin, like the russet apples — if you use these instead, add a lot of extra lemon juice as they don’t have the tartness of the apples)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- About 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider
- 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the crust, cut the stick of butter into small pieces and put it in the freezer a bit before you are going to make the dough. After 20 minutes or so, place the flours, salt, and frozen butter into a food processor and blitz. Many quality pie recipes extoll on the fine pleasures of rubbing the butter in with your hands. I agree, but it is easier to get perfect flaky crust by forming pebbles of cold butter, and this is much more achievable in the food processor. After blitzing for 30 seconds or so, stop, check, then pulse some more. Add 2 teaspoons of the ice water, pulse again, and move the dough to a bowl.
- Continue to add ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough balls up. Roll the dough ball in flour, wrap in plastic wrap, then chill in the fridge for 45 to 60 minutes.
- To make the filling, slice the apples: quarter them, then slice lengthways to get two or three thin pieces out of each quarter. Halfway through the cutting, heat a wide-rimmed pan over medium and melt the butter in it. Add the apples you’ve chopped, toss with lemon juice, and repeat until all the apples are in the pan. Add the apple cider and cook, stirring frequently. When the apples begin to soften but are still quite underdone, add the brown sugar and vanilla, tossing actively to distribute and perfume the apples. When they get to the next stage of tenderness, but still aren’t done, turn off the heat and cover the pan. The residual heat will steam the apples. After 5 minutes or so, take off the lid and set the pan out to cool.
- Take a break. Tend the garden, empty the dish drainer, hang up some laundry.
- Retrieve the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface. When it is a rustic circle, bigger than your pie pan, lift it into the pie pan. If you’re using a glass or ceramic dish, there is no need for parchment, but if it’s a thin pan, maybe use some just in case. Press the dough into the pan, but leave the edges hanging off. Put it in the freezer.
- Once the filling is room temperature and/or the dough has been freezing for 5 to 8 minutes, take out the crust, pour the filling into the center, fold the edges over, and bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 35 minutes. Rotate the pan, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes to finish.
- When the crust is golden on the bottom and going golden around the top, take the pie out to cool a bit before eating. This is excellent served hot with ice cream, room temperature with cheddar as a “meal,” or leftover with coffee as breakfast.
Excerpted from “The Myrtlewood Cookbook, Pacific Northwest Home Cooking,” copyright 2015 and 2017 by Andrew Barton and Peter Schweitzer. Republished with permission from Sasquatch Books.