xoFOOD: Rainbow-Themed Food That Actually Tastes Amazing (Also, Shots!)
Welcome to Portland, where it rains every day except the third Thursday in June. And on that day, it mists. To live here, you have to have a special temerity regarding water. But on a good day, you head east over the bridges and see Mt. Hood in the distance and a rainbow over the river.
We’re hardy folk here. Well, there ARE hardy folk here; I drive an SUV and still shave my pits. But many of my friends willingly, lovingly, and nuttily have ditched their cars and bike everywhere. By the sun, the stars, in the rain, the horizontal rain, the inexplicable upward rain, sober, drunk, and on at least one day a year, stark naked. I do my part by honking at them from the car and letting Clementine hang out the window, tongue agog so she can pace them at eye level.
Which brings me to my friend Rurik. Rurik was a tagalong to one of my Sunday Dinners about a year ago, but the man makes an impression. On his first visit, he brought a real hostess gift. Most of my friends just bring beer and an appetite.
Rurik is charming and lovely and hysterical and soon he was coming to all our get-togethers, which requires a seven-mile bike ride each way. At least once, he rode home from my house with a potted plant in his backpack.
He’s the kind of guy who will stand in the pouring rain and Instagram every float at Pride so no one else has to go out in it and say sweet things about the old biddies marching.
Now, you guys know I am steadfast on my stance against themed food (I can't handle it with Claire's grace). But for Rurik’s last Sunday Dinner in Portland (he's moving to New York), on the weekend of Portland Pride, I let it go and found just the foods to celebrate the way the sky smiles here in the City of Bridges.
Gourmet Rainbow Jello Shots
2 boxes of Knox gelatin
1 liter of tequila
5 cups sour mix
5 cups pink lemonade (no pulp)
food coloring or food color gel
28 plastic shot cups and lids
The premise here is simple: you’re going to make the gelatin in small batches, one for each color (I made 9 layers) and pour a small amount into each cup. In between layers, let the shots cool in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
Starting with the purple layer, mix ½ packet gelatin with a few teaspoons of boiling water and let it dissolve. Stir ¼ cup clear tequila and ¼ cup pink lemonade and add food coloring to your liking. I like it dark. Now add in the gelatin mixture and stir together. Pour just enough into each cup to cover the bottom. It helps to line the cups up on a tray. Put tray in fridge and wait 20 minutes.
Then start with the next color. With each color, you need to slightly increase the amount of liquid and the amount of gelatin since the cups are angled. By the time you hit the red, you’ll be making a full cup of liquid to a full packet of gelatin. You can get a good routine where this doesn’t take your whole day and you just get to it in between other tasks. I made extra layers so the transitions would be soft- purple, blue, cyan, green lime, yellow, butternut, orange, red. For the red, purple and blue, use the pink lemonade. For the green, yellow and orange, use sour mix.
These puppies are beautiful when done, but are lethal. You can of course add less booze, and offset that amount with extra sour mix or lemonade.
But what would be the point of that?
I suspect it would be relatively easy to run through the fruit and vegetable aisle grabbing various colors to fill the bowl, but I wanted to try to make a salad you still wanted to eat and something that really celebrated what was at the farmer's market right now.
(Measurements are per person)
1 handful of arugula
¼ cup of red cabbage
4 endive leaves
4 leaves purple basil
3 red radishes
7-8 yellow and orange cherry tomatoes
3-4 pea pods
2 tbsp blue cheese or stilton
1 preserved lemon wedge
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 tsp balsalmic vinegar
What is there to say -- chop everything into easy to bite pieces, trying to leave the color intact -- for radishes, cut into half twice, for tomatoes, leave whole and slice cabbage, lemon and endive into long slices. Toss it all together with the blue cheese and olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. The end result should be a beautiful rainbow of colors and be actually delicious. The radishes and arugula lend a spicyness, with a lot of crunch by the cabbage, and sweetness from the peas and tomatoes. The lemon lends acidity and the endive lends bitterness. The basil gives it a bit of mystery. If I could have gotten my hands on some blue cornmeal, I’d have made blue polenta croutons. Blue is kinda a buggerall for food stuffs.
Now, I’ve seen rainbow pasta and of course, again, you can just throw every pepper in the rainbow in there and walk away proud. But I wanted something truly delicious. I think we achieved it.
Barilla Veggie Penne (it's made with tomatoes and carrots)
(Measurements are per person)
3 1” slices of full size eggplant
¼ yellow bell pepper
¼ full size red roasted pepper, peeled
1 tbsp roasted garlic
2 tbsp pitted kalamata olives
3-4 leaves green basil
3-4 leaves purple basil
1 tbsp capers
2-3 artichoke hearts, marinated
If you can get your hands on it, some nasturtium flowers
1 slice of buffalo mozzarella
1 ripe red tomato
1 tsp balsalmic vinegar
5 tbsp avocado oil
First, this was an easy 10 minute meal. I bought the roasted peppers, capers, artichoke hearts, mozzarella and garlic at my grocer's salad bar and just sliced them up.
Get the water boiling for the pasta, and add a good amount of salt to the water (people never add enough, I find).
In a saute pan, add a splash of the avocado oil, a few pieces of the garlic and the eggplant. Salt and pepper them on medium heat, and allow to just sizzle away. When they are browned on one side, flip over and brown on the other side. When done, stack onto a plate and put to the side.
Add more oil, more garlic and now toss in the yellow pepper, which should be sliced thinly. Cook on medium high heat for about 90 seconds, stirring the entire time or just keeping the pan moving. Pour onto plate and put aside. Slice the tomato into pieces, trying to keep all the juicy summery bits in.
Now, slice the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them up like a joint and slicing through it. Put the resulting chiffonade aside.
When the pasta is ready, drain it, and toss everything together except the mozzarella. You want to have as much pasta as everything else, so the orange is in balance. But the pepperyness of the flowers, with the vinegar off the capers and artichokes, with the crunchy peppers, and the mellow eggplant all mix together and are amazing and hearty. And yet, altogether, it is not yet grotesquely over the top or cheesy.
Well, fixed THAT problem.
Rurik lands in NY on Wednesday. If you see him, go up and hug him for me. New York is a crowded place without as many rainbows. It's gonna be up to R to light the place up.
When not feeling guilty about it being so long since she submitted an xoJane piece, Amanda can be found on instagram, offering pictoral reasons why it has been so long since she submitted an xoJane piece. Spoiler alert: Clementine.