Janie Hibler's Wild Kingdom

Janie Hibler, author of "Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers: The Northwest Heritage Cookbook" (Knopf: $23), grew up with the best of two worlds. Home was a small town in Northern California near Arcata on the coast, far enough north to fall within the Pacific Northwest, but close to San Francisco. Hibler grew up with the taste of fresh cream, of clams and Dungeness crabs from nearby beaches, of wild duck stuffed with celery, of fresh blackberries, of garden-fresh vegetables, of eggs still warm from the hen. Her father was a lumberman, and when he traveled south to San Francisco on business or to visit relatives, often taking his children with him, he didn't hesitate to treat Janie and her brother to meals in the fine San Francisco restaurants of the day.

Add to all that an attitude about food and meals handed down from grandmother and mother to daughter. "You could sense a pride in cooking in my family," Hibler says. "Both my mother and grandmother took great care to set a nice table and present the food. I was raised on special meals of special foods, sitting down to eat with friends and family."

When Janie Hibler left home, moving deeper into the Pacific Northwest, first to Eugene, where her husband was a graduate student at the University of Oregon in the mid-1960s, and then to Portland, where they now live, she had an innate sense of what good food tastes like. She knew what good food smells like when it is cooking. She knew that good food begins with the best possible ingredients. And as ingredients go, she knew she had moved to the land of unbelievable plenty.

She had married a hunter. Not a trophy hunter, mind you, but a hunter. He studied physical chemistry and clinical pathology at the University of Oregon. She finished her internship in medical technology. They were poor students, but they had a freezer filled with elk, venison, ducks, pheasant, geese, salmon and steelhead. The garden beds that surrounded their small house were planted with fruits and vegetables. And Janie Hibler cooked, probably with a level of health awareness unusual for the day. Her father had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease and given five years to live when she was in the sixth grade. He changed his diet, changed his life style--and lived another 32 years.

Hibler's considerable skills handling game in the kitchen led to her first teaching experience at a cooking school in Portland, where she taught how to make quiche (remember?) and crepes. Eventually, the owner of Kitchen Kaboodle handed her the school. She left in 1983 to write her first cookbook, "Fair Game, a Hunter's Cookbook" (Irena Chalmers Pub.: 1983). It was a Tastemaker Award finalist the year it was published. That was followed by "Easy and Elegant Seafood" (Frank Amado Pub.: 1984). Both books came as a response to her teaching experience. Her students didn't know how to handle game, nor were they all that familiar with how to buy and cook the seafood so central to the Pacific Northwest experience.

"Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers" is Janie Hibler's celebration of the Pacific Northwest, the food, the people, the history of the people on the land. "When I started working on the book," Hibler says, "I read Amy Tan's novel 'The Joy Luck Club.' I was absolutely compelled to read that book almost without stopping. And when I finished it I felt determined to write a book about the foods of the Pacific Northwest that would be just as compelling."

It seems only fitting that the first recipe is a Vietnamese appetizer, shrimp and pork rolls. It comes from Kimmai Hong, the owner-chef of Portland's Saigon Express. Kimmai Hong fled Ho Chi Minh City in 1975 with her four children, talked her way onto a boat of refugees, landed in Malaysia after a near-fatal trip, lived in a refugee camp for six months, then finally emigrated to the United States. The readers of Downtowner and Pacific Northwest magazines have voted these the best shrimp rolls in the Pacific Northwest.

Kimmai Hong's journey to the Pacific Northwest was no less harrowing than that of the early pioneers who braved the rigors of the Oregon Trail, or who sailed from New England around Cape Horn to land at Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, or who sailed from Canton or Yokohama.

The first settlers found a land of benign verdancy in the river valleys of the Oregon Territory west of the Cascade Mountains. Some took to farming and dairying. Others chose the coast with its possibilities for logging and fishing. Those inclined to cattle ranching found dry, open range on the east side of the Cascades in an area the size of West Virginia. Men of the plow broke the land in Oregon's high desert and grew wheat.

Kimmai Hong found a land changed by all the hands that had preceded her. Forests have been leveled. The Columbia River salmon run of today is a pathetic shadow of its past glory. That hunters once shot as much waterfowl as they cared, with no thought for the future, seems a greed-laced travesty today. Yet the essential aspects of the land remain unchanged. It is still rich with an abundance of foods, both the native and those of the husbandman, that can leave the newly arrived slack-jawed. Those of us who grew up here tend to take it all for granted.

Janie Hibler first encountered the awe-struck attitude of the Pacific Northwest newcomer when she directed the Kitchen Kaboodle Cooking School in Portland from 1978 to 1983, the glory years of cooking schools in this country. She brought to Portland the great teachers of the day, from this country and Europe. "Once," she writes in the introduction to her book, "a chef from La Varenne in Paris arrived for several classes. I had spent the morning racing all over town searching for the best and the freshest and was quite nervous as he rummaged through the boxes of food I had assembled. Finally, he looked up and beamed. "Ahhh, Portland is a little Paris. Just look at this beautiful food."

"The real blessing of the food in the Pacific Northwest," Hibler says, "is you don't have to do a lot to it. It speaks for itself. Fresh oysters, cracked Dungeness crab, smoked salmon, good bread, fresh ale, a salad of wild and cultivated greens. All you need for dessert is a ripe pear and good cheese. It's all right here. We have been so geographically isolated for so long, people outside the region just don't understand what's here."

If Hibler had any single intent with a book that took her three years to research and write, it was to make the message about the foods of the Pacific Northwest abundantly clear. And that clarity extends to the history of the food, and the many cultures that have arrived in the region and made their mark with the food. It is no wonder that the reader finds recipes for wild mushroom pizza (of edible commodities produced in Oregon, wild mushrooms rank 22, along with pork); or Dungeness crab and spinach ravioli; or roast garlic soup with halibut, potatoes and fresh corn; or hazelnut-buttermilk pancakes with blueberry butter; or smoked pork chops with potatoes and sauteed apple slices; or roast chicken with shiitake mushrooms and fresh raspberries; or shioyaki salmon (a Japanese salt-broiling technique); or scalloped potatoes with Gruyere and fresh rosemary; or sauteed elk steaks with fresh morels and chanterelles in cream. And that's just thumbing through the first half of the book.

There have been other cookbooks written about the Pacific Northwest, but none has had as true a ring as Hibler's. Her book does not represent one chef's point of view or way with food, at best a dubious way to represent Pacific Northwest possibilities. Nor is the book simply one cook's greatest hits culled from her recipe file and those of a few friends. Hibler used her acute sense of taste and found cooks throughout the Pacific Northwest, both professional chefs and home cooks, who could best convey, through recipes, the cultural breadth of the region. The result is Kimmai Hong's shrimp and pork rolls on the one hand, Clarine Villeneuve's Basque red bean soup with chorizo on the other.

"People don't understand how big a land it is up here," Hibler says, "the depth of the agriculture, the connection to the land through hunting and fishing and gathering wild mushrooms. Most of the foods sold at the turn of the century that you find on the elegant menus of the time in Portland, they are all still here, still sold, still available."

With "Dungeness Crabs and Blackberry Cobblers" Janie Hibler puts to rest whatever misconceptions the rest of the country might have about the Pacific Northwest: the land, the people, the food. And as Kimmai Hong proves, the experience of arriving in a promised land is ever renewable.

Schuyler Ingle is the co-author of "Northwest Bounty: The Extraordinary Foods and Wonderful Cooking of the Pacific Northwest."

Hibler found this recipe while looking through cookbooks at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. It's from "The Neighborhood Cookbook," published in Portland in 1914 by the National Council of Jewish Women. She uses the book's basic pie recipe, then bakes it in a tart pan with a recipe from the same book, Favorite Tart Pastry, which is good for sweet tarts when a rich, short crust is desired.

"The thin tart was the perfect balance between sweet and rich with the gloriously intense flavor of the blackberries." And, Hibler says, "(It's) intriguingly simple."

BLACKBERRY CREAM TART

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, thawed on paper towels

1 (11-inch) unbaked Favorite Tart Pastry

1 egg

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup sugar

Sprinkle blackberries over Favorite Tart Pastry. Beat egg lightly in bowl. Blend in whipping cream and sugar. Pour over berries. Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Makes 10 servings.

Each serving contains about:

454 calories; 269 mg sodium; 127 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.5 grams fiber; 58% calories from fat.

Favorite Tart Pastry

1 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups flour

1 egg

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter with flour. Add egg, whipping cream, lemon juice, sugar and salt and mix well.

Place dough on floured surface and roll out to 12-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick. Carefully fold dough over floured rolling pin and transfer to 11-inch tart pan. Push dough into corners with fingers. Trim off excess dough by running rolling pin over top of tart pan. Pierce bottom and sides of pastry with fork. Makes enough dough for 1 (11-inch) tart.

Hibler often serves this salad in a black, shallow bowl to show off the white beans, the subtle colors of the salmon and the bright green Italian flat-leaf parsley.

GREAT NORTHERN BEAN SALAD WITH SMOKED SALMON

1/2 pound Great Northern beans

4 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken stock

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces smoked salmon fillets, skin and gray fatty meat removed, diced

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 heaping teaspoons capers, drained

Rinse beans. Place in saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to boil and boil 3 minutes. Turn heat off and let stand, covered, 1 hour. Drain and discard soaking liquid.

Add chicken stock and 2 more cups water to beans. Bring to quick boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain.

Whisk olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt together in bowl. Toss with beans while beans are still hot. Carefully toss in salmon, green onions, parsley and capers. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

516 calories; 3608 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 61 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 8.39 grams fiber; 31% calories from fat.

These crab ravioli were created by Kaspar Donier, a Swiss-trained chef who runs Kaspar's by the Bay overlooking Elliott Bay in Seattle. He wraps ready-made won-ton wrappers--available at many supermarkets and Asian grocery stores--around the spinach-and-crab filling, making the assembly of these tasty appetizers a simple task. They can be made up to a day ahead of time if they are kept tightly covered in the refrigerator.

DUNGENESS CRAB-AND-SPINACH RAVIOLI

12 to 14 won-ton wrappers

2 tablespoons butter

5 ounces cooked crab meat, preferably Dungeness, or bay shrimp

1 small bunch (4 ounces) spinach leaves, blanched

1/2 shallot, chopped

1 sprig tarragon, chopped

Dash Pernod, optional

Dash salt

Dash black pepper

Sauce

Bring large pot of water to simmer. Drop won-ton wrappers, 6 at time, into water and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and add to pot of cold water to cool.

Melt butter in skillet and saute crab meat and spinach with shallot, tarragon and Pernod. Simmer about 2 minutes until all liquid has evaporated. Remove mixture from pan, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Drain won tons and place on flat surface. Place 1 tablespoon crab-spinach mixture in middle of each won ton. Fold all sides of wrapper into middle to close ravioli.

Place one layer won tons, seam-side down, on plate. Place plate on rack over simmering water in covered pan, steamer or wok about 3 minutes or just until heated through. Repeat with remaining won tons. Arrange 3 ravioli on plate and cover with Sauce. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

Each serving contains about:

302 calories; 549 mg sodium; 98 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 0.3 grams fiber; 69% calories from fat.

Sauce

1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Riesling

1 shallot, chopped

1 cup homemade or canned chicken broth

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Few chives, chopped

Simmer wine and shallot in saucepan until reduced by 1/2. Add chicken broth and whipping cream and continue reducing until desired consistency is achieved (about 2/3 cup). Add chives at last minute. Makes 4 servings.

Good Gouda cheese has a deep, rich flavor and smooth texture that is wonderfully compatible with a slice of pear. Smoked hazelnuts on the side make a simple, wonderful dessert.

The nuts are first roasted in the oven, which not only intensifies the flavor but makes it easier to remove their skins. Hibler includes two easy methods for smoking the hazelnuts.

WINTER PEARS WITH GOUDA CHEESE AND SMOKED HAZELNUTS

1/2 pound Gouda cheese, rind removed

2 ripe winter pears, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch thick wedges

1/2 pound Smoked Hazelnuts

Place cheese in center of large serving dish. Surround cheese with pear wedges. Serve with Smoked Hazelnuts. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

455 calories; 662 mg sodium; 76 mg cholesterol; 37 grams fat; 19 grams carbohydrates; 17 grams protein; 2.3 grams fiber; 73% calories from fat.

Smoked Hazelnuts

1/2 pound shelled hazelnuts (1 3/4 cups)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter or corn oil margarine, melted

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

Dash cayenne pepper

Spread shelled hazelnuts in shallow baking pan. Roast at 275 degrees until skins crack, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove skins by rubbing nuts while warm with rough cloth or between hands.

Combine butter, kosher salt, liquid smoke, chili powder and cayenne pepper in bowl. Blend well. Toss nuts in mixture. Place nuts in same shallow baking pan and bake at 275 degrees 10 minutes. Alternatively, if you have smoker, omit liquid smoke and place nuts on screen or in small wire basket and cold-smoke 1 hour using alder chips. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

A rack of lamb is a series of rib chops still connected. It's an expensive meat, but simple to prepare. Hibler seasons it simply with salt and freshly ground pepper before grilling it. She serves the meat medium-rare accompanied by cumin-flavored lentil fritters, hot from the skillet.

RACK OF LAMB WITH LENTIL FRITTERS

3/4 cup lentils

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large (about 2 pounds) rack of lamb

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons corn oil, about

Rinse lentils in cold water. Place in saucepan and cover with 2 cups water. Bring water to boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook 30 minutes or until tender. Drain if necessary and set aside.

Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper together and rub over exposed surfaces of meat. Grill meat over medium-hot coals until meat thermometer reads between 145 degrees for medium-rare to 165 degrees for well-done, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let meat stand 15 minutes before carving.

While meat is standing, blend lentils, flour, egg, cumin and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drop 1/4 cup lentil mixture into hot oil for 1 patty. Quickly fry patties over medium-high heat, 3 to 4 minutes per side, until crisp. Add more oil if needed. Carve lamb and serve with lentils. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Lamb can also be roasted in 425-degree oven about 25 minutes for rare.

Each serving contains about:

323 calories; 671 mg sodium; 123 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 1 gram fiber; 53% calories from fat.

Asians make up the fastest-growing ethnic group in the Pacific Northwest. Like other immigrant groups before them, they have introduced the cuisine of their homelands to the public in small family-owned restaurants.

Hibler first ate these shrimp-and-pork rolls in Kimmai Hong's Vietnamese restaurant, The Saigon Express, in Portland.

KIMMAI'S VIETNAMESE SHRIMP AND PORK ROLLS

1 ounce rice noodles

10 (8 1/2-inch diameter) rice paper sheets

20 large medium shrimp, cooked and peeled

1 (10-ounce) boneless pork tenderloin, cooked and sliced into 20 pieces

40 fresh mint leaves

40 cilantro leaves

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch slivers

3/4 cup bean sprouts

5 green lettuce leaves, shredded

1 bunch cilantro for garnish

Peanut Dipping Sauce

Place rice noodles in saucepan and add water to cover. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes, or until noodles are softened. Bring water to boil and cook noodles 5 minutes. Drain.

To assemble rolls, dampen 1 side of 1 rice paper and place on flat surface, damp-side down. Place 2 shrimp in center of paper, top with 2 slices pork, followed by 4 leaves each of mint and cilantro and about 5 slivers carrot. Arrange about 1 tablespoon each of bean sprouts and rice noodles over vegetables, followed by 1/4 cup shredded lettuce.

Fold 1 end of rice paper over top of filling, tuck in both sides and roll it over. Dip finger in water and rub along edge to seal closed. Place, seam-side down, on plate. Repeat with remaining rice papers and filling ingredients. Serve on bed of cilantro leaves with Peanut Dipping Sauce. Makes 10 shrimp rolls.

Each serving contains about:

191 calories; 328 mg sodium; 64 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams protein; 0.8 grams fiber; 32% calories from fat.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup black bean sauce or hoisin sauce

1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 teaspoon corn oil

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts

Combine black bean sauce, garlic, sugar, salt, water and oil in saucepan. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes. Stir in peanut butter and cook, stirring constantly 2 more minutes.

Cool. If sauce seems thick, stir in additional water. Serve at room temperature garnished with chopped peanuts.

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