The Last Supper with Pork Croutons

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

With mixed emotions, we feasted last Saturday night, the last day of our first week of eating foods within 100 miles of Portland. On Wednesday of our first week, we were frustrated and craved takeout pizza. We didn’t feel flexible and were not curious about connecting with farmers. We were hungry and not well equipped to create three meals a day with only food that was grown or raised within 100 miles of Portland, Oregon. But, we did.

Our last supper was BBQ duck breast that Stefan shot on the Lower Columbia River wrapped in Carlton Farm bacon stuffed with sage leaves, salad dressed with lemon (Fraser Creek Farm in Corvallis) vinaigrette piled with pork croutons. To drink, we had Clear Creek Distillery pear brandy.

The pork croutons were especially delicious. We took the pork remains and fried them and then, forgot about them. On the stove. Leftover pork roast became crispy pork croutons and is our new favorite find.

I was nervous about leaving our food experiment behind for a week because I found comfort in the parameters. On an “off week” Stefan and I swap menu ideas and are boiled over with choices. We spend far too much time debating the “what ifs” of our cooking world. What if we made pasta with a rich red sauce? What if we made sandwiches? What if we made cookies with dark chocolate chips? What if we made tuna noodle casserole? Choices make me nuts and evidently, I am not alone in this thinking.

Researchers from several universities have determined that even though humans’ ability to weigh choices is remarkably advantageous, it can also come with some serious liabilities. People faced with numerous choices, whether good or bad, find it difficult to stay focused enough to complete projects, handle daily tasks or even take their medicine*

We spent our first week exploring local options and eating the limited options that we knew. There are much fewer local options than there are products in grocery stores. In deciding which limited local food choices to make, I found a certain sense of peace and stillness. I appreciated having food parameters because they encouraged us to be more creative in the kitchen that we ever have been. We made lemon vinaigrette for our salads. We learned 21 ways to cook a potato. We learned about numerous farmers and ranchers and look forward to eating their products. My ultimate victory was buying dried beans from Draper Girls Farms and Ayers Creek Farm at the Hillsdale Farmers Market.

Ayers Creek Farm beans

Ayers Creek Farm beans

We have a sacred stock pile of local food sectioned off in our pantry for our local loot. We tiptoe around this part of the cupboard careful not to use the foods that will sustain us when we resume our experiment next week. Next week can not come soon enough for me.

Stefan and I cooked together on Sunday night, our first night “off”. Surprisingly and pleasingly, many of the ingredients were grown within 100 miles of Portland and I am confident that we can find the non local ones nearby; it will just take time.

The Local Loot

The Local Loot

It was difficult to decide what to cook this first meal “off” and I slid easily into cooking not from what I may have been craving but from memories of experiences—ones where I laughed with friends. I was not as concerned with what I cooked but in recreating an experience of superb eating and dining with wonderful people.

When I used to travel to the bay area for work, a friend introduced me to Dona Tomas in Oakland. I have since taken my favorite people to this perfect spot. On our first night “off” I could not help but pay homage to people who cook and support local farmers the way that I want to every day. And, that is just what we did, the way they do at Dona Tomas. We made refried beans and chicken lime soup.

Dona Tomas Recipes

Sopa De Lima


1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 white onion, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 jalapeno chile, chopped
2 heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch dice
juice of 2 limes
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
about 6 teaspoons kosher salt
2 to 3 cups loosely crushed tortilla chips


Place broth in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to simmer.
In a sepearate soup pot, heat the oil over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly until the aroma is released. Add the jalapeno and tomatoes, and lightly saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and half of the cilantro, then remove the pan from the heat.

Pour broth into the pot of sauteed vegetables. Place the pot back on the stove top over high heat until it boils. Add a few pinches of salt, reduce heat to medium, and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until the flavors completely fuse. Add half of the shredded chicken (reserve the remainder for another use) and simmer for about 5 minutes, adjusting the seasoning with salt if necessary.

Ladle the soup into large bowls and top each with 1/2 cup of tortilla chips. Divide the remaining cilantro among the bowls. The garnish must be crispy and fresh and sized so that it fits on a soup spoon and provides appropriate contrast.

The soup can be refridgerated in a covered container for up to 3 days and reheated as necessary, but the tortilla and cilantro garnish should always be added at the last minute.

Refried Beans

1. Rinse and sort three cups of pinto beans. Place in a stock pot and cover with about three inches of water
2. Cook for about 3-4 hours, until the beans are tender
3. After the beans are done, in a separate pan, cook ½ cap lard and ¼ cup choizo until the fat is rendered.
4. Add the cooked beans and stir together.

These beans freeze great for about a month.

*Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 94, No. 5
Making Choices Impairs Subsequent Self-Control: A Limited-Resource Account of Decision Making, Self-Regulation, and Active Initiative.
Kathleen D. Vohs, PhD, and Noelle M. Nelson, PhD, University of Minnesota; Roy Baumeister, PhD, Florida State University; Brandon J. Schmeichel, PhD, Texas A&M University; Jean M. Twenge, PhD, San Diego State University; Dianne M. Tice, PhD, Florida State University


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