Alternative appetites

Since erupting on the scene in 2011, Portlandia has been shamelessly airing the ins, outs and oddities of Portland and its locals. Now, with the help of Grace Parisi (senior recipe developer for Food & Wine magazine), its stars—Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein—have sicced their comedic scopes on the culinary scene with the release of Portlandia Cookbook: Cook Like a Local.

From a strictly visual standpoint, the book is absolutely gorgeous. Using photographs from Evan Sung and illustrations by numerous local artits, it’s able to be both dynamic and twee all at once. And above that, it’s also just conceptually fun. Each recipe is inspired or paired with a character from the series, so that you might actually try one of Stu’s stews, or even roll the dice on a Gutterpunk pizza.

While it’s not a particularly vegetarian-friendly cookbook, the recipes that did fall within that restriction were, on the whole, pretty darn pleasant:

Summer Market Basket Salad

Granted, almost all of these ingredients are out of season, but with a few organic (albeit frozen) substitutions, it’s still totally do-able. But, because of this fact, I’d suggest doubling the suggested jalapeño quantity, because mild winter jalapeños leave it tasting more like a gazpacho—sweet and acidic—than a bold salad.

With that said, this was still a wonderfully crisp, light and summery dish. The dressing, however, is much thicker and less attractive than you’d expect, which is probably why the reference photo showed the salad undressed.

Marionberry Pancakes

I found these to be a little thin, especially considering they’d had both leaveners and whipped egg whites added. But their texture was still light, airy and moist.

As the recipe predicts, I simply couldn’t get my hands on any marionberries, but some plump blackberries were a perfectly imperceptible substitution. I would suggest making the compote ahead of time, though, for thickness if not for ease.

And really, the only part of these pancakes that wasn’t soul-satisfyingly great would be the addition of ricotta. Supposedly it aids in the moistness department and gives the cake center a custardy quality, but I found that it was difficult to incorporate and not particularly superior to buttermilk.

Spicy Garlic Pickles

The kind characters of Portlandia’s “We Can Pickle That” skit offer up five unique pickle variations that are just too hip to resist. Because it’s the only part of broccoli that I don’t particularly care for, I opted for their broccoli stem pickle and was certainly not disappointed.

I would, however, suggest using a touch less salt and at least one more pepper than you think you can handle because the marriage of that spice with the pickled stem produces a flavor not unlike pickled daikon. And while I wouldn’t suggest popping them on a burger, these pickles would definitely make an intriguing brunch snack or party app.

Sure, it’s a little pricey, painfully hip and some of the mock-recipes could literally kill you, but the Portlandia cookbook would still be a fun addition to any household. And, if all that fails to please, its artisan pretzel knot guide is positively to-die for.