Cookbook Review: Portland Cooks

Nobody saw it coming, the national preoccupation with Portland’s food scene. What was newsworthy elsewhere was simply the way of life. Portland, it turns out, was on the cutting edge without ever trying to be, and now the city is synonymous with DIY scrappiness, rule-breaking creativity, and a die-hard collaborative spirit.

Portland Cooks presents 80 recipes from 40 of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars. Through their recipes, these chefs and bartenders offer a glimpse of what goes into your favourite dishes and drinks. And together, their stories paint a portrait of what makes life in Portland so delicious.

Some recipes are an adventure, requiring a trip to the Asian market while others are a snap to pull off on any given weeknight. But above all, they’re all designed with the home cook in mind.

Portland Cooks; Recipes from the City’s Best Restaurants and Barsis available at and

Roasted Beets with Coconut Milk, Curry Leaves, and Indian Spices

Serves 6

This has been one of the most popular, and vibrant, dishes on Bollywood Theater’s menu ever since it opened. The rich marinade of spicy coconut curry livens up the earthy beets, making them absolutely crave-inducing. All the components can be made ahead of time, making it that much easier to get this exquisite side dish on the table, even on a busy weeknight.

Coconut milk marinade ingredients

2 Tbsp canola oil

15 fresh curry leaves (see Note)

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced

13 1/2 oz can coconut milk

1/4 cup white wine vinegar


Indian spices ingredients

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp nigella seeds (see Note)

Beets ingredients

12 medium red beets

4 medium gold beets

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar


1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Coconut milk marinade method

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add the curry leaves, shallots, and serrano. Sauté until curry leaves are toasted and crispy, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced by one-quarter. Add white wine vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt. Allow to cool to room temperature. (Marinade can be made several days ahead and refrigerated.)

Indian spices method

Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium to low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop. Add the cumin and nigella seeds and cook until the cumin seeds are lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature. (Spices can be prepared several days ahead.)

Beets method

Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim the beet tops and roots to within 1/2 inch of the bulb. Wrap the red and gold beets separately in foil and roast for 50 to 60 minutes, until tender. Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks, and place the red beets and gold beets in separate bowls. Toss each with a tablespoon of vinegar and a generous pinch of salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Divide coconut milk marinade between the bowls and allow beets to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the red beets among the plates and top with gold beets. Spoon Indian spices on top and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Notes: You can find fresh curry leaves at specialty stores and Asian markets. They have a very unique flavour, almost like lemongrass, and are not at all related to curry powder.

Nigella seeds are tiny black seeds with a mild, oniony flavour. They are sometimes called kalonji or nigella sativa. They look like black cumin, or kala jeera, but are different. Look for them at Indian markets or through online retailers.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Figure.1 Publishing.

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