I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, whenever my in laws are visiting, I tend to have an above average number of kitchen mishaps. Take for example, the day a kitchen shelf “leapt” from the wall. It smashed my precious mortar and pestle received as a gift from Bjorn as well as a jar of balsamic reduction which spattered most of the kitchen with a thin layer of sticky brown goo. There were also those blueberry muffins that turned out like hockey pucks the day I invited Val for breakfast a few years back. Most recently, I attempted to make deviled eggs out of some lovely, fresh, farmer’s market eggs, and –the eggs would not peel. When the world hands you eggs that are locally grown, fresh, organic and lovely that –will not peel– make Disheveled Eggs! Disheveled Eggs start by following your favorite approach to making Deviled Eggs, mine being a stiff, simple egg yolk mixture with a little mayo, minced celery or shallot, salt, pepper and a bit of mustard to taste. The key to Disheveled Eggs is to pile on eye-catching, creative and tasty garnishes to disguise and distract from your less-than-perfect peeling and filling of the egg halves. Among my great garnish ideas either used or imagined are thinly sliced radishes, finely chopped chives, sprigs of dill and parsley, thinly sliced baby dill pickles, a tiny spoonful of capers, some flaky tuna or a little smoked salmon, a tiny bubble-tower of salty of caviar, a squirt of Sriracha “Rooster Sauce,” tiny olives, a heavy shake of smoked paprika, or a tiny pile of thinly sliced prosciutto. No matter how much you are sweating it in the kitchen, if you bring this platter of fancifully garnished eggs to table you will receive reactions of awe and delight–trust me. My quick-fix to classic deviled eggs was inspired by James Beard Award winning Canal House Cooks Every Day cookbook by Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hirsheimer not only did this lovely tome inspire many of my imaginative garnishes, but they finally gave me instructions to cook eggs from soft to medium to hard with reliable results. For the ambitious who prefer to follow a recipe, here is a deviled egg recipe using homemade mayo piped into the egg halves recently posted on Amateur Gourmet. Bon Appetit!
My garden and the farmer’s market are booming juicy ripe tomatoes. We have been enjoying tomatoes with reckless abandon with simple preparation: in BLT’s, in a caprese salad or sliced on their own. Another delicious and simple preparation that honors a juicy tomato is this uncooked tomato pasta sauce that I tossed with hot whole grain spaghetti. It contained sliced and chopped tomatoes, two chopped sweet Italian peppers, a clove of garlic- minced, chopped flat leaf parsley, basil, and a few dashes of red wine vinegar and the tiniest drizzle of olive oil. I mixed up the sauce and left it raw, then tossed it with the pasta, cooked al dente. I topped it with fresh cracked pepper, a little salt and a ball of Buratta: fresh mozzarella with a creamy center, opened for scooping a spoonful on to each plate. The Burrata is a nice texture compromise between ricotta and regular fresh mozzarella and really made this lush. This was a fabulous summer pasta and an easy way to focus entire meal on tomatoes, raw and in their finest form: juicy and warm from the vine. Summer’s lease hath too short a date! Dig in! My recipe is a mash-up of recipes from Martha Stewart (here and here) and from a recipe from Bon Appetit, with the addition of Burrata from my own imagination.
After a break from blogging over the summer, I’ve decided to make shorter posts more the norm. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.
Last year, we won a trip to Mexico. We liked it so much, this year we paid for the privilege to return. We went to Cozumel, and it was lovely, colourful, warm and most importantly, relaxing in every possible way. It was a few months ago, but for all practical purposes, we have barely seen the sun since. The late and rainy spring here in Saint Paul, Minnesota makes us extra glad we were able to have a winter getaway.
We spent the majority of our time in Cozumel on the beach. I spent a good portion of my time on the beach considering this functional branch and palm leaf umbrella that filled the gaps between the palm trees on the beach, providing shade. I wasn’t thinking about making one, or how someone made it, just that it exists, it is functional, humble and pretty and provides shade. That is all I could ask of the umbrella, and of myself. That, and snorkeling every day to look at the sea rays, seashells and pretty fish. This is a fire-breathing dragon sunning himself at our resort. Someone might mistake him for an iguana, but that person would be wrong. According to our scientific research, this is a fire-breathing dragon. Here is me, posing with one of the books Bjorn read on our vacation. I might have taken this picture to show off the manicure I gave myself on the beach. Bjorn read two books on our short vacay: Love Rock Revolution – K Records and the Rise of Independent Music by Mark Baumgartner and Big Day Coming – Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock by Jesse Jarnow. He devoured them and clearly enjoyed both of these non-fiction histories of his one of his favorite indie record labels and his favorite band. Since the trip, we have joked that Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley (of Yo La Tengo) were on the trip with us. Side note: on our vacation I only managed to read 5 magazines and one chapter of Big Day Coming and paint my nails. I really needed to be on vacation.
Classic vacation photo: the subject is extra good looking, you can see a reflection of a palm tree and the ocean in his Ray Bans and there is a guy taking a snooze behind him. And the model is extra good looking. That good looking vacationer came up with the perfect drink for a Mexican vacation or a Minnesota summer day: the Sideways Sol. This consists of a Sol beer and a shot of tequila. Add salt and lime if you like. This is a simple drink for vacation in Mexico slash summer. Don’t over think it. Don’t complicate it. Just enjoy it. This is what I mean about Mexico being colourful. There are mod murals on walls like this one. I don’t know what it is advertising, but I love the colour scheme.
This is another mod advertising mural. The colours of Mexico are vibrant, saturated and I can’t get enough.Eating off-resort favors the bold, experienced and bilingual. For a taste and texture adventure, one option we came across was tripe tacos. They are reportedly tasty!We could have ventured out to eat, but we didn’t. We took the path of the utmost easy-going every chance we could on this vacation. Early every morning when we walked to the beach we passed the snack bar at our resort where the cooks were scooping out the ripe green, soft interiors of halved avocados with large spoons, and chopping scores of tomatoes and onions and piles of cilantro and limes. The result was a lovely plate of chips with pico and guacamole like this one, that we enjoyed several times throughout this lovely, lazy, restorative trip. I hope, I so hope that we’ll get to go back.
For the most part, when it comes to imbibing, we are beer and wine people, with exceptions of course. For one thing, I like a marg on the rocks with my Mexican food, and the “Froggystyle” Salut Bar Americain’s gin cocktail with cucumber, mint and lime juice mostly, because it reminds me of the dozen or so dinners that I had with Bjorn on the Salut patio while planning our wedding. Every now and then, especially on a summer day, a refreshing and spunky cocktail can really hit the spot. This Aranciata Rossa Tequila cocktail that I mixed up recently was a good one. It will make more appearances on our patio this summer.
As evinced by this Instagram photo I snapped a few months ago, I am a little obsessed with San Pellegrino Aranciata soda, and anything else colored a deeply saturated rose hue, apparently.
I brought home 6 Aranciata sodas from Cossetta Italian Market which inspired a Google search for cocktail recipes. Most recipes I found included rum, except the “Mama Beth’s Poptail” recipe containing Aranciata soda and tequila posted on Mama Knows Her Cocktails. I was pleased to find a recipe uses reposado tequila since we brought home bottle from Mexico this winter. Mama Beth gets all the credit for the recipe, but I take credit for giving the cocktail a descriptive name and the addition of a cocktail umbrella and lime wedge to the presentation.
- Fill a glass with ice
- Add 2 ounces reposado tequila
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- A squeeze of fresh lime juice
- Top with 4 ounces San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa (blood orange soda)
- Swirl it with a straw and decorate the glass with a lime wedge and a cocktail umbrella (optional)– Enjoy!
This can easily be made into a non-alcoholic ”mocktail” for the children and tea-totalers in your crowd by omitting the tequila, so that everyone can get in on the fun – na zdraví!
I’ve been missing my blog! We’ve been busy visiting Mexico, hosting visitors, working and waiting for the snow to melt. Here’s a tasty and easy appetizer I made this morning that was inspired by Elsa’s Ham and Asparagus Toasts by Rachael Ray with a few tweaks– I used deli slices of prosciutto and Swiss cheese instead of ground ham and fontina, less butter and smaller slices of bread. These tweaks made the assembly easier, less expensive and more appealing, I think. It is easy to leave the prosciutto off of as many slices as desired to make this appetizer friendly to vegetarians.
- 1/2 pound thin asparagus spears
- 1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons of butter, melted
- 2.5 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
- 12 slices of Swiss cheese from the deli, halved
- 1/4-1/2 pound of thinly sliced prosciutto from the deli
1. Snap the woody ends off of skinny spring asparagus and steam for 2.5 minutes in salted, boiling water, then run the asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking.
2. Slice a baguette into 3/4 inch slices. Arrange the slices on a sheet pan, and toast the slices 6 inches below the broiler in the oven a minute or two.
3. Mix 2 tablespoons melted butter with 2.5 tablespoons of grainy Dijon mustard and brush over the toasted bread.
4. Top each slice with a pile of prosciutto, a halved sprig of asparagus and a half slice of Swiss cheese.
5. Return the sheet pan to the broiler and watch carefully. Remove when cheese is melted. Season with ground black pepper and serve on a platter.
I brought the platter to my family’s weekly Saturday morning coffee gathering, and came home with an empty platter. Success!
When the long Minnesota winter is starting to wear on us, there are certain classic recipes that we revisit every year. A bowl of homemade soup provides a fortifying boost of energy and straightforward, clean flavors that help a body endure the waning months of cold and darkness.
A steaming bowl of chicken or chicken-less noodle soup is a warming cure for winter blahs if I know one. It is so comforting if you have a cold. I don’t follow an exact recipe to make Chicken and Chicken-less Noodle soup. I chop a few peeled carrots, a few ribs of celery and onion, and saute them in a little oil until fragrant, but still crisp. Then, I add about 5 cups of broth, (homemade when I have it). I bring the soup to a point beyond a simmer and add two handfuls of frozen peas. When the soup returns to almost-boiling I add a few handfuls of egg noodles, and about a quarter cup of chopped fresh parsley. I like to use ample, wavy, dumpling egg noodles. They need 6-10 minutes of cooking time to cook to tender, but not soggy. In order to make chicken-less soup for myself, and classic chicken noodle soup for Bjorn, I saute chicken breasts or thighs separately. When the chicken is cooked through, I chop it and add a hearty serving of chopped chicken to his bowl. You can make a whole pot of chicken-less soup if everyone prefers, or you can saute the chicken along with the veggies if everyone at your house eats chicken. Before serving, I adjust the flavour with salt and pepper. If you are a stickler for following a recipe, Martha Stewart’s Chicken Noodle Soup is similar to my general guidelines, except that she doesn’t add peas; she opts for dill instead of parsley and she uses quick-cooking vermicelli noodles instead of wide egg noodles. This soup is flexible. You could add other veggies. For me, I like to stick to the classic Chicken Noodle soup ingredients, except that I leave out the meat.
A little while ago, Bjorn’s brother was under the weather, so we decided to bring him a serving of our soup. I removed a portion of the soup and put it in a disposable container before the noodles were fully cooked so that he could bring the soup up to temp without the noodles getting soggy.
To round out our care package, we added a bottle of fizzy mineral water for some electrolytes and a quarter-sleeve of saltines to go along with the soup.
I taped my handwritten instructions to a small bag with washi tape and we dropped the package off at Brett’s house, hoping to bring a little warmth and cheer to a dreary sick day. Homemade soup tastes wonderful and fills the house with a comforting aroma. This soup is made entirely of staples that are usually on hand in the pantry and freezer. Chicken Noodle soup cooks quickly and provides comfort, flavor and textures you just can’t get from a can. When you’ve had it with winter, remember to make this soup!
From our home in Saint Paul, Minnesota there are a number of great cities that make a doable weekend road trip. While I am huge a fan of Madison and Chicago, my personal favorite weekend road trip is “Minne to Winni”–the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The miles between these cities are the span between my current and former hometown. When you visit your hometown, you tend to visit your friends more than spend the weekend as a tourist. Still, we had in mind one place we wanted to check out: Parlour Coffee. Our friends, Ben and Jenny are friends with the owner, Nils, and have been talking the place up. Our friend Ben built these great birch plywood benches that sat outside Parlour in summer months. Parlour makes great coffee. It is ground and brewed to order. If you are going to visit Parlour, don’t plan to hang out and use the free WIFI–they have none. This is a place to stop for a perfect cup, a quick chat with your neighbour and be on your way. The decor at Parlour is spare. The walls are white, and the chandelier hanging over head stands out as a focal point in the sparsely adorned space. I snapped a picture of the chandelier (the first photo, above) and it happened to look like the cover art on Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album. The place is hip, and conveys the pared-down Kinfolk-sensibility; they are tuned into the beautiful simplicity of perfecting a craft. Parlour actually fits the Kinfolk model enough to have been featured on the beautiful Kinfolk blog, for a relatively new kid on the block in the heart of wintry Canada, this is a high compliment and an indication that this is a coffee business that is very much on the right track to succeed among those who appreciate simple, well-made luxuries as a high art.At Parlour we enjoyed a Gibraltar–a creamy, rich concoction of espresso and milk served with a flourish in a small glass tumbler. A Gibraltar isn’t on the menu, and you can’t have it to go. In the spectrum of espresso drinks, you’d find it somewhere between a cappuccino and a latte. Parlour has the art of coffee down. If you have been to Koplins in Saint Paul, it is a similar caliber of artisanal coffee experience. Upon hearing we were in town from Saint Paul, Parlour’s owner asked if we were familiar with Koplins, acknowledging that their offerings are comparable. In my opinion, both places serve marvelous coffee, but Parlour is friendlier and less pretentious. For example, I didn’t get lectured about ordering off-menu and requesting that my Gibraltar be prepared half-caf at Parlour, but I was read a mini-riot act following my typically innocuous request for skim milk in my latte on my first visit to Koplins–oops. The barista at Koplins informed me that I would probably be satisfied and choose to consume less over all if I drank real whole milk instead of skim in my latte. While possibly true and totally forgivable, I found the little lecture served on the side of my spendy whole milk treat a teeny bit unnecessary. You are looking to add a local food-loving yuppie to clientele, aren’t ya Koplins? If you spend 20 minutes on the premises of Parlour enjoying a sticky bun, you will see that people here know each other, know the baristas, greet each other warmly. They come to oogle each other’s new babies, but mostly the people come because the coffee is above average. When compared, Koplins is Minnesota nice, Parlour is Friendly Manitoba. I know where I feel most at home… Parlour is a wonderful addition to the ever-evolving Exchange district, formerly the heart of Canada’s grain trade, currently the artsy elbow between a gritty section of Winnipeg’s North Main, and the outstretched arm of Portage Avenue, which traverses downtown, and stretches west out of the city and across Canada as the Trans-Canada highway. One more tip for Parlour: pick up a pound of coffee and receive a complimentary espresso. Nice! In Winnipeg, Parlour is lovely and well worth visiting for a fine cup coffee. You will find yourself close to several galleries worth visiting: Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery and Raw Gallery of Architecture & Design, to name two.If you have a sweet tooth, Cake-ology is also just around the corner from Parlour, and is a great spot to stop to pick up a treat to go. We all ordered cupcakes and enjoyed our treat at home later in the evening. The frosting was luscious and not too sweet, and the cakes that were being decorated behind the counter of Cake-ology were lovely to behold. Winnipeg is a city with innumerable options for experiencing ethnic cuisine. On this visit we enjoyed the buffet at India Palace at 770 Ellice Avenue, and according to a Winnipeg Free Press article, laminated and posted near the buffet line, so has Richard Gere. We also enjoyed the mural on the wall outside. Before hitting the road for home we stopped at Safeway on North Main to pick up a few loaves of City Bread, also known as the bread of my dreams. City Bread, and a few other local bakeries such as KUB Bakery bake and sell wonderful rye and pumpernickel loaves in grocery stores throughout the city but nowhere else on earth, as far as I can tell. I have found no similar substitute. It is simply the best bread. We also brought home a half dozen bottles of Half Pints beer, brewed at Half Pints Brewery Co., one of Winnipeg’s first microbreweries, and certainly its finest. A few years ago, we toured Half Pints and were treated to fresh pretzels served with spicy mustard from Lange’s Pastry Shop, at 710 Ellice Avenue. Lange’s has become a regular stop for us while we are in the city.Several of Winnipeg’s Safeway grocery stores still boast the iconic 1960′s wave-style architecture.We made our way home Sunday afternoon, across the snowy, wind-blown prairie, along the border between Minnesota and North Dakota and back to Saint Paul. We enjoyed our weekend in Winnipeg; a place where I feel at home, but always find I have much to discover. We enjoyed our discoveries, but most of all, we enjoyed time with our friends. To experience these pleasant spots I’ve highlighted, or discover other treasures in this friendly, vibrant city, I encourage a Minne to Winni roadtrip, bring your passport, and perhaps your parka– and bring home bread.
You might think a person’s natural “Salad Season” would occur in the summer. Since I started photo-documenting the food we eat, I have discovered our true salad season occurs in the deep winter. We certainly don’t have a dazzling array of garden and local produce available, but even so, we do our best to choose the best produce and canned goods available to get by. This is probably the season when we need hearty salads the most here in the Midwest. Our bodies are hiding in bundles of clothing, we spend our time mostly indoors and in natural darkness, and we inevitably encounter a number of virus threats on a weekly basis. I consider these light, bright, crunchy, energizing, nutrient rich, colorful salads, [along with sleep] to be one of the secrets to a maintaining a pretty reliable immune system. They are also my January-February hope that when spring arrives, I will feel and look more springy than a person feels in the depths of winter.
Our first salad, shaved carrot, Parmesan, radish, white bean and raw sunflower seeds on romaine. I start preparing our salads by adding its prominent components to a bowl. Chop something crunchy (celery), add a protein (kidney beans), add any other vegetables you have on hand and wish to include (here, cukes and halved grape tomatoes) , toss with greens, (here, romaine and spinach). If you care to, add a flavor/texture ”treat” such as seeds, nuts, avocado, egg or a bit of cheese. This is the way to make a great winter a great salad.I typically toss greens with either some citrus juice, lime, lemon, orange or grapefruit or a flavored vinegar. My favorite vinegars are red wine, balsamic or tarragon vinegar. Then I drizzle just a few drops of olive oil and toss the greens. It is surprising how little oil you need to bring all of the flavors together. Sometimes I add a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard, or a teaspoon of honey or jam to the oil and vinegar/citrus mixture before mixing vigorously to add further flavor and help the dressing to emulsify before tossing the liquids with the greens. Chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs along with salt and pepper added according to taste complete the dressing. This salad is composed of beets, peeled bosc pear and sliced cucumber on mixed greens dressed with leftover grapefruit juice and fresh thyme dressing and a little pepper and salt. Don’t hesitate to open a can of beans, beets or citrus canned (hopefully BPA free) in its natural juice. There are many health benefits and few sacrifices when you add these nutrient-rich ingredients the easy way.
Another great salad is composed of corn, black beans, peeled and quartered cukes, minced scallion, halved grape tomatoes and pepitas dressed with lime juice, olive oil, honey and chili flakes over romaine. In my book, this winter salad is special, grapefruit supremes, sliced avocado and red beets on mixed greens with grapefruit juice and olive oil dressing with thyme leaves. Here is another hearty and satisfying salad we’ve enjoyed composed of shaved carrot, celery, chickpeas, sliced radish and provolone on romaine-spinach mix.
Salads in winter are limited by the produce in season, but those limitations can open up room for creativity. Salads like these complete a meal as a healthy side dish or stand as a meal on their own. Certainly, they brighten your plate and the winter— try ‘em.
If I were running for local office, I would promise a chicken in every pot and a wood-fired Neapolitan Pizza shop in every ‘hood. It would be an easy promise to keep, because we’ve got ‘em: Punch Neapolitan Pizza, Pizzeria Lola, Pizza Nea, Element, Black Sheep Pizza* all come to mind–all well-known, well-loved and everyone has their favorite. Also, almost everyone has a Neapolitan pizza shop a stone’s throw from their house, if they happen to live in the metro.We were in Northeast Minne and hungry last Sunday, so we stopped by Element for lunch. Over time, I’ve managed to make the rounds to many of the establishments in the Twin Cities Neapolitan pizza scene. Element is a tiny, triangular-shaped space filled with glossy and grainy woodwork, limited seating and sparse decor. We headed straight to the to counter place our order and spied the wood-fire pizza oven right in the front of the kitchen which is overseen by just a few cheerful employees. The menu on the wall lists 15 pizzas named for the 5 elements and other local references, a special and a long list of toppings for creating your own combination of toppings. Each pizza begins as either Napoli, seasoned with oregano; Margarita, seasoned with basil, or Bianco, topped with olive oil, mozzarella and no sauce. Having fallen for Neapolitan Pizzas at Punch, seeing Napoli and Margarita serve as the base of a thin-crust pizza topped with artisan ingredients, I am in familiar territory and I expect to taste a Neapolitan pizza I have come to know and love. We ordered a small Aegean salad to share, which was a generous portion of lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, olives with a house made vinaigrette served with several slices of tasty rosemary flatbread. Bjorn ordered a Nordeast topped with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and oregano. For a meat-eater, this combination of ingredients would be hard to pass up. I ordered a Napoli topped my way, with mushrooms and olives. As much as I know that trusting the Pizzaioli’s carefully curated pie toppings is the hip thing to do, I am a control freak and I like being able to select pizza toppings myself. I enjoyed the amply topped, chewy and slightly sweet, fire-kissed crust and found it filling enough to allow me to take home a few slices. The crust was more substantial than the very-thin, Punch crust that almost melts under its sweet, light yet earthy San Marzano sauce. In all, there were several similarities between Element and Punch’s approach to Neapolitan pizza–the Napoli and Margarita base, similar side offerings, such as the Aegean salad, which is nearly identical to the Greco at Punch, and is also served with Rosemary flatbread. I haven’t been to Naples, but I expect we’d find their influences there. Element veered away from the extremely minimalist approach to topping pizzas characteristic of all of the other pizzerias I’ve ranked in their cohort. While interesting topping combinations were available, Element avoided the extreme in topping one-of-a-kind juxtapositions achieved by Lola and Black Sheep. This straightforward unfussiness is probably why I liked it. Element, like Punch is a solid provisor of Neapolitan Pizza standards, with the option of flexible and ample and predictable toppings to satisfy the desires of my thrifty, picky Midwestern heart.
*At Black Sheep, pies are coal-fired which hearkens back to coal-fired pizzas in New York. In other words, this shop doesn’t qualify as Neapolitan, but their pizzas have a crispy-crust, minimally-topped with an assembly of curated toppings so I’m ranking them among the Neapolitan shops despite their intentional departures.
Like most people, soups are on heavy rotation at our house in the winter. I made this Cauliflower Soup with Toasted Garlic from a recipe in a recent Real Simple Magazine and a loaf of Jim Lahey’s wonderful No Knead Bread last Sunday. We had a few people over on Sunday night, so most of the bread was eaten up. I needed some inspiration for a quick side dish to make the leftovers into a square meal for supper on Monday night. Fortunately, the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living just arrived. I paged through it, and landed on a quick, simple and still luscious side dish, that made our cauliflower soup a satisfying meal–Sesame Toasts with Poached Egg and Avocado.
To the extent possible, I followed Martha Stewart’s recipe for Sesame Toasts with Poached Egg and Avocado, but for the arugula I subbed spinach, very lightly dressed with tarragon vinegar and olive oil and I subbed crunchy, toasted slices of No Knead Bread instead for Sesame Toast. I was able to duplicate the rest of the preparation using ingredients we had on hand. Yes, I treat our household to the purchase of fresh avocados almost every week. This is more of a reminder than a recipe, really. I occasionally need a reminder that eggs and avocado in their natural form are only a few minutes preparation away from becoming a sublimely luxurious, simple supper.This meal was on the table in minutes, was tasty and brought a little light into a dark winter evening. It works well with soup, or on its own, and it would also be wonderful for breakfast or lunch.