Archive for the 'Feeling Minnesota' Category

Vegetarian Supper

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

All recipes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Beet salad with ricotta salata and olives

Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata and Olives

1 1/2 lbs. beets, steamed or roasted, peeled
1 sm. garlic clove
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
2 handfuls arugula
8 Kalamata olives
4 oz. ricotta salata, thinly sliced (I used Shepherd’s Hope cheese from Shepherd’s Way farm. Ricotta salata is a dry, tart sheep’s cheese from Italy. Another good sub is feta.)

Cut beets into wedges or large dice, keeping different colors separate. Pound the garlic with 1/4 tsp. salt in a mortar until smooth, then whisk in the lemon juice and olive oil. Dressing should be tart. Toss beets in enough dressing to coat lightly. Arrange beets on platter and garnish with arugula. Just before serving, tuck cheese and olives among the greens. If any dressing remains, spoon it over cheese.

Here’s a detail of the salad. I thought the beets looked like tuna sashimi. They were from a chiogga beet I’d roasted alongside red beets.

Detail: beet salad

For the main dish, I adapted one of my favorite dishes from the cookbook.

Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes

Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes (or, as 3yo Guppy says Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Tomatoes)

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 red potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes about the size of chickpeas
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-in. rounds
3-4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
2 plump garlic cloves mashed with 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 c. diced tomatoes
3 c. chickpeas, cooked, or 2 15-oz. cans, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/2 c. water, broth or wine
1/2 c. chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s lightly colored, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots, chile and garlic and cook for 5 minbutes more. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few twists from the pepper mill, and add the water. Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt, remove from heat and stir in parsley.

For dessert, I succeeded in saving the failed batch of fig jam from last week that I botched by putting in too much (1 teaspoon) ground cardamom. Madison notes, “Everyone needs a dessert to fall back on in a pinch, and this is one.” This saved the jam, was easy to make, and turned out well even though I forgot the baking powder! Now that’s a useful dessert recipe.

Fig jam tart

Jam Bars or Tart (I used a 9 inch tart pan)

1/4 (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown or white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 to 3/4 c. preserves
3/4 c. chopped walnuts, pecans or rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beat until smooth, then add dry ingredients except nuts.

Set aside about 3/4 c. of the dough and press the rest evenly into an 8 x 10″ baking pan or a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, or pie plate. Spread the preserves over the top. Mix the reserved dough with the nuts or oats and crumble it over the top. Bake until lightly browned on top, about 40 minutes. Let cool, then cut into squares or wedges. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Me vs. The Veg

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Here’s how I used last week’s box o’ veg:

Otsu, from Heidi Swanson’s book Super Natural Cooking:


Used up scallions and cuke, plus I added beet greens and blanched carrots to good effect.

Lime and Peanut Slaw, from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks site:

Lime peanut slaw

Used cabbage and tomatoes.

Paolo’s Eggplant and Green Olive Tapenade:

eggplant green olive tapenade

Used up eggplant.

Foccaccia with chard and red/gold tomatoes:

Chard and tomatoe foccaccia

I used Nick Malgieri’s dough recipe as the base, and added what I had on hand: chard, tomatoes, red onion and basil.

Green salad:


Used greens, thinly sliced chiogga beets, blanched green beans, chopped capers and goat cheese with green goddess dressing.

And finally, Roasted Cauliflower “Popcorn,” also from 101 Cookbooks:

roasted cauliflower popcorn

3yo Guppy ate some! 6yo Drake tried it! And G. Grod and I fought over the rest. This is really a great recipe.

Last Week’s Kitchen

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I’m in the midst of some vegetable anxiety. I still have nearly a full bin from last week (cabbage, scallions, onion, beet w/greens, carrots, lettuce, cuke) and just got the new box from our share at the farm: carrots, eggplant, onions, potatoes, squash, leeks, melon, tomatoes, basil. I will say again: buying a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share seemed like a good idea at the time, but it’s a lot of work to keep up with even our half share, especially since the kids often won’t eat what I make. (They DO love the farm’s carrots, though, as do I.)

Here were a couple things from last week, mostly from the CSA box (not the figs).

Here, Roasted Potato Slices with Lime and Chili. I’ve posted the recipe before, but not with a photo. I managed to snap this before it was devoured.

Roasted Potatoes with Chili and Lime

Not so the Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli Popcorn, which had a really lovely green and white contrast. Until it disappeared.

Our grocery coop had some lovely looking figs,

Black Mission figs

so I made fig jam from Super Natural Cooking again, served here with Bent River a camembert-esque cheese made by the Alemar Cheese Company, on slices of Rustica Bakery baguette.

Fig jam

Alas, I decided to experiment and added a whole teaspoon of cardamom (I’m on something of a cardamom kick) which turned the whole batch bitter. I’m not sure whether to add more figs, more honey or both. Here is the base recipe, which I made before with very good results.

Fig Spread with Black Pepper and Toasted Sesame Seeds from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

1 1/2 lb. ripe fresh Black Mission figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2″ dice
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 c. honey
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. toasted unhulled sesame seeds

Toss chopped figs and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Stir in the honey and black pepper and set aside for 10 minutes. The figs will start to break down and get soupy. Pour the fig mixture in to a large, heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a slow, gurgling boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the figs start to reduce and thicken, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sesame seeds and remove from the heat. Let the spread sit for 5 minutes, taste, and add more pepper to taste if needed.

This spread may be canned as you would other jams, but it keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator. Makes 3 cups.

And my friend A. corralled my friend The Hoff and me to make soup for twenty for a Kevin Reich for Ward 1 fundraiser. We made a quadruple batch of squash stew based on a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Squash soup

There were many compliments, and they sounded sincere, so I think the soup was a success. I’ve made it before, and would definitely make it again.

Thai Tofu and Autumn Squash Soup, adapted from a recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 medium leeks, white parts only, cleaned, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 Tbl. peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 serrano chiles, minced
1 Tbl. finely grated ginger
1 Tbl. curry powder
1 tsp. light brown sugar
3 Tbl. wheat-free tamari
32 oz. mushroom broth
1 15 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 lbs autumn squash (we used a mix of butternut and delicata) peeled and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
1 10-oz. pkg. silken firm tofu cut into 1/2″ cubes
Juice of one lime
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/3 c. chopped peanuts

Heat peanut oil in wide soup pot. Add leeks and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, most of chiles, and ginger; cook 1 minute more, then add curry, sugar and soy sauce. Reduce heat to medium, scrape pan, and cook for a few more minutes. Add broth, coconut milk, squash, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat Puree some or all of soup, in blender or with immersion blender. Taste for salt, add tofu, lime juice and cilantro.

Fry peanuts in a little peanut oil over medium heat in a small skillet, then chop. Serve stew over basmati or jasmine rice, garnished with peanuts and remaining chili.

This is a vegan, gluten-free soup. Plain yogurt with a little cardamom would make a nice garnish and you can try pepitas instead of peanuts. Serves 4.

“Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single” by Heather McElhatton

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

From Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single by Heather McElhatton:

Don’t think about the impending roundup meeting or my mother or my sister’s wedding or any of the things I was going to do and then I didn’t. Don’t think about the last ten years, which have collapsed in a lightning split-second, and even though I’m not sure what I was doing for ten years, we can be sure I wasn’t getting married or having kids or buying a house, or working on getting out of Minnesota.

We can be sure of that…

I keep thinking it’s not too late; I can still turn everything around. I could meet a guy any days now who would sweep me off my feet, and he would happen to be a millionaire just like Jane Austen planned for all us cheeky, uppity modern girls.

Jennifer is an everywoman: thirty something with a snide boss, a cubicle job writing copy for a Minneapolis department store, a Cinnabon obsession, and smarts she doesn’t quite know what to do with. Online dating is a nightmare, and she doesn’t have a date for her sister’s wedding. She’s Bridget Jones in Minnesota.

Then Jennifer meets someone, and he asks her out. He’s handsome and from a wealthy family. But as they date, her “gay bee” friend Christopher in the Visual department doesn’t like him, and her co-worker Ted is suddenly cold to her.

As I read this book, I thought I knew what was going on and where it was headed. I was puzzled by how unlikable Jennifer often was, but appreciated her sense of humor, her sharp observations, and wanted to see what happened to her. When I finally did, though, I was shocked. McElhatton utterly surprised me. Initially, I thought she was crazy. As the ending and the book melded together, though, I saw the method to the ostensible madness.

Jennifer Johnson, both the book and the character, show what we think we want, and what happens when we try to get it, and IF we get it. But there are no easy answers here, and I shouldn’t have expected any. I read and enjoyed McElhatton’s tart and clever Pretty Little Mistakes: a Do-Over Novel in 2007. What I enjoyed most about it were the unexpected twists and turns of karmic irony that seemed as much to do with fate than free will. Jennifer and her story would fit right into one of the “what happens next” scenarios from that book.

This book looks like chick lit, and much of it reads like that. Lurking beneath the surface and eventually rearing its head, though, is a complex, dark streak that takes this book another place entirely. This is not a sunny beach read, as I thought it would be. It’s something much more interesting and cool. Bravo.

Zucchini Three Ways

Monday, September 21st, 2009

My friend E inherited a giant zucchini from a friend. Stressed from a recent move, she re-gifted it to me. I peeled, seeded and shredded it, which filled 6 3-cup containers–about 12 zucchini’s worth, I’d guess. I gave three containers away, then got to work.

First was having another go at the Chocolate Zucchini cake. I remembered the cocoa this time. And since I’d peeled the zucchini, there weren’t any telltale green flecks in the cake; my boys devoured this.

chocolate zucchini cake

Next was a zucchini saute with fresh corn, tomatoes, onion and jalapeno in a chili-lime sauce. Better in theory than in its soggy reality. Zuke is just too watery to saute.

Zucchini saute

Finally, I made another go at zucchini bread, adding golden raisins and telling the boys it was raisin spice bread since there were no telltale green flecks. It was much more popular with the kids under its new name.

zucchini bread

And that’s the end of that zucchini, and (I hope) zucchini this season.

This Week’s Vegetables

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The veg box from our farm share this week had all the colors of the rainbow, save blue*.

CSA veggies 9/10/09

I used the salad mix with a fresh tomato, garnished with chopped bacon, with blue cheese dressing made with Big Wood’s Blue from Shepherd’s Way Farm–adding blue to the week’s rainbow!

Blue Cheese Dressing, from Cook’s Country, Serves 6

If buttermilk is not available, use milk to create a somewhat lighter dressing.

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
5 tablespoons buttermilk
5 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Using fork, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together in small bowl until mixture resembles cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

I made caprese pasta again, with the onion and other tomato, and served it over spinach as a warm salad.

Carrots and melon went into Drake’s lunch. And he ate them!

Drake's Laptop Lunchbox

For the remaining spinach, I unearthed this recipe:

spinach salad

Wilted Spinach Salad with Miso Dressing, adapted from one by Ron Barron

2 slices whole wheat bread, buttered and toasted
1 medium garlic clove, sliced in half

1/2 Tbl. balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbl. white miso
reserved garlic clove

1 bunch spinach, stemmed
1/4 c. kalamata olives

2-3 Tbl. olive oil

Rub cut side of garlic over buttered side of each piece of toast. Mince or press garlic and reserve. Cut toast into half-inch square croutons.

In large bowl, whisk together vinegar, miso and garlic. Top with spinach and olives.

Heat olive oil in small saucepan till shimmering (not smoking). Pour over salad. Toss to coat and wilt. Add croutons and toss again. Serve.

And the Veggie Slaw turned into a vehicle for almost all the remaining veg:

Veggie slaw

Veggie Slaw, starring broccoli, adapted from the Broccoli Slaw at Smitten Kitchen

Makes about six cups of slaw

1 heads of broccoli, trimmed
1 bunch celery, trimmed
2 or 3 carrots, peels and chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/3 cup dried golden raisins
3 scallions, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken (or mix 1/2 c. whole milk and 1/2 Tbl. vinegar or lemon juice; let sit for 5 min.)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 scallions finely chopped

Optional: 2 slices bacon

Cut broccoli, celery and carrots into large chunks, then chop into smaller ones, or use a mandoline or food processor. Stems of broccoli are OK, even good.

Toss the sliced veggies with the peanuts, raisins and chopped scallions in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss well.

For optional bacon: fry in pan until brown, drain well on paper towels, then chop.

Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped bacon.

Adaptations: substitute difference crisp veggies, like cauliflower, kohlrabi or turnip. Use different nuts or dried fruit. Use different onions like red, sweet or shallots.

*On an episode of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio claimed, in a voice of authority, that there were no blue foods. I suspect he maintains that all foods we think are blue are actually green or indigo. I can’t find anything to support his claim, but many to refute it: blue cheese, blue potatoes, blueberries, blue grapes, blue plums, and chokecherries, and blue-colored herbs, including borage, hyssop, rosemary, sage.

Interestingly, because blue foods are rare, the color blue is an appetite suppressant.

“World Gone Beautiful: Life Along the Rum River” by Linda Buturian

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

World Gone Beautiful by Linda Buturian was this month’s pick for my book group. I was glad to read and support a local writer, but I was even more interested to learn about Buturian’s unique living situation that she and a group of friends and family have created on the Rum River near the small towns of Princeton and Milaca Minnesota:

A commune, a planned neighborhood, an intentional cul-de-sac, the compound. What are we? For eight years now, four families have lived next to each other on a piece of land in rural Minnesota…We are middle-aged friends who bought land together and are living and raising our kids alongside each other. It continues to make good sense. (120)

Through a series of linked, deliberately non-chronological essays, Buturian uses words to sketch impressions of her life in the deliberate community she and her friends created in 1996. It’s a history, a journal of sorts, and an ongoing meditation on the questions of “what have we done/what are we doing?”

The idea came first. Linda and her friend Debbie talked about buying land and living as neighbors when they were theology students in Oregon. Then came the land in Minnesota, the building and renovations, the animals and the children.

This is not a how-to manual, or even necessarily an encouragement to do what they have done. Buturian is refreshingly honest about the ambivalence she often feels, and how the joys and rewards are sometimes fleeting compared to the irritation and hard work of the life they’ve created. Like Anne LaMott, an author she mentions in the book, Buturian has a wry and self-deprecating sense of humor that keeps her observations afloat above depression or self-involvement. She interweaves stories of parenting, relationships, and religion as LaMott has done, with ecology and sociology thrown in for good measure.

This is a thoughtful, provocative book, especially for those who’ve wondered about moving off the grid, or at least away from a city for more land and greater peace. Buturian makes it clear their “cul-de-sac” is no utopia, but it certainly has its idyllic moments, which I found delightful to read about and ponder.

Plum Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

From Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, recommended by my friend Duff. This dessert can be made in individual ramekins, or a 10″ skillet, which I used. It can be made with any small stone fruit, such as apricot, plum or pluot. I chose a local variety of plum, though mine were too ripe. Look for ones that DON’T resemble water balloons, the authors of this book say. This is the second dessert I’ve made from this book and both were very good. The recipes are well-written, as you’ll see below, and the baking is non-fussy–no need to remove skins!

Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake
Baking time 30 min. for ind. cakes, 45 to 50 min. for 10″ skillet. Serves 8.

Fruit Topping

4 small stone fruits such as apricots, plums or pluots
1/4 c. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. packed (3 3/4 oz) brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Score the skin of the fruits with a few strokes of a knife, then slice them in half and remove the pits.

To prepare the fruit topping for individual cakes, distribute the melted butter among eight 5-oz. ramekins, brushing the butter up onto the sides of the ramekins. Sprinkle 1 Tbl. of the brown sugar in each ramekin, then place half of a stone fruit on top of the sugar, cut side down. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

Alternatively, to prepare the fruit topping for a single large cake, melt the butter in a 10″ cast-iron skillet set over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and blends with butter to form a caramel. Remove from the heat and arrange the fruit halves on top of the caramel, cut side down.


1 1/4 c. (6 1/4 oz.) all purpose flour
3/4 c. (3 3/4 oz.) fine cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 c. (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp.
2/3 c. (4 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk

To make the cake, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Distribute the batter evenly among the ramekins (about 1/4 c. per cake) on top of the fruit, or transfer all of the batter to the skillet and gently spread it evenly over the fruit. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 min for ind. cakes or 45 min. for the skillet, or until the center of the cake springs back lightly when touched.

Plum Cake, upside up

Allow the ind. cakes to cool for 5 min. before inverting onto plates; the large cake will need 20 minutes to cool before you flip it over.

Plum cake, upside down

Storage: This cake is best if eaten the day it is made, but any leftovers can be covered with plastic wrap and enjoyed the following morning for breakfast.

Plum Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake, detail

Using up Late-Summer Veg

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Here’s a colorful dinner from last week.

Salad with Green Goddess dressing

Green salad with sliced raw turnip, chopped raw broccoli, and green goddess dressing, which is such a good recipe I’m going to post it again:

Green Goddess Dressing, from Cook’s Country

Makes 1 1/4 cups—enough for 6 wedges of lettuce

To appreciate the full flavor of this rich dressing, drizzle it over chilled wedges of mild iceberg lettuce or leaves of romaine lettuce. A blender yields a brighter, slightly more flavorful dressing, but a food processor will work, too.

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 medium clove garlic , chopped
1 anchovy fillet , rinsed and dried
1/4 cup chopped chives

1. Combine tarragon, lemon juice, and water in small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Blend tarragon mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, garlic, and anchovy in blender until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to medium bowl, stir in chives, and season with salt and pepper. Chill until flavors meld, about 1 hour. (Dressing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

Yellow- and blue-corn nachos with WI cheese and canned black beans that I sauteed with tomatoes, jalapeno, corn and onion from last week’s CSA farm share box, garnished with sour cream and K8’s homemade salsa.

Veggie nachos

End-of-Summer Cooking

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I’m not the only one cooking and baking. A couple weeks ago, I came home from yoga class to this:


My husband G. Grod and the boys made biscuits, which were very good.

My next baking attempt was Drake’s birthday cake, with the recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

birthday cake

The sour-cream chocolate frosting was too rich, so I may try a ganache next time. The boys really liked the “6″ constructed of Lego candy.

I’d long meant to try the oatmeal cookie recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious. It calls for zucchini puree, which produces a dark brown cookie with no telltale veggie taste. While tasty, these cookies wouldn’t hold together. I find her recipes hard to work because they call for ridiculous low-fat ingredients like egg whites and trans-fat free tub margarine. Puh-lease. This is cooking for kids. It’s OK to use whole eggs and butter. Perhaps that’s why my cookies didn’t turn out.

oatmeal cookies w/zuke

For a simple supper, I made a pasta caprese, with red and yellow tomatoes. It was lovely to look at and good to eat, plus used up the tomato, onion, and basil from my veg share.

Caprese pasta

Pasta Caprese, from Cooks Illustrated

This dish will be very warm, not hot. The success of this recipe depends on high-quality ingredients, including ripe, in-season tomatoes and a fruity olive oil (the test kitchen prefers Columela Extra-Virgin). Don’t skip the step of freezing the mozzarella, as freezing prevents it from turning chewy when it comes in contact with the hot pasta. If handmade buffalo- or cow’s-milk mozzarella is available (it’s commonly found in gourmet and cheese shops packed in water), we highly recommend using it, but skip the step of freezing and add it to the tomatoes while marinating. Additional lemon juice or up to 1 teaspoon sugar can be added at the end to taste, depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (see note above)
1 small garlic clove , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 small shallot , minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes , cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note above)
1 pound penne pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusilli or campanelle
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar (see note above)


1. Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside. Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

2. While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.

3. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

Baking, again, I tried the Bon Appetit recipe for Top-Crust peach pie with cardamom. My peaches weren’t ripe enough (a hazard of living in MN) and it was very wet, but the crust and juice were very tasty.

Top Crust Peach Cardamom Pie

Yesterday’s farm share box had the following veg in it: spinach, corn, broccoli, turnips, onions, melon and tomato. Last night I made a green salad topped it with chopped broccoli florets, peeled and sliced turnip and carrot and chopped tomato with a green goddess dressing that’s been our go-to recipe all summer. It was bright, simple, and good.

Green Goddess Dressing, from Cook’s Country

Makes 1 1/4 cups–enough for 6 wedges of lettuce

To appreciate the full flavor of this rich dressing, drizzle it over chilled wedges of mild iceberg lettuce or leaves of romaine lettuce. A blender yields a brighter, slightly more flavorful dressing, but a food processor will work, too.

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 medium clove garlic , chopped
1 anchovy fillet , rinsed and dried
1/4 cup chopped chives

1. Combine tarragon, lemon juice, and water in small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Blend tarragon mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, garlic, and anchovy in blender until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to medium bowl, stir in chives, and season with salt and pepper. Chill until flavors meld, about 1 hour. (Dressing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

State Fair, MN Cooks Day 2009, Sans Kids

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

MN State Fair

Our friend Queenie and her now-husband Blogenheimer introduced us in 1999 to the wonder that is the MN State Fair. I have been every year since; this is my tenth anniversary and my 11th fair. Drake arrived about a week before the fair in 2003. My husband G. Grod didn’t think it was a good idea to take a newborn to the fair, no matter how I wheedled, so Queenie and I went for a quick trip between feedings. Drake’s first fair was 2004; Guppy’s was 2006. This year, G. and I attended the State Fair on our own, without kids, just like in the old days.

To begin, we checked out the demonstration for the MN Cooks panel that hour, sampled some lamb, then had roast corn for breakfast, quickly followed by a root beer and one of my favorite fair treats, a chocolate-covered mocha on a stick from J & S Coffee (available year round at The Bean Factory in St. Paul!)

We had to ask directions to the new Spam stand, but the breakfast sandwich was worth it. I am not generally a fan of Spam, but something about the soft white bun, oozy orange cheese, a slab of salty Spam and a fried egg created a perfect storm–an utterly crave-able breakfast item. We devoured it.

Next were fried green tomatoes dipped in ranch sauce with a bit of Tabasco mixed in, suggested at Heavy Table. Unfortunately, the Tabasco bottle was set on full-throttle, so our sauce was more spicy than we liked, but tomatoes and sauce were still good. I got the combo plate with corn fritters. I enjoyed them and their accompanying honey butter; G. Grod was less impressed.

G. got his annual fried cheese curd fix while I tried one of the new items recommended at Heavy Table. The cheese curds were as good as always. The $3 Lefse Delight was not. The idea of it–soft thin potato bread wrapped around tart lingonberries and topped with whipped cream and crunchy almonds–was good. In reality, though, the lingonberries were sour, the whipped cream was wet and overly sweet, and the almonds weren’t crunchy. Instead, I’d opt for a more traditional lefse offering, like butter and brown sugar.

Outside the Eco experience, we stopped for a local Minne-soda. I wanted to try both flavors, but at $4 each, I picked the maple over the chokecherry. It was flavorful but way too sweet for our tastes. Next year, the other flavor. On the way back we looked around the Fine Arts and Creative Activities displays, something not possible with the kids.

In a lame attempt at more substantive food, I got one of my favorite items from last year, Axel’s tater tots on a stick–fried potatoes, cheese, bacon, and a sour cream/chili powder dipping sauce. I liked them well enough, but G. didn’t care for them.

A cider freezie hit the spot while I tracked down the Salty Tart outpost, which I eventually found in the Produce Exchange across from the International Bazaar. $5 seemed steep for 3 macaroons, but their compact sweet insides and dense outer crusts made me understand why these are named “Crack-aroons.”

G took the opportunity to check out the butter sculptures of the fair royalty candidates,

Butter sculptures

and got a chocolate malt in the Dairy Building, then we made our way back to the food demonstrations to see Judi Barsness of Chez Jude (where we celebrated out 10th anniversary on a weekend getaway to the North Shore last fall) and J.D. Fratzke of St. Paul’s Strip Club (where my friend K8 and I recently attended the wonderful Simple Good and Tasty August supper).

Cooks demo

Local farmers attended from Pastures Aplenty, whose bratwurst and sausage are regular items in our family, and Hidden Stream Farm, whose cheddar bratwurst we enjoyed last summer. We were able to sample Fratzke’s dish, which he called a PPLT: pork, pancetta, lettuce and tomato, on focaccia with seasoned mayo. It was an upscale sandwich to die for.

For “dessert,” I got a cone of Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies and glass of milk, then we wondered if we should stay or go. We let a street-blocking parade help us decide, and had a lemonade on the way to the exit, where we passed K8 and her family coming out of the Miracle of Birth barn, having just seen a calf born.

G. and I didn’t stay much longer than I had with the kids and didn’t spend much more either. It was a good day, with beautiful weather and not too crowded. Like my trip with the kids, it would be nice to make this an annual tradition.

MN State Fair with the Kids

Monday, August 31st, 2009

My husband G. Grod doubted the wisdom of it, but I wanted to take 6yo Drake and 3.5yo Guppy to the MN State Fair on opening day, or “Thrifty Thursday.” Normally, I go to the fair on a compulsive food bender, so I knew if I was going by myself with the boys I’d have to make a new plan. That plan was to play it by ear and keep expectations low, and it worked pretty well. It’s a great day to go–the crowds are historically thin, the weather was sunny and not hot, it’s cleaner and less smelly earlier on, and there are discounts to get in and on kid rides.

Earlier this year, I bartered away our double stroller. We still have a wagon, and strollers can be rented at the fair, but I decided we’d only stay as long as the boys could walk. Seemed like a reasonable boundary. I set a budget of $60, figuring (or rather, hoping) about a third each for entry, rides and food. My food plan is to always order the smallest size, and share it.

We parked at the U and took a shuttle bus to the Gate 20 entry, where the discounted fee was $9 for me and $6 for Drake. Inside, we started with a pork chop on a stick, $6.50. The boys were suspicious, but quickly helped me devour it. We followed it up with a small order of Famous French Fries, $4.75, which I find good, but the fries are way too short. The boys loved dipping them first in the malt vinegar and then in the ketchup. I’d brought our Sigg bottle full of water so we didn’t have to buy any, and we moved on to the River Ride, which cost a whopping $3.50 per person, even for Guppy. I got almost completely soaked, and spent the next few hours looking as if I’d wet myself. Nice.

I tried to steer the boys up Underwood to the Food building and then to the kids rides and little farm hands. Drake insisted he wanted to go on the Sky Ride, so we followed it along the ground, got on and rode it back to the Ag building next to the food building–$6 for me and Drake, Guppy rode free. The boys, unlike their mother, were completely unafraid of heights and the bumps and shakes of the car.

At this point I’d deflected at least half a dozen requests for cotton candy, and was able to distract them by asking if they’d like Fried Cheese Curds. That got their attention. We entered the Food Building, saw our neighbor L and her twin sons, then moved quickly through the line at the Mouth Trap. The boys were frustrated at having to wait till the $5 curds cooled, but seemed to think it was worth it. We followed them with a bag of Tom Thumb mini donuts, $4, and we all three managed to save 2 to take home to Dad. Yay, us.

Outside, we got a small 1919 root beer, one of my favorite and least expensive fair treats, $1. Fully sugar-bombed, the boys wanted to head to the rides. We stopped by the Rainbow jungle-gym play area on the way, and saw friend N and her son S. The boys went down the slides again and again. Best of all? Free.

The kids rides, however, were decidedly not free, and even discounted used up a chunk of our budget–$9 for Drake to ride the swings and Guppy and him to ride the balloon ride. Guppy was visibly drooping, so I started herding the boys toward the bus. On the way, though, they said they were hungry again. I suggested a Pronto Pup, the batter-dipped and fried hot dog of MN origin. Drake insisted he wanted a corn dog. I foolishly barreled up to the next stand I saw and ordered a “small”.

“That’ll be $7,” the man said, holding out a double dog, since the stand only sold double and triples. While I fumed about breaking the budget and too much hot dog, Drake and Guppy methodically devoured the whole thing.

As we approached the exit, I asked again if the boys wanted to go in the baby animal barn; Drake had said no to it earlier, but was excited to see a newborn calf, alongside pigs and sheep and miniature ponies. I was able to herd them out of the barn and out of the fair to the bus by 2:00, 3 and a half hours after we got there, and $8.75 over my $60 budget. Guppy fell asleep on the car ride home, then I had to have a little nap when we got there.

I didn’t eat nearly the number of foods I normally do, but I knew I’d be going back on Tuesday 9/1 for Minnesota Cooks Day, so I didn’t fret. We ate, we walked, we did some free stuff, we rode some rides. None of us had a meltdown. Not only did we survive, we had a good time. I think we may have started a new family tradition.

For more on food at the Fair, visit local foodie site Heavy Table, where I’ve gotten a lot of tips on what to eat on my next trip.

MN Local Food Events

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Tues. September 1 is the seventh annual Minnesota Cooks Day at the MN State Fair. Tickets are only $9 for adults that day.

The program consists of a series of shows featuring outstanding chefs from throughout Minnesota demonstrating their talents and interacting with various emcees who interview the Minnesota farmers who produced the food, as well as local celebrity tasters.

From Slow Food Minnesota:

Time for Lunch at Shepherd’s Way Farms

A Slow Food USA potluck in support of Healthy food in schools
Labor Day, September 7, noon — 3 p.m.
8626 160th Street, Nerstrand, MN 55053

Join us at Shepherd’s Way Farms for a community potluck. The “Eat In” is part of Slow Food’s National Day of Action, during which thousands of people will be gathering across the country to show their commitment to better school lunches. One goal of the Eat Ins is to remind Congress that we need a Child Nutrition Act that supports real food for kids.

Everyone is invited to attend this free event – registration required. Please bring a homemade dish to share and your own plates and utensils. Drinks will be provided. Register by e-mail: farmfriends(at)earthlink(dot)net, or phone: 507 663-9040. Please include your name, address, contact information and number of people attending.

I’ve written about Shepherd’s Way many times, and Guppy and I received adopted sheep gifts. They are a great farm, and need the support!

September 13 DILEMMA!

Two great local food events to choose between. Going to both is technically possible, though.

A Fowl Affair
A festive day on a poultry farm
Sunday, September 13, 2 — 7 p.m.
Callister Farm, West Concord, MN

There will be tours of the farm and processing plant, root beer floats, horse-drawn wagon rides, games for kids and of course a delicious farmer’s meal of fried chicken (Callisters’ Poulet Rouge), potatoes, vegetables, salads, bread, pickles, and fresh raspberry pie. Wine, beer and soft drinks are included. Everything is made from scratch, from local ingredients, in the Callister’s processing kitchen. Members, $20. Non-members, $30. Children 12 and under, free. Proceeds will benefit Slow Food Minnesota’s Terra Madre fund. No pets, please.

Simple Good and Tasty September Dinner: Potluck and Pig Roast

For September’s Simple, Good, and Tasty local food dinner, we’re trying something a little bit different - the biggest, best, funnest local food potluck and pig roast that the Twin Cities has ever seen. SGT will provide the pig - you bring your family, friends, and a dish to share. This is a great, inexpensive opportunity to meet local food enthusiasts, cook up your CSA/farmshare bounty, and eat great food.

The meal will be held at Minneapolis’ Boom Island Park. Boom Island is conveniently located near downtown (724 Sibley St. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413), and features a playground and great views of downtown Minneapolis.

Tickets for the event cost only $10 (to cover the cost of the pig and the park shelter), and kids are free. Sunday September 13, 5pm.

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

My weeklong vacation ends today. My husband G. Grod took our sons, now-6yo Drake and 3.5yo Guppy, to PA to visit friends and stay with family. By all accounts, they had a wonderful time while I got to enjoy a week-long stacation. Several people asked me what I’d do with the time. Unlike vacations past, I made no hard and fast plans, and knew going in that whatever project to-do list I set would be theoretical. My priorities were rest, rejuvenation, reading and writing. I did all those things and more:

Bought chocolate and cupcakes from Local D’lish and Surdyk’s on the way home from dropping the boys at the airport.

Bought the John Hughes High School Flashback DVD set at Barnes and Noble, with Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science. (see recent entry on John Hughes.) Bough new Mercy Watson book, Something Wonky This Way Comes, and Shaun the Sheep DVDs, all ostensibly for Drake’s birthday. (But perhaps akin to a bowling ball inscribed with “Homer”.)

Had two girls-only tea parties using my china tea set.

Played Lexulous with my sister Sydney this week. (More accurately: got beat soundly by Syd on Lexulous this week.)

Went to five yoga classes in seven days, adding to my normal classes at Neti Neti by returning to lovely TaraNa and visiting the serene One Yoga.

Attended the Mad Men premiere party at Jax with my friend K8.

Mad Men party @ Jax

Saw the original Day the Earth Stood Still at the Heights.

Got my knives and scissors sharpened and bought a sharpening steel and new cutting board at Eversharp.

Cleaned out my linen closet but didn’t find the missing bathroom floor tiles to be replaced.

Swam laps at the Jim Lupient water park.

Got my brows waxed at Extrados.

Got my hair trimmed at Wave.

Got my nostril (re-) pierced at St. Sabrina’s.

Finally watched Kurosawa’s take on MacBeth, Throne of Blood.

Read 200+ pages in Infinite Jest; I’m close to the end!

Attended the Simple, Good and Tasty dinner at The Strip Club with my friend K8

Simple Good and Tasty @ Strip Club

then stayed up till 1am to watch the finale for Top Chef Masters and the premiere of Top Chef Las Vegas.

Attended a Project Runway party for the All Star special and the Season 6 premiere at my friend KM’s. (Go, MN designers!)

Finally went to Town Talk Diner with my friend Queenie.

Stayed up late, slept soundly, and made my own double cappuccinos every morning (my husband G. Grod usually makes them for me; I finally learned how to do them myself.)

double capp

And this morning, my last, I went to “gentle” yoga with Jeffrey at TaraNa, then to Crema Cafe for a local organic scramble and a Sonny’s latte (that’s a regular latte with a scoop of their espresso-infused Crema ice cream!),

Breakfast @ Crema Cafe

then stopped at Mitrebox to pick up Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Bomb cupcakes, then to Local D’lish to pick up Kettle Corn, Honey Walnut Fig and Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes, all to welcome the boys back. (Again, ostensibly. See above comment about bowling ball w/Homer.)

What I didn’t do: work in the yard, organize and clean. Fret.

I’ve had a terrific week, and I can’t wait to see G and the boys. I believe (and hope) I’ll be a better mom in the coming weeks because of this break. Maybe I’ll even have more energy to tackle some of those tasks I put off.

Two Weeks of Summer Salads and Such

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

This summer is the first I’ve done a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm, Foxtail Farm. Two thirds of the way through summer and I’m feeling burnt out on veg. Some of this is circumstantial: my 3 and 5yo boys will eat little of what arrives in our weekly box except carrots. Some of it is seasonal: summer is high growing season, so there’s a use-it-or-lose-it aspect for the increasing volume of fresh produce. Finally, though, it hits me in my week spots of anxiety and compulsion–I feel anxious about having to use up the veg, and compelled to use them in creative ways, which generally involved a lot of cooking or prep.

I’m not sure what the solution is. No CSA next year? Go down to a quarter share from a half weekly, or alternate weekly half shares with another family? Stop trying to be creative and just steam things in great batches? I love cooking in season with fresh local produce, supporting local farmers, and to a point I love the challenge of cooking what shows up, but I need to find a way that’s less exhausting to me. Fortunately, though, the prep pays off; most of what we make is quite tasty.

A trio of salads from last week, looking pale and rather yucky, hence the small photo. Trust me, they were delicious, and beautiful to look at when fresh:

salad trio

The red salad top left is from Mark Bittman’s 101 Salads for the Season, salad #1 tomato and watermelon with feta in a

Basil Vinaigrette from Cook’s Country:

3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped fresh basil
1 shallot , peeled
1 clove garlic clove , peeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. Heat 1/4 cup oil with 1 cup basil in medium saucepan over medium heat until basil turns bright green and small bubbles appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat and steep 5 minutes.

2. Process shallot, garlic, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and mustard in blender until garlic and shallot are finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With blender running, slowly add remaining oil and steeped basil oil and continue to process until dressing is smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds. Pack remaining basil into blender and process until dressing is smooth, about 15 seconds. (Dressing can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.)

At bottom is salad #39, corn, Yucatan-style sauteed in a skillet, then tossed with lime juice, feta, quartered cherry tomatoes, and cayenne.

On the right is corn again, this time with quinoa (the recipe calls for farro, I’ve also used pearled barley to good effect) with goat cheese and green beans. This recipe, from Epicurious, is delicious. My friend LH made it for our book group, and I’ve made it twice since.

Chicken, Green Bean, Corn, and Farro Salad
with Goat Cheese Bon Appétit | August 2009

Farro is a nutty-flavored grain that’s popular in Tuscany. It’s not as heavy as some other whole grains, but it’s still packed with protein, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. Here, it’s the base for a satisfying summer salad. Yield: Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup semi-pearled farro* or spelt berries

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves
12 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from 2 to 3 ears of corn)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)

Cook farro in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain; cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Cool, then cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. Cook green beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water to cool; drain. Transfer beans to kitchen towel; pat dry.

Mix farro, chicken, and green beans in large bowl; add corn and green onions.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, marjoram, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in small bowl. Press with back of spoon to release flavor. Whisk in vinegar, shallot, and mustard. Pour over salad in bowl; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Salad can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Divide chilled or room-temperature salad among plates. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

* Available at specialty foods stores, natural foods stores, and Italian markets.

Something else the boys wouldn’t eat was zucchini bread, recipe from Cook’s Country:

zuke bread

Zucchini Bread

Cut large zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon before shredding.

Makes one 9-inch loaf or 4 mini loaves
1 pound zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Shred zucchini on large holes of box grater, then place in clean dish towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you’re able. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in large bowl. Whisk sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and butter in bowl until combined.

3. Gently fold yogurt mixture and zucchini into flour mixture using spatula until just combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

4. Bake until golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool at least 1 hour. (Bread can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for 3 days.)

To sweeten the deal for the boys (and me) I made

Zesty Apricot Cream Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
1/3 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

With rubber spatula, combine cream cheese, apricot jam, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon zest in bowl until smooth.

The spatula left things unattractively lumpy, though it still tasted great. I’d use a food processor next time. And still, the boys refused this.

I used the rest of the basil vinaigrette with potatoes and a pickling cucumber, the latter was a great addition to the salad:

potato salad with basic vinaigrette and cuke

And then this is about a quarter share (I gave half of my half to a friend) from last Thursday, which felt much more manageable:

quarter share CSA

Corn, dill, zuke, onion, chard, carrots, green beans, cukes (hiding) and potatoes.

With it I made the corn and green bean salad from above, a chard frittata with dill, cucumbers in a dill yogurt sauce (that I served alongside poached Alaskan salmon), and one of my all time favorite potato recipes:

Roasted Potato Slices with Lime and Chili

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Serves 2
two 1/2-pound russet (baking) potatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Peel potatoes and halve lengthwise. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and on a baking sheet toss with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake potatoes in one layer in middle of oven, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, or until golden.

In a bowl stir together mayonnaise, lime juice, and chili powder. Add warm potatoes and combine well.

I recommend dividing the potatoes up before eating. Serious struggles have occurred when my husband G. Grod and I have tried to share the bowl. And we’re always disappointed at the end, in spite of having just devoured a whole pound of potatoes between us.

Local Treats

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

local treats

On Saturday, I stopped at Local D’lish, and picked up the Sweets cupcakes of the day: grapefruit sparkler, chocolate-i and coconut ginger. All lovely, and all tasty. I also couldn’t resist Bliss granola, Bramblewood shortbread, and Obsession truffles.

Because I have no restraint, I stopped at Surdyk’s cheese shop next, since I was passing right BY it, and got two bars of Rogue chocolate and a bag of Rustica bakery’s double chocolate cookies.

It was all local! It’s good to be a foodie in Minnesota.

“Fargo” (1996)

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Fargo is regarded by many as the Coen Brothers’ best film, and my husband G. Grod and I hadn’t seen it since it came out, which was before we moved to Minnesota. We re-watched it the other night and liked it more than I remembered.

William H. Macy (who had to lobby HARD for the part) is a dorky guy who tries to fake his wife’s kidnapping so he can get the ransom. He hires Steven Buscemi and a scary-looking guy and of course things go very wrong. Frances McDormand (or Mrs. Joel Coen) is the local police in Brainerd. Seven months pregnant, eating at an Old Country Buffet with her high-school sweetheart husband, Marge is an average person who is a good detective, but baffled at the crimes that develop.

I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.

It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s eminently quotable.

I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper.

It’s a good satire of Minnesotan accents and culture. But it’s also too dark and violent for me, at least some of the time. Good, and one of their best, but even so not one of my favorites (which are Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, and The Big Lebowski.) G. Grod’s favorite is Miller’s Crossing, which he showed me when we were dating.

The credits claim a cameo that didn’t occur. The story both was and wasn’t based on real events. And kudos to local actor Sally Wingert who has a small part in the film; I KNEW she looked familiar!

Food, Again

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Readers, and please de-lurk if you’re lurking, do you like the posts on food? I’ve been posting the food on my Facebook page, then again here since it’s such a big part of our summer. But the links and images are work-intensive, so I can skip it if interest is low. Also, I can make photos bigger, so more detailed, though I’ve not done so because they’d take more time to load on screens.

Miel y Leche cupcakes

I did not make those. They’re by Sheela from Miel y Leche and came from Mitrebox, on a cupcake Saturday. That’s a blackberry-lime vegan cake and a s’mores cake. The former was good, the latter was tremendous. You can sign up to receive email for the weekly flavors. This week’s are Grilled Peach Mint, Chocolate Curry with Lemongrass Coconut Buttercream and Limoncello.


These bacon-cheese cups were a request by 5yo Drake, who along with 3yo Guppy made them with G. Grod while I went to yoga class. They’re from the Southern Living Kids Cookbook, a gift from the boys’ uncle, and Drake’s current obsession.

Red Salad

Red salad, with WI cherry tomatoes, strawberries, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and WI parmesan. Salad #13 from Mark Bittman’s 101 Salads.

Savory breakfast

Homely, but tasty and exceptionally healthy and hearty. From Mark Bittman, a savory breakfast: Barley, coconut, oat bran and fried tofu, with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and fish sauce, topped with a fried egg.

Carrot Cake

For National Night Out last night, I made a Carrot Cake (lots of carrots to use up this week). The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated. I added a teaspoon of cardamom, to good effect, I thought.

And I used up almost all of last week’s CSA veg in a variation on Heather’s Quinoa Salad from 101 Cookbooks. I used pearled barley instead of quinoa, added grated carrot and used chopped zucchini instead of corn.

Veg, Veg, A Little More Veg and Fruit!

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

From this week’s kitchen.

Salad #7 from Mark Bittman’s Minimalist article 101 Simple Salads for the Season

Carrot Salad with Blueberries

1 lb. carrots, peeled then shredded
2 Tbl. EVOO
1/2 Tbl. lemon juice
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and sorted
1/4 c. toasted pepitas (I had these in the pantry so used them instead of sunflower seeds)

Salad #14 A Moroccan Thing (at left below, next to the finished Shredded Green Beans, recipe after next)

Moroccan Carrots and Shredded Green Beans

1 lb. carrots, peeled and shredded
2 Tbl. EVOO
1/2 Tbl. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 c. golden raisins

Mix olive oil, lemon juice and stir in cumin. Add raisins to carrots, pour dressing and toss.

From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

Ingredients for Shredded Green Beans

Shredded Green Beans

3/4 lb. green and/or yellow beans, tops and tails trimmed
2 Tbl. EVOO or clarified butter
2 Tbl. water
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 lime
1/4 c. chopped fresh chives
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice beans on a diagonal into roughly 1/8″ pieces. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans and stir until coated with oil, then add the water. Cover and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until the beans are brightly colored and tender; give the pan a good shake midway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from the heat and stir in the zests and half of the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with the remaining chives.

Chard Stems

I had chard stems left after I used the leaves in a soup. I had shredded raw beets after I used some in Bittman’s Salad #43 from 101 Salads. I combined these in Bittman’s More-Vegetable-Than-Egg Frittata, which was delicious, though less lovely than the chopped chard stems, thus no picture.

All the above veg are from our CSA share from Foxtail Farm. I bought some local fruit from our grocery cooperative, Eastside Food Coop and did a loose variation on Mark Bittman’s Patchwork Foolproof Pie with pluots and raspberries.

Pluots and raspberries

It was a stunningly red and bubbled fiercely when I took it out of the oven. I served it with Sonny’s Pure Vanilla Bean ice cream.

Patchwork Pie

While I was making the latter, G. Grod and the boys were in the backyard, watering. 5yo Drake was taking his turn with the hose when I said it was time to come in for dessert. Drake didn’t listen when G. repeated this, and turned the hose on G and the house. We told him he couldn’t have dessert. He expressed his displeasure with a lengthy tantrum, and by making an “I am Stupid” sign he taped to G’s back. (With G’s knowledge. Drake isn’t all that subtle.)

Cherry Slab Pie

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Saturday, Foxtail Farm (from which we get a CSA) had a Kids Day and potluck lunch. The boys got to pick potatoes, carrots and green beans and feed cows, chickens and goats:

boys and goats, Foxtail Farm

I used light colored Rainier-like cherries from Door County WI:

Door County cherries

to make Cherry Slab Pie from Smitten Kitchen. I used 2/3 c. sugar since the cherries were sweet. It turned out well; I’d definitely make it again.

Cherry Slab Pie