Archive for the 'Feeling Minnesota' Category

Twin Cities Book Fest: James Howard Kunstler and M.T. Anderson

Monday, October 18th, 2010

One of my favorite Twin Cities events is the annual Rain Taxi book fest. I walk into the building where it’s held, and a feeling of peace and happiness comes over me. “These are my people,” I think to myself, surrounded by writers and readers. All day there are exhibits by local publishers, writers, bookshops and other book-related but the real draws are the children’s pavilion, where authors read and sign all day for an all-ages audience, and my favorite, the panels throughout the day with well-known authors. This year I went to see James Howard Kunstler and M.T. Anderson, both of whose books have been recommended by fellow bookish blogger Mental Multivitamin.

Kunstler is the author of the non-fiction The Long Emergency, about the over-reliance on cheap fuel, and the wishful thinking that will get us into trouble. He’s written two novels, World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron (long “e” in Hebron, as they pronounce it in NY and OH), based on what life might be like in the aftermath of a fuel breakdown.

In person, Kunstler is energetic, funny, and doesn’t sugarcoat anything, as when he said each time he visits the Twin Cities the downtown gets worse and worse. He railed against what he called “the incapacity to construct a coherent narrative between what’s happening to us and what we’re going to do about it.” He sums up “what’s happening” as a threefold crisis: financial, energy and climate. He says these three are struggling for primacy, and currently the financial crisis is “winning” by getting the most attention. He noted that distress and delusion rise together, and a symptom of them is something he calls “techno-grandiosity,” especially interesting because many of the other Book Fest panels were on technology and its relation to reading, writing and publishing. Along these lines, he warned we’ll be disappointed by alternative energy sources when we don’t have cheap global fuel to fall back on. We’ll need to make radically different choices, and not just assume that solar and wind power can pick up where cheap oil leaves off. In the US, he says this means we need a viable rail system as a true alternative to motoring and aviation. Building the rail system is what he called an intelligent response, rather than just wishful thinking.

He talked about why he wrote World Made by Hand, and addressed the most frequent criticism he receives, about its unvalorous women characters. “Social situations are going to change when financial things change,” he said, noting that women gained ground in the gender wars on the corporate battlefield, in wages, jobs and status. When corporations no longer exist, he says, struggles over gender will change.

Kunstler said he also heard from many who disliked the supernatural element to the books, especially given his no-nonsense attitude to science and uncomfortable facts about where the world is headed. In the novel, the city dwellers still have remnants of enlightenment, so aren’t superstitious. This clashes with the worldview of the religious, who aren’t “burdened” by beliefs in science and technology, like the character of Brother Job, who he described as a cross between Boss Hogg and Captain Ahab.

An audience member asked what Kunstler had against bikes and bikers. The author laughed and said for him, writing a novel was an emergent self-organizing process. He realized as he wrote that after a global breakdown, things like rubber and substitutes, as well as specialized metal for sturdy bike frames, wouldn’t be readily available. Further, biking depends a lot on paved roads, which would break when they were no longer used and maintained. Instead, people would choose more reliable off-road transportation options, like horses.

While he railed at many examples of what he called “simpleton views,” he did actually offer some advice: move to smaller towns and cities like Kalamazoo, Duluth or Grand Rapids, or somewhere that has a meaningful relationship with food production.

M.T. Anderson, author of the National Book Award winner The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, was an interesting contrast to Kunstler’s “we’re all doomed, but some of us are gonna be better prepared than others” take on things. Anderson got wide recognition with his satiric novel of the future, Feed, published in 2002. In it, most U.S. citizens are connected to the feed of the title, which is a chip implant in your head of a 24/7 internet. The main character, Titus, is a “distracted idiot” said Anderson. I re-read Feed last week, and was surprised and impressed at how well it had aged. In response to an audience question, Anderson said the one big thing he’d failed to guess and that had surprised him was the weird element of aggressive self promotion that has grown from websites to weblogs to the current age of Facebook.

During the Q and A, he was asked what bedtime story he remembered reading. He said he couldn’t recall, but he did remember his father singing him a song at bedtime about Anne Boleyn. He then burst into song, hesitating over some of the lyrics, but some audience members helped out to carry it through. It was a nice way to end the session.

In Feed, Anderson chose to satirize how we’re all going to hell, technologically and ethically. I don’t think he and Kunstler would disagree, but the latter goes beyond satirizing the present, to wondering what the heck happens after that. Seeing both authors, and hearing them speak, made me very interested in reading their current books, and I’ll keep an eye on what comes next from each of them.

“Violet Days” by Chris Monroe

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Our family has become a big fan of cartoonist Chris Monroe after a helpful Barnes and Noble bookseller pointed out Monkey with a Toolbelt in the store one day. I got that and Monkey with a Toolbelt and the Noisy Problem from the library to test drive them. All four of us fell in love:

Here is Chico Bon Bon

Here, indeed. Monroe further endeared herself by signing copies for Guppy’s 4th birthday, even bringing them to our house since she was in the neighborhood. (Have I mentioned? We have a really good ‘hood.) AND she was gracious about G. Grod, who happened to ride up on his bike, drunk, just as she got out of her car. (He’d participated in the Stupor Bowl.)

When her newest book, Sneaky Sheep was released, we trekked to St. Paul for cake and the new book. I was thrilled, then, when I learned a friend of ours had a copy of Ultra Violet, a collection of Monroe’s indie comic “Violet Days” from way back when. She’s an artist from Duluth, MN, and her comics mostly center around the Violet of the title, pesky squirrels and sneaky skeletons. The humor and art, like her children’s books, are weird and endearing. If you, like us, are grownup fans of Monroe’s children’s books, you might want to track a copy down.

Or, better yet, go see her in person (!) when she comes to the Twin Cities Book Fest on Saturday October 16, along with other great authors like M.T. Anderson, William Kunstler, and, (WTF?) Alexander McCall Smith. He’s sold a couple books and a few people like him, I’ve heard.

Food Post: Autumn Vegetable Stews

Friday, October 1st, 2010

A few friends have commented about the lack of food posts this summer. I’ve been writing for the local food site Simple Good and Tasty, so that’s where my food-writing energy has been focused. In future I’ll post links to the articles. The most recent was “Local Potatoes; Global Flavors.”

Ethiopian Stew

There were other things in last week’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm-share box: basil, green beans, turnips, chard, tomatoes, onions. But the giant pile of potatoes kind of eclipsed everything else. The suddenly cooler weather plus those potatoes seemed to cry out for something warm and comforting. I glanced at my cookbook shelves, in search of recipes that would honor these humble midwestern spuds. Eureka, I thought, stew! Or, as it transpired, stews! Bland? Mushy? No way. These stews were going to be stars.

Minnesota Cooks Day at the State Fair

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

If you’re free any time today, head to the Minnesota State Fair for Minnesota Cooks Day. Admission is discounted, and there are demonstrations by local chefs all day, with free food samples of what they cook! I’ll be at the Simple Good and Tasty booth this morning, and doing things my kids wouldn’t want to the rest of the time, like visiting Creative Activities, Fine Arts and such.

My piece on how to enjoy the fair with your family is up today at Simple Good and Tasty. Check out yesterday’s post on guilty fair-food pleasures. You know: Oh, no, I shouldn’t. OK, one bite. Chomp. Ummm. OK, well one more. Wait, where’d it go?

“I Didn’t Sign on for THIS!”

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Some anniversaries have blown by this summer. My blog anniversary was in June; I can’t even find the archives anymore, though, so I can’t remember what day it was in 2002. And I moved to Minnesota in June of 1998 where I was immediately confronted with sights like this:

downed tree

except the trees were at least 4 times the size of the one above, and advertisements for cars on sale due to hail damage.

I was flabbergasted. I’d been prepared for a rough winter and distinctive accents. I had NOT known to expect tornado warnings and giant hail stones, like these that damaged our car recently in the ‘burbs.


Hard winters AND hard summers? I almost picked up and left. But didn’t. And here I am, with husband and two sons, twelve years later.

Another culture shock was Minnesotans wrote checks for everything: fast food, movies, small purchases, high end restaurants, and more. While I haven’t elongated my o’s, I have adopted this check-writing habit. Did you know it’s less expensive for businesses, especially small ones, to process checks than credit/debit cards?

Eat, Freeze, Give: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My CSA

Friday, June 25th, 2010

My newest piece at Simple, Good and Tasty is part of a bi-weekly series on using up my CSA box.

“Timeout Chicago” on the Twin Cities

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I recently returned from a class reunion in DC. Most of the people I spoke to live up and down the east coast. But when I said I was from Minneapolis, I usually got an enthusiastic response along the lines of, “I have a friend who lives there, and I love visiting!” Before I moved here, sight unseen, in 1998 from Philly, I found the same reaction. If I mentioned the Twin Cities, most people would gush, in spite of legends of bad winters. (Which I’ve found aren’t that much worse than PA and OH.) And Timeout Chicago sums up some of the charms pretty well:

When it comes to world-class Midwest cities, Chicago handily trounces the competition (not that we’re biased). But Minneapolis-St. Paul exudes its own kind of quiet cool, and we don’t just mean the weather. Dispatched by bus, train, car and plane, four writers discovered that the sleek new Twins stadium, chic restaurants and bars (and legal food trucks!), jaw-dropping art and architecture, vibrant music scene and more outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at (or food on a stick) make the Twin Cities well worth a weekend jaunt. And you know what? The weather was pretty pleasant (except for that brief snow shower).

One more thing that’s meant a lot to me is the plethora of local authors, like Kate DiCamillo and Neil Gaiman, who are part of the thriving reading and writing scene. Hat tip for link to Mustache Robots.

Sugar? Oh, Honey, Honey

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

For my foodie friends, I just finished a piece on sugar and sugar alternatives at Simple Good and Tasty.

Sugar is enjoying a resurgence in popularity after years of being vilified for empty calories and its role in things like tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. As the negative effects of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) have become better known, sugar’s profile has risen. Cane sugar, as opposed to cheaper beet sugar, has especially benefited from HFCS’s bad press; it is actually being touted as a healthful ingredient. Yet cane and beet sugars are highly processed, refined and provide no nutritional value. Other, less refined, sweeteners have some benefits that sugar doesn’t. Yet nearly all of them raise blood sugar, and have little nutritive value. So why bother?

Here’s what I learned/confirmed:

Honey can’t be organic. Maple syrup and honey are the only sweeteners local to MN. All sugars are bad for you, though some are better than others IN MODERATION. Almost all sugars/sweeteners, even if natural, are processed (except raw honey). And finally, I still prefer to bake with not-completely refined cane sugar for the best results. Oh, and Stevia kind of scares me.

Morning Walk

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

This morning, the sun was shining, the humidity was down, so I walked with 4yo Guppy and his friend to the coffee shop, which is closing this Saturday, but will reopen with new owners in late June/early July. The breeze ruffled my hair as I walked with two little hands in mine. We waved and said hello when we saw R, our mail carrier. We chatted with a neighbor and her son who were going to look at the fire house, then waved at the fire fighters as a truck drove by.

In front of the shop, M, the owner, greeted the kids by name. I asked T, the barista, for my usual–a double short latte in their smallest for-here cup. I didn’t have to tell her what it was; she made it flawlessly and suggested a raspberry Italian soda for the kids. They so loved it they could barely sit still to drink it.

I thanked M for her shop, said it had probably saved my life–we moved to this neighborhood in the fall. It turned cold early and we knew few people. I was at home with a temperamental 1yo, so the walk to the coffee shop ensured I’d get outside and talk to an adult before my husband got home. That carried me till spring, when I took ECFE classes, joined a moms group, and met neighbors when they emerged from their houses.

The kids played pretend backgammon while I sipped my drink. On the walk home, we said hello to an older couple up the street, whose daughter in law is one of the current baristas, and one of the new owners. The husband asked us to wait then went to get a wooden top he’d made, and showed the kids how to use it. They were delighted, and so was I when the man urged us to have it. “You’ve walked by our house for years,” he said to me (it’s on the way to the coffee shop). “Enjoy.” We took it home, and that’s exactly what they did.

Until the bickering started. But then it was lunchtime, and time for preschool, and so we moved on through our day.

I Like Where I Live

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I’ve lived in many places over my life: Columbus OH, CT, Akron OH, Bethesda MD, Guam, Richmond VA, Worthington OH, Granville OH, Washington DC, Philadelphia. I’m coming up on my 12 year anniversary of moving to Minnesota; I’ve never lived so many consecutive years in one place.

My husband and I still have family and friends in OH and PA. But we’ve made Minneapolis our adopted home. And lately, it seems we’re getting all sorts of reminders of why we do.

The most recent news is that local chef Alex Roberts, of Restaurant Alma and Brasa, was just named Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Last year it was Tim McKee of La Belle Vie.

Local food writer and wine author Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl was nominated for Beard awards for a food and a wine article; she won for Best Wine Writing in the Country.

Andrew Zimmern (who I used to watch on a local morning show before work) won a Beard for best television personality.

Local pastry chef Michelle Gayer (who baked my birthday cake this year) of The Salty Tart was a finalist for best pastry chef in the country, though she didn’t win. This year.

Dark Chocolate Cake with Bergamot Orange Curd

The Trylon was just named one of the country’s 10 coolest movie theaters cinemas.

My neighborhood was picked as the best of the Twin Cities this year, and the neighborhood Thai place got the nod as well.

Local author Neil Gaiman won the Newbery Medal last year for The Graveyard Book. Kate DiCamillo won it in 2004 for The Tale of Despereaux.

I feel like I’m forgetting some other kudos, but you can see it’s a good place for food, writing and movies. So it’s really no mystery why this feels like home.

Sign of Spring

Thursday, April 15th, 2010


Fresh baby radishes from Wisconsin. I separated the greens, washed them and put them away. Sliced the radishes, put them on a cracker with a schmear of sweet cream butter, then sprinkled with sea salt. Next day, sauteed the greens in an egg scramble.

Breakfasts from Hell

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Minnesota’s Hell’s Kitchen, that is. I tried a few of my favorites off the breakfast menu, out of the cookbook Damn Good Food by Mitch Omer and Ann Bauer, a gift from my aunt for Christmas.

Hell's Kitchen Oatmeal

Oatmeal, makes 4 cups

2 1/2 c. whole milk
1 c. steel-cut oats
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. rolled oats (not quick)
2/3 c. warm half and half
Brown Sugar

Heat water to simmer in saucepan over medium high. Pour milk into large bowl; place bowl over simmering water. Heat milk to simmer. Gradually stir in steel-cut oats and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Stir in rolled oats. Cook until all milk is absorbed, about 13 minutes. Just before serving, thin oatmeal to desired consistency with warm half and half. Top oatmeal with brown sugar, berries, and any remaining half and half.

Omer, who goes a little gonzo for the dairy fat, likes to add a dollop of sweet cream butter, too. I tried it and liked it. This takes more work than my usual recipe, in which I dump 1 c. steel cut oats, 3 c. water and 1 c. milk into my rice cooker and press “porridge” but it was richer and quite satisfying. Speaking of porridge:

Mahnomin Porridge

Mahnomin Porridge, makes 4 servings

4 cups cooked wild rice
½ cup roasted hazelnuts, cracked
½ cup dried blueberries
¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries (Craisins)
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Add cooked wild rice, hazelnuts, blueberries, Craisins, and maple syrup to a heavy, nonstick or enameled cast iron saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add heavy cream, and stirring continually, heat through, about 2 minutes. Ladle into bowls, and serve immediately.

I used pecans instead of hazelnuts. 3yo Guppy and 6yo Drake pronounced it yucky looking and refused to try it. G. Grod was unimpressed. Only I liked it, and I’m OK with that. These, however, everyone liked:

Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes

Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes, Makes 16 hotcakes

6 egg whites
9 egg yolks
â…“ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
â…“ cup all-purpose flour
Unsalted butter, melted (for the skillet)

Pour egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk attachment, and whisk on high speed until firm peaks form. Reduce the speed to low. Slowly add egg yolks, and then gradually add melted butter. Continue whisking on low speed until well incorporated. Stop the mixer, and add sugar, ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Whisk on medium speed for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, and gradually add flour. Continue mixing for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer, and scrape the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixer to medium speed, and mix for about 1 minute. Makes about 4 cups.

I find it best to refrigerate the batter for a few hours prior to making the hotcakes. This allows the melted butter to firm up slightly in the mix and keeps the batter from spreading out too thin on a hot griddle. Refrigerated in a covered container, this batter will keep safely for up to 3 days.

To cook hotcakes, heat a large skillet over medium high. Brush skillet with melted butter, and drop batter onto the hot skilled in ¼ cup portions. Leave about 2 inches between hotcakes to allow them to spread. Cook until bubbles appear and bottoms are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip hotcakes, and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the skillet.

I garnish the cooked hotcakes with a handful of fresh blackberries, blueberries, and quartered strawberries, then dust with a vanilla powdered sugar, and serve with a side of peanut butter and warm maple syrup. You can adjust the quantities and ingredients to better suit your personal tastes. That’s what good cooking is all about.

These hardly needed butter and maple syrup, and were good even when I accidentally doubled the salt amount to convert to sea salt from kosher rather than halving it as I should have.

Winter Supper

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

We had a lovely supper last weekend with friends we hadn’t seen in too long. Nutmeg in the casserole and cardamom in the cake made for a warming winter supper.

Alas, a bad choice in ice cream nearly derailed the cake. (The maker was apologetic and quick to offer restitution.) The cake achieved redemption when later paired with Sonny’s vanilla.

Chicken Noodle Casserole:

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Chicken Noodle Casserole from Cook’s Country

Use leftover roasted or poached chicken in this recipe or buy a rotisserie-cooked bird at the supermarket.

Serves 8 to 10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Table salt
12 ounces egg noodles
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion , chopped fine
1 pound white mushrooms , cleaned and sliced thin
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic , minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 cups sour cream
4 cups cubed leftover chicken
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. For the topping: Mix melted butter, bread crumbs, Parmesan, and parsley together in bowl.

2. For the filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and noodles and cook until nearly tender. Drain and set aside in colander.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until mushrooms begin to brown, about 7 minutes.

4. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until melted. Add flour and stir until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in broth, sherry, and sour cream, and cook, not letting mixture boil, until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in chicken, noodles, parsley, thyme, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

5. Transfer mixture to 3-quart baking dish. Top with bread-crumb mixture and bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Serve.

Lovely local Liberty apples:

Liberty apples

The finished apple cake:

Apple cake

Upside-Down Apple Cake with Winter Spices, adapted from this recipe at Cook’s Country

Serves 8

4 Tbl. Butter
½ c. packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. Salt
4 firm-fleshed apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch slices, for about 5 cups

½ c. sour cream
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
½ tsp. Vanilla
½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
¾ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. Baking powder
¼ tsp. Baking soda
¼ tsp. Salt
¾ tsp. Ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. Ground ginger
¼ tsp. Ground cardamom
8 Tbl. Unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature

1.Place oven rack in center position and preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter or spray a 9-inch cake pan.
2.Place butter in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When butter stops foaming, add sugar and stir to combine. Continue to cook until sugar turns dark brown, about 2 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. Add salt and apples and fold with spatula to combine. Cook, stirring often, until apples have softened slightly and juices are thickened and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour apples into prepared pan.
3.In small bowl, whisk together ¼ c. sour cream, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.
4.Place flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices in large bowl. Use electric mixer on low speed for 15 seconds to blend. Add butter and remaining ¼ c. sour cream and mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, 1 or 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Add sour cream/egg mixture and beat on medium-high, scraping down sides of bowl, until batter is homogeneous and fluffy, about 1 minute.
5.Spoon batter over apples and gently spread out to thin layer that covers apples. Bake until cake is a dark golden brown and tester comes out clean when inserted in center, 35 to 40 minutes. Let pan cool on wire rack 5 minutes.
6.Place serving plate over top of pan and invert. Let cake sit inverted for about 1 minute without tapping or shaking pan. Cake will slowly detach itself. Once cake is on platter, gently remove pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

A la mode:

apple cake a la mode

“American Madness” (1932)

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I finally made it to a showing at the Trylon microcinema in south Minneapolis. It’s owned and run by Barry Kryshka of Take-Up Productions. With an entry through an art gallery, it’s a sweet little space, and Frank Capra’s American Madness was a sweet little little film to see there.

Walter Huston (director John’s father, and Angelica’s grandfather) is Thomas Dickson, a bank manager who provides loans or withholds them based on hunches and a person’s character. In the financially volatile 1930’s, this drives the bank board nuts, and they try to oust him. The plot takes a guy with a gambling problem, the mob, a neglected wife, and a few nice guys, and mixes it all to good effect. It’s funny, clever and touching with some striking images, particularly of a run on the bank.

The Trylon shows two films, about 7 and 9, on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s near Midori’s Floating World or the Town Talk Diner for dinner, or Glaciers Cafe for frozen custard before or after. The Trylon has good popcorn with real butter, with a good selection of beverages and candy. They just published their winter schedule, December is Powell/Pressburger films (”The Archers“), January is Johnny Depp and February is Godard. They’ll also have a Brit-noir series at the Heights that runs December through March.

Sayonara, CSA Share

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I breathed a sigh of relief yesterday. The season is officially over for our farm, and our share of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Thus, no box of mystery vegetables yesterday. Even better because I haven’t yet used all the ones from last week.

For me the farm share was a mixed experience. I loved supporting a local farm and receiving fresh, seasonal, local produce. I loved the idea of learning to prepare new dishes and the challenge of cooking whatever was in that week’s box. In practice, though, it preyed upon two of my weak spots–a tendency to compulsion (I felt I had to use all the veg and use them well) and anxiety (I’d fret if they went bad before I used them, or if the new box came before the old ones were used). Eating all the veg went slow, too, as our two sons, 6 and 3, wouldn’t eat many of them.

One thing I could do differently would be to store more of the items. Blanching and freezing wouldn’t have been more time consuming than cooking, and would have lessened the anxiety about needing to cook and eat everything NOW NOW NOW. Another is that I may see about going from a half share every week to a half share every other week. This would also allow me some veggie leeway to shop our farmers’ markets, which I didn’t do much this summer as I never needed much.

But there was a lot of fabulous food, and I learned a lot as a cook and an eater. I found I was especially good at incorporating some of the things that I’d formerly thrown away–beet, turnip and radish greens, and chard or kale stems. Here, then, is a sampling from the end of the season.

Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe and Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs

Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe and Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs from The New York Times


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, more as needed

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered

1 cup bread crumbs, preferably homemade

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

About 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed and washed

1 pound spaghetti, linguine or other long pasta

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When oil is warm, cook garlic just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add bread crumbs and red pepper flakes and cook until bread crumbs are golden, 5 minutes or so. Remove and set aside.

2. Cook broccoli rabe in boiling water until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and chop. Cook pasta in same pot.

3. Meanwhile, add remaining oil to skillet over medium-low heat. Add broccoli rabe and toss well; sprinkle with salt and pepper. When it is warm add garlic and bread crumbs and mix well.

4. When pasta is done, drain it, reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta in skillet with broccoli rabe mixture, moistening with a little reserved water if necessary. Adjust seasonings and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes, cut and roasted with olive oil and salt at 400F, with wasabi mayo.

Quicker Eggs Benedict

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was going to try to make a smaller amount of hollandaise faster. I also poached the eggs but didn’t follow it with a cold and hot bath. As you can see, this dish is nowhere near as pretty as the one from last week where I followed all the Julia Child directions. But it still tasted good alongside sauteed broccoli rabe, and made a lot fewer dishes in a lot less time.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Lemon and Poppy Seeds

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest
Adapted from “The Union Square Cafe Cookbook,” by Michael Romano and Danny Meyer
Time: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus grated zest of 1 lemon
2 pounds brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds or poppy seeds
¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Place lemon juice in a large bowl. Cut bottoms off sprouts, and discard. Halve sprouts lengthwise, and thinly slice them crosswise. The slices toward the stem end should be thinner, to help pieces cook evenly. As you work, transfer slices into bowl with lemon juice. When all sprouts are sliced toss them in juice and separate leaves. (Recipe can be prepared to this point and refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 hours.)

2. When ready to serve, heat oil and butter over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all sprouts. When very hot add sprouts, garlic and seeds, and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are wilted and lightly cooked, but still bright green and crisp, about 4 minutes. Some leaves might brown slightly.

3. Add wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Turn off heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the lemon zest, reserving a little for top of dish. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining zest and serve.

Yield: 10 servings.

This was good, but I didn’t like it as well as the roasted brussels sprouts I made earlier.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Impossible Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

1 15-oz. can pumpkin or a scant 2 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c. milk, or 1 13-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 c. biscuit/pancake mix or 1/2 c. flour plus 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 Tbl. butter, melted then cooled
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch glass or Pyrex pie plate.

Place all ingredients in blender; blend for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into pie plate and bake for about an hour, or till center is set and tester comes out clean. Cool.

For topping, whip 1/3 c. heavy cream, 1/2 Tbl. cane sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla to soft peaks.

ingredients for Thai tofu and winter squash soup

The photo doesn’t really capture the loveliness of the colors of these ingredients for Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew–the deep orange of the squash puree, the light variegated green of the sliced leeks, and the golden yellow of the grated ginger. But I had to try. Here are the leeks sauteeing, and even more lovely in color:


Veggies of Ill Repute

Friday, October 16th, 2009

There’s not a lot of love in the world for kale and Brussels sprouts. As in most things, though, I find if I work with their strengths, good things happen.

For the Brussels sprouts, halving the larger ones so they all were uniform helped them cook quickly and kept them tasting fresh and sweet. Trimming the stem first allowed easy peeling away of tough outer leaves.

Sweet and Sour Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Sweet and Sour Glazed Brussels Sprouts from Cook’s Country

Serves 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 pounds Brussels sprouts , trimmed and halved through core if large
12 small shallots , halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter and sugar together in microwave. Toss Brussels sprouts, shallots, butter mixture, vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Scatter on rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes, shaking pan every 10 minutes to redistribute vegetables. Serve.

Back in August, my friend from Knit Think posted about roasting kale. We didn’t have any in our farm’s box till this week, but this is something I’ll do from now on.

Roast kale

Roasted Kale from Suite 101

Of course, any firm leafy green works fine in this recipe. Collard greens or swiss chard could easily be substituted for the kale.

* 4 cups firmly-packed kale
* 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tsp. good-quality sea salt, such as Maldon or Cyprus Flake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash and trim the kale: Peel off the tough stems by folding the kale leaves in half like a book and stripping the stems off. Toss with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for five minutes. Turn kale over. Roast another 7 to 10 minutes until kale turns brown and becomes paper thin and brittle. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Sweet Potato Salad

Friday, October 16th, 2009

A few weeks ago, Mark Bittman posted a recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans and Chili Dressing. I modified based on what I had on hand (banana peppers instead of bell, white onion instead of red, serrano pepper, not jalapeno) with good results. Except for the limes and canned black beans, everything was local and fresh.

Sweet Potato Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad With Black Beans and Chili Dressing

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large onion, preferably red, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh hot chili, like jalapeño

1 clove garlic, peeled

Juice of 2 limes

2 cups cooked black beans, drained (canned are fine)

1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put sweet potatoes and onions on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, toss to coat and spread out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until potatoes begin to brown on corners and are just tender inside, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven; keep on pan until ready to mix with dressing.

2. Put chilies in a blender or mini food processor along with garlic, lime juice, remaining olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Process until blended.

3. Put warm vegetables in a large bowl with beans and bell pepper; toss with dressing and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a day.

Yield: 4 servings.

Twin Cities Book Festival

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Tomorrow is Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival. Authors include literary heavyweights like Robert Olen Butler, Nicholson Baker, and Lorrie Moore as well as local treasures like Alison McGhee, John Coy and Zander Cannon.

It’s from 10 to 5 at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College. It’s a great event. Go, go, go!

Fall Food: Soup and Casserole

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Warm. Comforting. Not necessarily healthful!

Chickpea and Leek Soup from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

chickpea and leek soup


* 12 oz chickpeas, soaked overnight in water, or a 15 oz. can, drained and rinsed
* 1 medium potato, peeled
* 6 leeks, finely, sliced
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* knob of butter
* 2 cloves of garlic, finely, sliced
* salt
* freshly ground pepper
* 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 2 handful parmesan cheese, grated
* extra virgin olive oil


1. Rinse the soaked chickpeas, cover with water, and cook with the potato until tender.
2. Remove the outer skin of the leeks, slice lengthways from the root up, wash carefully and slice finely.
3. Warm a thick-bottomed pan, and add the tablespoon of oil and the knob of butter. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan, and sweat gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet.
4. Add the drained chickpeas and potato and cook for 1 minute. Add about two-thirds of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Purée half the soup in a food processor and leave the other half chunky this gives a lovely smooth comforting feel but also keeps a bit of texture.
6. Now add enough of the remaining stock to achieve the consistency you like. Check for seasoning, and add Parmesan to taste to round off the flavours.
7. This is classy enough for a starter, but I like it best for lunch in a big bowl with a good drizzle of my best peppery extra virgin olive oil, a grinding of black pepper and an extra sprinkling of Parmesan.
© Jamie Oliver 2002

I only used 3 leeks (what I had at home) added chopped celery and pureed all of it, then topped with fried sage leaves.

Creamy Cauliflower Casserole with Bacon and Cheddar from Cook’s Country 10/2006

cauliflower casserole

Roughly chopped cauliflower acts as a casserole “filler,” much like rice or pasta, while the large florets add texture.

Serves 6 to 8
8 slices bacon , chopped, cooked until crisp, and cooled
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
table salt
2 heads cauliflower , trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets (about 8 cups)
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Mix bacon, 1/2 cup cheese, and parsley in small bowl. Set aside for topping.

2.Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cauliflower and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse cauliflower with cold water. Transfer half of cauliflower to cutting board and roughly chop. (Topping and cauliflower may be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day.)

3. Melt cream cheese in now-empty pot over low heat. Stir in heavy cream and remaining 2 1/2 cups cheese and cook until cheese starts to melt, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in sour cream, cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to 2-quart baking dish, sprinkle with topping, and bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve.

I didn’t have cream cheese but I had roasted cauliflower that hadn’t gone well and heavy cream about to expire, so I made a roux with a tablespoon of butter and flour apiece, added the cream and stirred till thick and added the cheese to that. Cream cheese would have been easier, but a trip to the store for only that? No way. I didn’t have three cups of cheddar either, so I added mozzarella and parmesan to get the right amount. This worked fine and used what I had on hand.

It’s Not Easy Eating Greens

Thursday, October 8th, 2009