Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Risotto Style Jambalaya... Or Maybe Jambalaya Style Rosotto?

Disclaimer: If you hold either Risotto or Jambalaya sacred, if you get mad if someone puts in things that "don't belong" or makes it the "wrong way," you probably shouldn't read this.  I am sure it is not quite right to be called either Jambalaya or Risotto, but it was damn good so I don't care!

The Winter Farmers' market was closed this week for Easter, which sucks.  On the other hand, the tulips about to bloom in my front yard tell me that spring has finally almost arrived in Wisconsin!  This means one thing to me: Spring Cleaning!  But not in terms of my house... that seems like WAY too much work.  It's time for spring cleaning of the freezer.  I am a big fan of freezing as much produce as I can in the fall... mostly because I am terrified of canning.  I have this fear that I am going to give everyone I know botulism.  It's not a rational fear, because I am very careful in the kitchen, but I've never done a lot of canning because of it.  It is a fear that I plan on getting over very quickly this year.
Anyway, I still have a lot of frozen peppers in my fridge, as well as a lot of frozen spicy shrimp stock.  The veggies are local.  The shrimp stock... who knows.  The shrimp certainly weren't local, but I made it myself so that should count for something.  Jambalaya seemed like a great recipe to get rid of a good chunk of that.  Plus, my mom gave me a bag of frozen tomatoes from her garden last year!

I put celery root in because I have it.  While I don't usually like celery in Jambalaya, I thought the celery root was excellent.  It is one of my new favorite vegetables! 

This is one of those recipes where you should really just use whatever you have on hand.

Non Local Ingredients: Shrimp Stock (but I made it, so local there!  I know the super spicy factor is coming from habaneros from my garden), rice, wine, spices.
Risotto Style Jambalaya
  •  6-7 cups spicy shrimp stock (mine was SPICY).  If yours isn't spicy to the point of being practically inedible, you might want to add some more heat to this.  You could also use chicken or vegetable stock here if you wanted)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces.  
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups short grain rice (like Arborio)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups tomatoes (fresh or frozen), coarsely chopped - or used canned with juice
  • 3-4 sweet banana peppers (fresh or frozen), seeded and sliced
  • 1 lb chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (I used boneless, skinless breasts, but thighs would do too.  I have also made this with leftovers from a whole roasted chicken).
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb andouille sausage, cut into bite sized pieces (I used Usinger's fully cooked andouille sausage.  If you use an uncooked sausage, you will need to adjust the recipe accordingly.)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Hot sauce if desired
In a large sauce pot, bring stock to a gentle simmer.

In a large frying pan, over medium heat, heat up olive oil.  Add onions, carrots, and celery root and saute until they start to soften, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add garlic and cook one minute more.  Add rice and stir constantly until rice is mostly translucent except for a small white dot in the center - about 3 minutes.  Add white wine and cook, stirring constantly, until wine is evaporated - about 5 minutes.  (This step is a lot easier to tell in a regular risotto.  In this instance, the wine doesn't cover the rice so it's hard to tell when it is all evaporated.  The best way to tell, in my opinion, is that the sound of the rice cooking will change.  Do not let the rice cook dry.  It is better to add stock too soon than too late.)  Add 1/4 of stock to rice and stir vigorously.  Allow to cook until liquid is mostly absorbed, stirring regularly.  Again, do not allow rice to get completely dry.  Add 1/4 more of the stock, along with tomatoes.  Again, allow to cook until rice is mostly dry, stirring regularly.  Add 1/4 more of the stock (so you should now have 1/4 of the stock remaining.)  Meanwhile, cook chicken, seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper.  Once the third addition of stock is almost fully absorbed, test the rice.  It should be just al dente.  If it is still too firm, add more stock and allow to continue cooking, checking and adding stock as necessary until it is al dente.  Once the rice is al dente, remove from heat and stir vigorously for a good minute (this helps the rice get creamy.)  Add two more ladles full of stock, along with the uncooked shrimp, cooked chicken, and andouille sausage.  Allow to rest, covered, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is cooked through and sausage and chicken are hot - about 7 more minutes.  Serve with hot sauce if desired.

This is one of those dishes that is even better the second day.  I know it seems like there are a lot of directions, but it's not really a lot of work.  If you've made risotto before, it's the same process just with more stuff.  If  you've never made risotto before, trust me it's well worth it!   

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Potatoes - sort of

Happy Easter Everyone!  Hope the Easter Bunny brought you real, solid chocolate bunnies, and not the crappy, hollow, waxy stuff!  My Easter Bunny told me that he only provides Jelly Beans - and that those are only for the dog!!

So, this year for Easter, my husband and I went to his family's house.  I'm always worried about how adventurous other people are going to be, not to mention the inherent panic of cooking for one's in-laws, but I asked to bring the potato(ish) dish.  Those are the exact words I asked my husband to use: "Potato-ish."

So, I brought a Root Vegetable Gratin, with WI cheeses.  It was good, but a little runny.  I wonder if maybe one of the cheeses wasn't good for melting?  Or perhaps one of the root vegetables gave off too much water.  I'm going to have to play with this one!

Regardless, I think it was a success.  No one asked "What is this?  This is clearly not potatoes!" after taking one bite.  And no one said "gross" after I told them what it was.  

100% local, with the exception of one sweet potato!

Root Vegetable Gratin

Serves 8-10; more if you have enough other food to feed an army!

  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter,  plus additional for dish
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 lb. parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch
  • 1 lb. celery root, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick 
  • 1 lb. turnips, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 8 oz. (or more) cheese, shredded.  I used a combination of Carr Valley Cheeses.
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh chives
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and heat just until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

Arrange a layer of parsnips, slightly overlapping, in the prepared dish. Arrange a layer of sweet potatoes on top, then a layer of turnips, then a layer of celery root. Pour half of the cream mixture over the celery root, and sprinkle half of the cheese, thyme and parsley on top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and lightly press the gratin down with a spatula. Continue baking until the vegetables are tender and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes more. Let the gratin stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Falling Off the Wagon Never Tasted So Good.

In my opinion, I have been doing really well in my locavore eating habits.  Not including things that were already in my house before starting, spices, olive oil, and wine, I haven't been eating much not grown locally.  Orange juice, fruit, yogurt, cereal... I haven't really been able to find these things locally.  I know that fruit will get better as it gets warmer, and I have a plan to try to make my own yogurt...

But today was a stressful day, and I cheated.  I'll admit it - I cheated.  I bought a portabella mushroom from the grocery store because I didn't have time to go to the farmer's market last week and I wanted a stuffed mushroom.  And I bought pasta from the grocery store instead of making it myself.  AND it wasn't even good pasta.  Plain, white, bad for me pasta.  According to Alton Brown, American Comfort Food is "in no particular order, ooey, gooey, cheesy, fatty, saucy, and starchy."  He was talking about lasagna.  But I think I've got all my bases covered too.

But that's okay.  I'm a stress eater and I admit it.  On top of that, I had my braces tightened yesterday (and I mean REALLY tightened), so I couldn't really eat much of anything.  I wanted mac & cheese, and I wanted a stuffed mushroom.  As I said in my first post, this isn't about me depriving myself, it's about thinking ahead, learning how to make more from less, and supporting local business. 

And I did make this meal as local as possible.  I used a new product I just found: Rushing Waters Trout Spread.  Rushing Waters is a trout farm about 45 miles west of where I live, and I have seen their products in the fish case at my local grocery store, but I've never tried them.  They also offer salmon spread (although the salmon isn't local), smoked trout and salmon, and fresh trout.  I haven't tried their fish yet, but am planning on ordering some. All of the cheese was also local.

Macaroni and Cheese is one of my favorite dishes.  I know it's not good for me, but it makes me so happy!  I have a secret, proprietary blend of cheeses that I use for my mac & cheese.  I call it: whatever I have in my fridge that is molding.  It's a great way to use up the cheese; just cut off the mold and go!

Trout and Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabella Mushroom Cap: 
(for 1 serving)

  • 1 portabella mushroom cap, washed or brushed clean - depending on your preference for cleaning mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3 tbsp Rushing Waters Smoked Trout Spread (local)
  • 1-2 oz goat Cheese (local)
  • Fresh Chives (from my garden!)
Remove stem from mushroom, cutting a small, shallow hole into the cap.  Drizzle mushroom cap with olive oil and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Stuff trout spread into the hole in the cap, and top with goat cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melty and the mushroom is soft.  Broil for 5 minutes until cheese gets a little golden on top.  Top with chives.

Kate's Super Secret Mac and Cheese Recipe
  • 8 oz pasta (I like shells because they hold the cheese inside of them... but you could use anything.  I don't know how I could possibly make shell pasta mayself)
  • 2 tbsp butter (local)
  • 1/4 cup milk or heavy cream - it's not like this is trying to be good for you.  Why not use the cream! (local)  
  • 2 cups shredded cheese - this time I used cheddar, Munster, goat, the brilliantly named Menage Cheese (it's a blend of cow, goat, and sheep milk), and a small block of a hard white cheese with about a quarter inch of mold on the outside of it.  I guess I can't guarantee that one was local.  I'm pretty sure it was cheese, though.
Cook pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water.  While it is cooking shred cheese.  Melt butter in a large frying pan and then add cream.  Cook, stirring constantly, until it is hot but not boiling.  Add cheese and stir until melted.  Stir in cooked pasta.

Some times, I will add more cheese and/or garlic breadcrumbs to the top of this and then broil until it is melty, but you can eat it as is too.  This is a very versatile recipe, and takes any additional ingredients well: chicken, sausage, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.  Whatever you want.  Just mix it in with the noodles and eat!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Joy of the Crock-Pot... Pork ribs go in; 10 hours later, dinner comes out!

This meal combines two of my major loves:
1. Pork
2. Being lazy

I basically adore my crock pot.  The concept of being at work and knowing that there is something meaty and delicious waiting for me to eat as soon as I get home is one of the best things ever.  I also really enjoy slow cooked meat in general.  It's comforting, especially on a cold day (p.s., it's the middle of April and there is an inch of snow on the ground.  WTH, weather?!), and it's usually cheap.  Which is important because the cost of GM/GE grocery store meat is outrageous, much less the cost of meat from real animals.

This is also fast enough to prepare that I can do it in the morning before going to work.  Which, considering how much I like to sleep in, means it's REALLY fast.  I also served a green leaf salad with ranch dressing - my first home made ranch dressing.  It was so good; I will never buy store made ranch again!

100% local, except for the spices, wine, and olive oil:

Crock Pot Apple Cider Ribs
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp paprika (I prefer smoked over sweet, but it's up to you and how spicy you want these to be)
  • 2 tbsp mild or medium chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Two racks ribs, cut into half racks
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into about 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • olive oil
Combine  first 7 ingredients and rub onto ribs.  You could do this the night before to save even more time in the morning.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large frying pan.  Sear ribs on both sides in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.  I tend to do them one at a time.  As the ribs are browned, layer them on the bottom of the crock pot.

Quickly saute onions, carrots, and garlic in the same pan, seasoning with any leftover rib rub.  Pour on top of ribs in crock pot.

Add apple cider and wine to deglaze pan.  Pour over the contents of the crock pot.

Cook on low for 10 hours.



Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonaise
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chives (from my garden!)
  • 1/4 tsp dry dill (or 1 tsp fresh)
In a medium bowl, mix together buttermilk and mayonnaise.  Add remaining ingredients, adjusting for taste.

This makes about 1 1/2 cups, and only lasts for a week.  Next time I will only make half.  Also, next time I will make my own mayo so this can be a little bit more local.  But I'm going to use up what I have first.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Morocco Meets Milwaukee (Chicken Tagine with WI Root Vegetables)

Sorry to be missing lately.  Jeff had a lot of gigs last week, and there's really no point in me cooking for myself.  I had a lot of bread and cheese dinners.

For my birthday this year, my mom got me a tagine, which is basically a North African casserole dish.  Traditionally, it would be cooked over an open fire, and I actually did try to use it on my grill, but it is too tall and the cover of the grill wouldn't close, so I used my oven instead.

I didn't make it to the farmer's market this Saturday, as I had to teach class at 10:00 am and I totally overslept - so my cupboards are rather bare... Seems like the perfect opportunity for a one pot, simple meal!  A little bit of Morocco, a little bit of Milwaukee, and a whole lot of yum!  I would not change a thing in this recipe.  It came out absolutely perfect, with the exception of a lot of water in the bottom of the tajine when it was done.  It didn't effect the flavor at all - in fact I'm sure all the steaming made the chicken even more tender, but it wasn't as pretty to serve.  I'm guessing that was from the vegetables I used, because the chicken was very moist.  I've never cooked with rutabaga or celery root before, so I'm not sure how much liquid they're supposed to give off...  This was also pretty sweet because of the honey, but in a good way.  If you wanted to add some spice, I think a hot madras curry powder would add a nice flavor as well.

I did purchase a chicken at the farmer's market two weeks ago - my first non-Farmer Jones chicken in almost three years.  It made me sad, but the guy selling it looked like Spike from Top Chef Season 4/Top Chef All Stars, so that helped a little.  It would have helped more if he looked like Spike from Buffy, but a girl can only ask for so much!

This was 100% local... if you don't count the spices!  The celery root takes a lot longer than everything to cook, so I started that cooking and then did everything else.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with WI Root Vegetables

  • 1 medium rutabaga (local)
  • 2 small celery root bulbs (local)
  • 3 cloves garlic (local)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 (3 lb) chicken, cut into serving pieces (local)
  • 1 onion, halved and then thinly sliced (local)
  • 3 tbsp (ish) honey (local)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and cut celery root into about 1/2 inch pieces.  Mince 1 garlic clove and combine with 1/8 cup olive oil.  Coat celery root with garlic/oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Place into bottom of tangine.  Cover, and cook in oven for 40 minutes.

While celery root is cooking, peel and cut rutabaga into about 1/2 inch pieces.  Mince 2nd garlic clove and combine with 1/8 cup olive oil.  Coat rutabaga with garlic/oil and season with salt and pepper.

Combine spices, salt and pepper to taste, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl.  Add chicken pieces and turn to coat.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown chicken in multiple batches (don't crowd the chicken), and set aside.  If you have any seasoned oil left in your bowl, add that into your skillet (if not, you may need to add a little more oil) and cook onions and final clove of garlic until the onions are just starting to soften.  Add honey to onions.

After the celery root has cooked for 40 minutes, add the rutabaga to the tagine and cook for 10 more minutes.  Then, add the chicken , and top with the onions.  Return tagine to oven and cook for an additional 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Total cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

You certainly could serve this with couscous.  I did not serve it with anything, and it was enough and quite delicious.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf - kind of a flop...

I am not a chef.  Let's be clear about that.  I like to cook and I think I'm pretty good at it, but I have no formal training.  So things are bound to go wrong.  Turkey meatloaf in itself sounds like a risk.  Turkey = Dry; Meatloaf = yuck.  But the reviews on epicurious.com were all pretty encouraging. 

This dinner wasn't terrible by any means.  We didn't have to order pizza and Jeff even went back for seconds.  The turkey was very moist, the mushrooms added good texture, and it was REALLY easy to prepare - about 15 minutes not including baking.  It just didn't have anything special in the taste department.  And now I'm left with the difficult decision of scrapping it all together, or trying again and possibly failing again.

Overall, the main problem was that it just needed "more."  More spice, more flavor, and a touch of acid.  But I'm not sure what specifically to add.  Lemon zest?  Capers?  I can't find either of those things locally...

Also it wasn't very pretty... which is why there is no picture.  Instead, enjoy a picture of the lovely local WI adult beverage we had with dinner:


So, I am up for any and all suggestions on how to make this better.  Please leave suggestions in the comments.  If I get one suggestion, I promise to re-make the recipe giving that suggestion a try.  If I get two suggestions, I will be crazy excited, and will try to try both of them, or combine them into one mega suggestion.  If I get more than two comments I will probably pee myself.

Turkey Meatloaf with Mushrooms:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 2 cups 1/3-inch cubes crustless day-old bread
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 ounces sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
Preheat oven to 350.  Brush 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2/13 loaf pan with olive oil.

Toss bread with milk and wine in a large bowl.  Let stand until liquid is absorbed and bread softens - about 10 minutes.  Mix in all other ingredients except turkey.  Add turkey and mix until just blended.

Transfer to pan.  Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes, or until cooked through.  Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Cornucopia of Spring Time Goodness! Grilled Buffalo, Daikon and Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese and Apple Cider Vinegarette, and Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

This week was a local food roller-coaster!  On Saturday I had to teach Tamarind's Saturday class at 10, so I got up extra early to go to the winter farmer's market - only to find there was almost NOTHING there.  Meat, yes; but no vegetables!  In my mind, starting this project on the first of spring meant that things would be rough at first, but that each week would get easier.  That has not been the case so far.  I ended up leaving the market with two dozen eggs and a pound of mixed mushrooms.  

So I stopped at the Outpost on the way home.  Their local selection, while more than nothing, was also not promising:  Red and green cabbage, rutabagas, celery root, daikon radishes, parsnips, watercress, and salad greens.  Sounds like a vegetarian episode of chopped!  So, I got a few parsnips, a daikon radish, a rutabaga, and a package of watercress.  I have made parsnips before, but had no idea what to do with the rest of it.

Saturday I also had an all day performance at the Domes, which is one of my favorite shows that Tamarind does every year, but since it's all day in costume and in the heat of the tropical dome, there is no cooking (or real moving of any kind) afterward.  Dinner was the last of the spaghetti in my freezer, along with leftover homemade pasta from earlier in the week.  I had frozen some, and it cooked up nicely so I was quite pleased.

Sunday, though, it was gorgeous out.  I believe we hit a high of 84, which is almost unheard of in April in Wisconsin.  A perfect day to cook out on the grill, and then have a fire in the chimnea at night.

 The buffalo was awesome!  I've never had a buffalo steak before, and it was so much leaner than beef - but not chewy or tough.  I grilled them medium rare, which I would recomend.  I think overcooking them would quickly turn them into a shoe!  The parsnips and sweet potatoes were sweet and creamy - but not so much smooth.  I actually prefer a chunky mashed potato, but if you like yours whipped I think you'd have to do something more to these.

But my biggest surprise came from the salad.  The daikon/carrot/onion combination was tangy and spicy, the watercress was crunchy and peppery, the dressing was sweet, and the goat cheese was smooth and creamy.  I don't know that I've never had a daikon radish outside of garnishes at Japanese restaurants, I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, and I am so, so, SO pleased with how it turned out.  It was the perfect spring salad!

Daikon and Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese

  • 1 daikon radish, julienned (local)
  • 3-4 carrots, julienned (or enough to be about the same amount as the daikon) (local)
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly (local)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  •  1 cup washed watercress (local)
  • 1 cup washed mixed spring greens (local)
  • crumbled goat cheese (local)
Mix daikon, carrots, and onion in a small bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.

Combine watercress and mixed greens, and portion out.  Top each portion with a small handful of daikon, carrots, and onions, then top that with the goat cheese.  Dress with...

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
(modified from epicurious.com)
  • 1 cup apple cider (local)
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar (not local, but already in my house)
  • 2 tbsp honey (local)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Combine all items in a tightly closing jar.  Shake jar to combine.  This tastes even better on day two!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips
  • 2 medium parsnips (local)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (not local, but in my pantry)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter (local)
  • Milk (local)
  • Honey (local) (optional)
Wash and peel parsnips and sweet potatoes, and cut into approximately 1/2 inch slices.  Add to a large pot and cover with cold water.  Add salt to the pot, and bring to a boil.  Cook until parsnips and potatoes are soft when pricked with a fork.  Drain water, and mash with butter and milk.  Taste, and add salt and pepper.  I thought that they needed to be just a little sweeter, so I added about a tbsp of honey.

Grilled Buffalo New York Strip Steaks

  • 2 Buffalo New York Strip Steaks (local)
  • Minced Garlic (local)
  • Minced Chives (coming up in the garden!  Go Spring!!)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • A generous drizzle of olive oil
Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.  Drizzle olive oil over the bottom of a glass baking pan large enough to hold both steaks.  Add garlic and chives to the olive oil, and whisk.  Add steaks to the oil and turn so they are well coated.  Allow steaks to rest in the oil at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, turning occasionally to coat.  Grill over medium high heat for approximately 5 minutes a side, or until medium rare.  Allow steaks to rest at least 5 minutes before cutting into.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

For my birthday this year, my husband got me one of those pasta makers that you hook up to your KitchenAid stand mixers.  I had a pasta roller previously, and made pasta on occasion, but I could never figure out how to crank the dang thing and hold on to my pasta.  Which means he had to help.  So I'm pretty sure he got me this one so I could do the whole thing myself while he sat on the couch.  He's a smart boy.

Anyway, it worked like a charm!  I was especially pleased by the pasta recipes that came with the instruction manual - not for the recipes themselves, but for the directions.  I have always done the traditional make a well with the flour, break the eggs into it, etc., but these directions just said to put everything in the stand mixer bowl and use the dough hook.  I personally couldn't taste the difference and it was SO much easier.  (Somewhere, someone's Italian Grandmother is rolling over in her grave... but not mine.  First, because she's not dead.  And second, because she's all about saving time!).

So I made basically the equivalent of fettuccine, which came out very nicely, and I had enough left over to freeze about three servings - so we'll see how that works out later.

The salmon itself was not caught or grown locally, but it was processed locally at Rushing Waters.  Apparently the grocery store "can't" sell their smoked trout, which is local.  The guy working behind the fish counter didn't want to elaborate.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

  • Pasta (about two servings worth)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup red onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (I found more local garlic!! YAY!!)
  • 1/2 lb. mixed mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine - preferably something a little more acidic, like a pinot gris
  • 4-5 big handfuls spinach, chopped roughly
  • 1 fillet smoked salmon, skin removed and chopped roughly
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
 Cook the pasta according to the directions (or make your own.  It's not so hard!)  Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in a large frying pan.  Add mushrooms and cook until they just start to brown.  Add butter and white wine, and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and add spinach, stirring until spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add pasta and salmon and stir to combine, until pasta is nicely coated and the salmon is warmed.  Add goat cheese and stir once more.  The goat cheese should just start to melt, but should not blend totally into the sauce.

Top with freshly ground pepper if desired.

If I would have had them, I would have added tomatoes to this as well.  They would have added color and a nice texture.  Next time!

Total non-local ingredients:
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Wine

Friday, April 8, 2011

Croque Madame - WI style!

As poetically stated by my husband, in a mix of awe and terror, as he watched me build this monster sandwich:  "I mean this in a good way... but is this sandwich going to give me a heart attack?"

The answer, if done correctly, is yes...

I do love eggs.  I also love breakfast for dinner.  I also ALSO love cheese.  And I live in Cudahy, WI.  Home of Patrick Cudahy and their fine pork related products.  Which means I can do this one almost 100% locally. 

I would do nothing different.  I know some Croque Madame purists will be very upset at my cheese choice, but it was smokey and just a little sweet and went so well with the ham.  I used buttermilk in the cheese sauce, because that was all I had two cups of.  I felt like it made the sauce separate a little, but it added a very pleasant tangy-ness, and the sauce didn't seem grainy at all when it was eaten, so I would probably do that again.  I wouldn't go out of my way to buy buttermilk, though, because I think regular milk (or cream if you're really going for that heart attack feeling) would work fine.

This recipe is supposed to serve four, and I didn't reduce the cheese sauce, so I had a lot left over.  I think I used ham for four...

Croque Madame - WI Style
Recipe modified from epicurious.com

  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups buttermilk 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/3 cups freshly grated cheese.  (I used Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar.  Try it.  It is super good.  Or be boring and just use Gruyere like you're supposed to.)
  • 4 slices, thick sliced bread
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp mayo
  • 2 sandwiches worth (however thick you want your sandwiches to be) thinly sliced cooked ham
  • 2 large eggs

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 1/3 cup cheese until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce evenly over each of 2 slices of bread, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Mix together mustard and mayo and evenly on remaining 4 bread slices and top with ham, dividing it evenly, then invert onto cheese-topped bread to form sandwiches. 

Preheat broiler.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick, oven proof skillet over moderately low heat, then cook sandwiches, turning over once, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes total. 

Top each sandwich with 1/3 cup sauce, spreading evenly. Broil sandwiches in skillet 4 to 5 inches from heat until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots, 2 to 3 minutes

Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon butter in nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then crack eggs into skillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered, until whites are just set and yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately.

I served this with a mixed greens salad (to help my heart feel like it wasn't going to explode) and the last of the non-local ranch dressing.  

Non Local Ingredients:
  • flour (but I'm out of that, so I'm on the hunt for local flour)
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg
  • mustard
  • mayo
  • ranch dressing

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beef Short Ribs and Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with Mushrooms

 I really like pork ribs.  They are a common food in my house, made in the slow cooker.  I like using my slow cooker because the house smells so good when I get home, and because it's easy and I'm both busy and lazy.  That being said, I don't think I care for beef ribs as much.  At least these beef ribs were much fattier than I prefer.  Jeff liked them though, so maybe it's just me.  Anyway, if I made this again I would use pork ribs. The gnocchi came out quite well, though, and I've never made that before either!  I expected the gnocchi and sauce to both be heavy, and I was concerned because the beef is pretty heavy too.  It all was, so this might not make a great middle of summer meal... but the gnocchi wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be.  If I had chicken stock and had used that in the sauce, and maybe added some more vegetables, the gnocchi easily could have been served in the summer.  I also probably won't used freshly ground pepper next time, because I thought it was very noticeable in the gnocchi and wrecked the texture a little.  Maybe it should just be added at the end in the sauce.

Slow Cooked Beef Ribs with Dried Fruit

3 lbs (approximately) Beef Short Ribs - bone in
Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup dried fruit, chopped
Olive Oil

Season beef ribs with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder.  Heat up oil in a large pan and sear ribs in batches to avoid overcrowding until they are brown on all sides.  Transfer to a large slow cooker.

In the same large pan, saute onions, garlic and carrots, adding more oil if necessary, until onions are lightly browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to slow cooker

Add orange juice and wine to pan to deglaze.  Add dried fruit to crock pot and pour liquid over the top.  Cook on low for 10-11 hours.

Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with Mushrooms, modified from epicurious.com:
  • 1 pound (about 2 1/4 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup red onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • splash heavy cream
 Place ricotta in strainer set over medium bowl. Chill until ricotta has texture of wet clay, about 1 hour.
Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup flour, egg, and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough is slightly sticky (the recipe specifically said do not add more than 4 tablespoonfuls.  After 4 tablespoons, it was still very sticky.  I added a lot more flour in the rolling process). Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Using hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4-inch-wide log. Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water.  Meanwhile saute garlic, onions, and mushrooms in a large pan.  Once the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated, add wine and butter.  As the gnocchi begin to float to the top of the water, fish them out and add them to the sauce.  Here, I found myself adding more gnocchi to the pot as fast as I was fishing them out.  They do a good job of staying near the bottom of the pan and not sticking together until they are cooked, at which time they float to the top.

Once all the gnocchi has been added to the mushrooms, add the cream and allow to cook until everything is nicely incorporated and the gnocchi is covered with the sauce.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A little bit about me, and a recap of the week

So, while I have been MIA, I have not fallen off the locavore wagon.  Here's the deal.

I work for a University, and I work with the students in resolving their issues.  This means that times of the school year that have more student issues (midterms and finals), are busier at work for me.  Unfortunately, I attend the same University I work with - so these weeks are also the busiest for me away from work.  The University has 8 week courses, so basically I lose one week a month to school related activities.  Last week was midterms.  On top of that, my dance troupe, Tamarind, had a show and workshop this past weekend.  So there has not been a lot of cooking.  Here is a recap of my week:

Monday: Cheese Brats (from the winter farmer's market)
Tuesday: Popcorn (It's the dinner of champions.)
Wednesday: Pizza
Thursday: Chicken
Friday: Crab salad sandwich - I had a container of crab in my fridge from an early March attempt at crab cakes.  It was time to eat it or it would have gone bad!
  • crab
  • carrots (local)
  • lime juice
  • mayo
  • cayenne pepper
Saturday: Random things scavenged at the show
Sunday: Spaghetti

The Spaghetti was mostly local, I think.  I made a big batch and froze it in the fall.  I can't vouch for all of it, but I'd guess I did pretty well.

So, here's my recap:

Locally grown:
  • Cheese Brats
  • Chicken
  • Onion
  • Cheese
  • Potatoes
  • Salad Greens
  • Butter
  • Milk
Locally produced:
  • Brat Buns and bread - from a local bakery
  • Pizza - from a local, independently owned pizza place
  • Pasta - from the Amish people at the Winter Farmer's market.  I would guess that it could go under locally grown, but I'm not sure
Not local, but already in my house:
  • Ranch dressing
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Spaghetti sauce (I'm putting it here because I don't know).
  • Crab
  • Lime
  • Mayo
  • Spices
Not local items purchased (all used for lunches.  No dinner items... Should count for something):
  • Yogurt
  • Oranges (I felt like I was getting the scurvy!)
This week should be better :)

Friday, April 1, 2011


I would like to start off with an apology for being absent.  I will discuss that later, but I want to get right into this for those of you who won't make it to the end of this blog.

Not that long ago, I was asked "why are you doing this?  What's your point."  I didn't really have an answer that I could articulate, partly because I'd been drinking, and partly because I'm so passionate - but I don't really know why.  Why am I doing this?  

Wednesday, that question was answered for me in a very painful way.  I've only made a handful of posts, but I know I have mentioned my "chicken man" on several occasions.  Farmer Jones personified why this is important to me.  I'm passionate about food.  He's passionate about raising healthy, happy chickens.  I can't say this better than him, so please read this.  Click on the picture to make it bigger:

I cried when I read this letter.  I cried as I am writing this.  This is a man who cared about what he was doing, and what he was providing.  This is a man, who this time last year, sent a letter to his customers stating that we should let him know families in our area who were suffering due to the economy.  Who sent a letter, stating that he knew times were tough, and was happy to provide food, at no cost, to those who could not afford it.  This is a man who knew what I ordered and when I ordered it, and worried about me when I didn't show up at the market on Saturdays.  This is a man who cared about his customers.  This is a man who I joked with.  This was a man who I made chicken Christmas cookies for.  This is a man who cared about his community.  He didn't deserve to lose his business.  Moreover, he didn't deserve to lose his dream.  This was a man who I considered a friend.

I had one chicken left from him, which I baked up for dinner.  I stuffed it simply with onion, garlic, and a half a lime.  Seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.  I served it with mashed potatoes, and local greens with ranch dressing.  It was a fitting last chicken dinner.  I'm pretty sure if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, this would be my last meal.

I know there will be more chicken.  There are farmers at the winter farmers market with chicken.  But this was a friend, and he didn't deserve this.  Those of you who know me, know that the environment is important to me.  I know that replacement energy sources are important.  But I also know that ethanol is not the answer.

What I ask from you, is to think about where your food comes from.  If the answer isn't a person, then you have no way to know what you're really putting into your body.  If the answer IS a person, then they deserve to be treated like one.  If you're interested in learning more about where your food comes from, visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/global-grocer/  I know I'll talk about this more later.  Right now I'm too upset to be rational.  But think: everything in life is a trade off.  Make sure you trade wisely.

I love my husband.  He's a good man and he cares.  He made a copy of the letter and sent it to our representatives in state government.  I ask you to consider doing the same.  Our environment needs to be protected, but so does our food supply.  Without either, we are truly lost.

Rami says, "what do you mean there's no more chicken??"