Saturday, May 28, 2011

When the Cats Away, the Mice Will Play. When Jeffs Away, Kate Will Eat Morels!

Last year I bought some morels, and, after eating them, Jeff asked "so what's the difference between this and a regular mushroom?"  Which means this year I'm not sharing!  I got these at the West Allis Farmer's Market.  As I was walking up towards the market I heard some 'Stallis townie say "$42 for one pound of mushrooms?  Who would pay that?"  And I thought... OMG.  They have morels.  I would TOTALLY PAY THAT!  And then I ran to the mushroom booth and happily gave them my money.  I got a 1/2 pound.

I will share some of them with Jeff.  I am not a monster... but not all of them that's for darn sure.  Tonight, he had a gig so I didn't want to make anything too fancy, and I settled on an omelette.  Omelettes are actually something that I eat quite a lot of, that haven't made it to the blog since I figure everyone knows how to make an omelette.  But maybe they don't.  An omelette is easy, quick, and good for you.  And it's a good way to use up whatever it is you have leftover in the fridge.

If you are lucky enough to get morels, you want to make sure to soak them.  If you don't know already, there is a bit of a debate on mushrooms in the food world.  On one hand, you can't wash them because that makes them soggy.  On the other hand (the hand I'm on), mushrooms grow in dirt, and I would prefer not to eat dirt.  Plus, if I didn't pick them, I can't guarantee that whoever did pick them washed their hands first.  Eww.

But regardless of your side, I think everyone is in agreement that morels need to be not only washed, but soaked.  They have a hollow center (if they don't, DON'T eat them.  They're not morels and you will get sick) and bugs like to live in there.  Lots of times I find little maggot type worms in my soaking water.  It's gross.  I try not to think about it.  Once I'm eating them, that's pretty easy to do!

To prep morels, dissolve about 1/2 cup of salt in about a gallon of hot water (reduce if you don't have that many mushrooms).  Cut the morels in half, and soak in salt water for about 30 minutes, stirring gently occasionally.  Remove, and rinse off carefully with cold water, making sure that there are no now dead critters hanging on.  I know this seems really gross, but it is totally worth it.  Morels are only grown in the wild, so that is why it's dirtier than a mushroom that you might buy in a grocery store.  Also, the little holes hold on to stuff.  If this is just too much for you, fine.  Don't eat morels.  I do not have a problem with that at all.  More for me.

On a personal pride note, this is my first 100% local recipe (except for salt and pepper).

Morel Omelette
Serves 1
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

  • 2 morel mushrooms, soaked and rinsed (L)
  • 1 shitake mushroom (L)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (L)
  • 1 tbsp butter, divided (L)
  • Two large eggs (L)
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream (L)
  • 1 tbsp crumbled goat cheese (L)
  • 1 tbsp minced chives (L*)
  • Salt and pepper
Thinly slice mushrooms.   Heat half of butter over medium heat in a small saute pan.  Add mushrooms and garlic, and saute until mushrooms are soft and have released their liquid, about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.

While mushrooms are cooking, gently whisk eggs together with cream.  Once mushrooms are done, remove from pan into a small bowl and set aside.  Add remaining butter and allow to melt fully before pouring eggs into pan.

The trick I use when making omelettes is to "poke" them just a little when they start cooking.  Using a spatula, I just make quick little jabs into the bottom.  This helps move just a little bit of the cooked egg up and the raw egg down, so it cooks through more evenly.  I have found this leads to a fluffier omelette and lessens the risk of raw egg juice in the inside of the omelette.  You're not scrambling it, but just breaking it up a little.

Don't do this too long.  If you overcook your omelette, it will be dry and brown on the bottom.  When the eggs are still wet and raw on the top, add the mushrooms, cheese, and chives, and fold the omelette in half.  Turn the heat off, cover, and allow to sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking.

I don't know if that made a lot of sense.  I should try to make an omelette video. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Was Gibt es dann fur Mittag Essen?

Okay, I have to start out by saying I love looking at the stats for my blog.  It's especially fun to look up the crazy things that people have searched for on Google and ended up on my site.  I hope they weren't disappointed...

One thing that I find very strange, though, is that I regularly have hits from Germany.  It seems like too many to be a worm... so I wonder if there is someone from Germany reading this.  I did take German in High School, but I don't think I know anyone there.  So, I am hoping that, if they are a real person, they will comment on this and let me know who they are.

Here is what I learned in 6 years of Middle and High School German classes (this is a conversation between two people.  Person 1 is in Red, Person 2 is in Blue).  Please forgive my lack of umlauts and terrible German spelling.

Guten Tag.
Guten Tag.
Wie viel uhr ist es?
Shoen zeit fur mittag essen.
Was gibt es dann fur mittag essen?
Wahrscheinliche Bratwursten.

Roughly translated this goes:
What time is it?
About time for lunch.
What's for lunch?
Probably bratwursts. 

Tax payers money hard at work.

Yesterday at work, my co-worker Ebony said something that really hit a nerve.  She said, "I think it's great that you do all this cooking.  I would love to eat better, but I just don't have time for all that."

I think that people who don't cook don't really realize how much time is involved.  Yes, some/most of the recipes that make it onto the blog are at least slightly fancy.  But that's not what I eat every day!  I am eating locally every day, and every day for lunch (less breakfast... because I like cereal... but I'll work on that).  The boring/quick stuff doesn't make it on to the blog because I assume people don't need a recipe and can figure it out on their own.  I think I assume wrong, though.  I'm lucky.  I like to cook, and I realize that things go together.  I was brought up around real food.  But if you're not that lucky, you may not realize that eating healthy can take only a few minutes more than a long drive through line.  And it's cheaper.  And you feel better.

So, instead of neglecting those recipes that were born out of me throwing together whatever is in my fridge, which I assume no one wants to hear about, I will save them and publish them together in a bigger post.  I will also start to try to include how long things took.

Today's dinner is one of the easy ones:

BEST sandwiches: (Like a BLT only, as the name would imply, better!)
Makes 2 sandwiches.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

  • 4-6 slices bacon (L)
  • 2 eggs (L)
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed (L)
  • 1 large tomato (L)
  • 4 slices bread (L)
  • Mayo
Fry up bacon in a frying pan until crisp.  Cut tomatoes, and remove spinach leaves from stems.  Toast bread lightly, and add mayo to your taste (I added salt, pepper, and chives).  When the bacon is just done, fry up the eggs to your taste (I like scalding hot bacon, and runny eggs, so this needs to be well timed for me.  If you like your eggs well done, or if you don't mind your bacon a little cooler, this will be an easier task).  I personally like my sandwich to go (from bottom to top) bacon, egg, tomato (seasoned with salt and pepper), and spinach.  But I'm not the sandwich police so make it however you want!

Oh, and my intro wasn't complete nonsense.  Another thing I've been asked is what I eat for lunch:  Probably bratwursts.  Well, more likely sausage... Milwaukee is the home of cheese and sausage, so lunch for me tends to be some sort of sausage, some cheese, some bread, and a hard boiled egg.  Or yesterday's dinner leftovers.  But I don't know how to say leftovers in German.

Mystery German friend, can you tell me?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes I feel sorry for Vegetarians

I totally respect vegetarians.  Especially after this adventure in eating locally, I understand how hard it is to really notice and keep track of everything you are eating.  Lunches at work are especially hard.  Even before this, I tended to just take yesterday's dinner leftovers for lunch, but what if there are no leftovers?  What if I don't have time pack something?  Trying to find local lunch restaurants that I can eat at is impossible, but even in just looking I notice the minuscule amount of vegetarian options out there.  I feel very strongly about eating locally.  It's better for the environment, the economy, and my health.  And it straight up tastes better.  But I cheat.  I don't think I've done a single recipe yet that was 100% local.  It's just too hard.

Vegetarians don't cheat... at least most of them I know don't.  You don't say, "this is too hard.  I'm just going to give up today and eat this ham sandwich.  Then, tomorrow, I'll be back on track."  I couldn't do it.

Which isn't to say that I would want to be a vegetarian if I could.  I'm sorry.  I know a lot of my friends - especially my belly dance friends - are vegetarians.  I don't want to insult you.  I respect the choices you've made.  But I don't agree with them.  There's a flip side to everything.  Health, moral, or religious, I could give you a counter to your reason.  I won't, because I don't want to fight, but I could.  Not that I'd expect vegetarians to agree with me - it's just that nothing in this world is that black and white.

This blog, it has been pointed out to me, has not been vegetarian friendly.  That is not intentional.  Before starting my locavore diet I was probably eating one meat free meal per week.  The thing is, there hasn't been enough vegetables to support that.  I promise, there will be vegetarian posts in the future.

Not today, though.

Dinners like this one make me feel sorry for vegetarians.  Because you do not know what you are missing.  Or, maybe you do and have willpower of stone.  But there's something about a rib that is melt off the bone tender - sweet, savory, spicy...  And, for those of you who are buying your pork in the grocery store because it's cheap, you also don't know what you're missing.  As a child, I did not like pork at all, and now I do.  I wonder if it was because of the pork I was getting.  I just bought a new cookbook called "Good Meat," about sustainable farming and butchering, and the forward states that the pork you buy at the grocery store basically comes from a different animal than the pork that you buy from a farmer's market.  I'd believe that, because it tastes completely different.  I pared this with a "weed" salad - dandelion greens, sorrel, mint, and radish greens all from my back yard.  It was spicy and crunchy, the ribs were tender and melted in your mouth.

The only thing I might do differently was save up all the cooking juice, reduce it down, and serve it over mashed potatoes.  I feel like it got wasted, and it was just too good for that.

Slow Cooked Pork Ribs with Rhubarb Braising Sauce:
(should have made 3 servings, but the two of us demolished the whole thing!)

  • Spice Rub
    • 2 tbsp garlic powder
    • 2 tbsp onion powder
    • 1 tbsp sea salt
    • 1 tbsp white pepper
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp cloves
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 3 half racks pork ribs (country, or baby back if you have the $ to spend on baby back) (L)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Large shallots, sliced and roughly chopped (L)
  • 1/2 garlic clove, chopped (L)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or rose.  I thought a rose might make this "pink-ish".  It never does!)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (L)
  • 3 cups rhubarb (L*)
Mix together spice rub and rub onto ribs.  

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan until hot.  Brown ribs on both sides and transfer to a crock pot.  Add shallots and garlic and saute briefly.  Add wine and deglaze pan.  Transfer to crock pot, along with chicken stock and rhubarb.  Cook on low for 10 hours.

Weed Salad:

  • 4-5 sorrel leaves(L*)
  • 1 large bunch dandelion leaves (L*)
  • 10 mint leaves, chiffonaded (not sure that's a word...) (L*)
  • 4-5 small radishes, with tender leaves (L*)
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
Wash everything VERY well.  Shred first three ingredients and combine.  Remove tender leaves from radishes, and add to greens.  Slice radishes thinly and add.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Dress with rhubarb dressing
      Yes, this is a pile of weeds that I washed.  And then I ate it.
      And it was good. 

      Sunday, May 22, 2011

      Chowdah! (Part 2)

      Despite what the lameness of yesterday's post might suggest, I really do love Boston.  It's been warm but not hot so far for our visit, it's clean, and the people are friendly.  But it still has that awesome big city vibe.  Yesterday, Jeff and I walked almost the entire freedom trail - which I would highly recommend except don't go over the bridge because it's a long walk to anything after you go over the bridge and, frankly, in my opinion, it's not worth it.  We also had lunch at the oldest restaurant in America, the Union Oyster House, which also wasn't really worth it.  Basically, a tourist trap with average food.  Even the oysters didn't really do it for me.  They were fine, but over priced and not great.  We then went to the Aquarium, which I love!  I love an aquarium.  Too bad for Jeff, because he's pretty much like "oh, look, it's anther fish..." Aquariums also tend to make me hungry, which is kind of creepy if you think about it.  From there, we were off to find oyster shooters to celebrate the rapture not arriving.  Then, we took a tour of the graveyards and other haunted places in Boston which, while not as scary as the tour guide seemed to think it was, was interesting and educational (in a good way!)  Finally, off to Sel de la Terre, one of Boston's restaurants focusing in locally sourced food. 

      One of the most exciting things I've learned about Boston so far is that the University of Boston offers a Masters of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy, with a focus in History and Culture.  Classes include the Archaeology of food in Ancient Times, Geography of Hunger and Poverty, Cookbooks and History, Agricultural History: a Survey of Agriculture from the Pre-Historic Period to the Modern Period, and, possibly my favorite, a Comprehensive Survey of Wine, Spirits, and Beer!

      I want in.  Okay, maybe not right now, but I really enjoy school and I don't think I'm ready to be done.  And this seems crazy interesting.  I've thought about getting a culinary degree, but something seems backwards about going from my MBA to a A.A.S.  At least this way I wouldn't be going backward in degree levels.  Which isn't to say that I won't also get my culinary degree some day.  I just need more monies!

      If any generous benefactors are reading this out there, I'm not above donations :)

      Jeff's fish at the Union Oyster House

      Very sad cold seafood platter at the Union Oyster House.

      Shots of Jameson in an Irish Bar in Boston to prepare for the Rapture

      Oyster Shooters at the Salty Dog to celebrate after the rapture didn't come...
      Or possibly just no one was good enough to be taken...

       Sorry, dinner pictures didn't turn out :(

      Saturday, May 21, 2011


      I have no recipes today, and frankly I am so exhausted that I have very little story as well.  Generally I can fill pages with nonsense, but I find vacations very draining.

      The Cubs are playing the Red Sox at Fenway for the first time since 1918, so Jeff and I are in Boston.  I figure, if I can't get local seafood at home, I have to go to where the seafood is local!

      We got in yesterday and went to lunch at a small cafe in the neighborhood.  I wish I could tell you what it was, because the food was excellent.  No Chowdah, though.  We walked through the Boston Public Gardens and around a few neighborhoods.  We stopped by Cheers, but did not eat there because it was completely packed and appeared to be completely bar food.  Then, for dinner, we went to Todd English's Kingfish Hall, because I do love me a good celebrity chef restaurant.  Chowdah there was excellent!

      Jeff at Cheers

      Gravlox salad

      Lobster Roll

      Whipped Goat Cheese (SO GOOD!)

      Steamers at Kingfish Hall

      Chowdah at Kingfish Hall

      Lobster Ravioli at Kingfish Hall

      "Crab"-onara at Kingfish Hall

      Boston Cream Pie at Kingfish Hall
      Next up: The Freedom Trail, the oldest restaurant in America, the New England Aquarium, and Sel de la Terre, a restaurant that focuses on locally sourced food.

      And hopefully more interesting stories.

      Thursday, May 19, 2011

      All I want is a freakin' lime here people! Is that too much to ask?

      As any random chef on Food Network will tell you, acid is important to a well balanced dish.  It brings out flavor, adds a "fresh, bright taste," and perks up your mouth!  Although vinegar works, in my mind citrus is better.  Why?  Because it's a fruit.  And putting fruit in my food instantly makes it healthy, right?

      Random trivia fact: the organic molecules that provide the essence of lemon and lime are identical mirror images of each other.

      But one thing that I will never be able to have locally, living in Wisconsin, is citrus fruit, right?  No!  Wrong!  Surfing the interwebs one day, I stumbled across some dwarf citrus trees that are intended to be grown as indoor house plants and that supposedly bear full sized fruit.  It sounds too good to be true!  (To be fair, it probably is too good to be true...).  Of course, I'm sure they take at least a few years to be big enough to bear fruit... but whatever.  Even if I never get anything, I like plants!

      So, I ordered a few.  I found a site that had them fairly cheep, and the company was located out of IL, so I felt good about supporting a local business.  They had a "4 pack" - lemon, lime, and two kinds of oranges.  With shipping it turned out to be about $50.  Not bad, I thought.  Checked the reviews of the company on line:  Good product, slow shipping, and poor communication.  Whatever.  I can totally deal with that.  So I placed my order.

      3 weeks pass.  Nothing.  Not even a confirmation email.  They charged my credit card the day I placed the order, so I at least know they got it.  Poor communication is right.  So I give them a call.  "I'm trying to find the status of my order," I ask.  They take some of my personal information to find my order.  I'd love to help out by giving them a confirmation number or something, but I never got one... "Your order hasn't shipped yet," I'm told.  "Do you have any idea when it might?"  "Sorry, but I couldn't say at this time..."  Okay, so you have my money, but you can't even begin to guess when you might ship me my goods?  And, to top things off, my credit card bill is due in the next few days.  I've never had to dispute a charge, but I remember reading one time that you can't dispute the charge after you've paid.  So I say "Okay, well just so you know, I'm going to have to call my credit card and see what the policy is on disputing a charge.  I do really want these plants, but I've never ordered from you before so for all I know you could be a scam.  I don't want to pay the bill and then never get my items."  The customer service representative actually laughed at that and said "I'll be sure to pass that on.  Maybe it will help them ship faster!"

      So, I call my credit card company.  No need to worry.  I can always dispute the charge as long as I do so within 90 days.  Give them a little more time.
      So I do.  Two more weeks pass - 5 total now - and I call again.  Any word on my order?

      They take my personal information again - still no confirmation number.  "Are you calling about the order you canceled?"  I'm stunned.   "I didn't cancel any order.  I called two weeks ago to try to find the status..."

      He puts me on hold.  About 10 minutes later he's finally back.  "It appears you called two weeks ago and were unsatisfied with the time it was taking to get your product.  You stated that you felt it was inappropriate that we charged your card before shipping your items.  Since you're a first time customer, it was determined that it wasn't worth the hassle and your order was canceled."


      Shocked silence on my end.  Then "Okay... I'm going to need to speak to a manager."

      A long hold again (at which point I checked, and the charges were refunded to my Credit Card), then a manager.  I explained the situation, especially the part where I wasn't worth their time and energy.  She apologized for the "misunderstanding" and asked if I would like to replace my order.  Since it's their busy season, I should expect it to be delivered in about 6 weeks.  "But I placed my order 5 weeks ago and you guys canceled it without asking me.  Can't you bump me to the front of the line?"

      "Sorry, but our system doesn't work that way.  Would you like to re-place your order?"

      Uh... How about no.

      So, the moral of the story is, DO NOT ORDER FROM FOUR SEASONS NURSERY.  Seriously.  Whatever you do.  Don't go there.

      Oh, yeah, and I ate stuff.  There are now real tomatoes, not even hot house grown, at the West Allis Farmer's Market.  They were AMAZING.  Two nights ago, Jeff and I had BSTs (Bacon, Spinach, and Tomato), and last night we had some awesome NY Strip Steaks on the grill with a tomato mozzarella salad.  We eat this salad pretty much all summer... considering I generally plant way more varieties of tomatoes and basil than my garden can reasonably be expected to hold.  The basil isn't local yet, but I just couldn't wait:

      Tomato Mozzarella Salad 

      2 large ripe tomatoes (L)
      2 balls fresh mozzarella (L)
      6-8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
      3 large cloves garlic , minced (L)
      2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
      1 generous pinch salt
      1 generous pinch fresh ground pepper
      1 generous pinch ground mustard
      1/4 cup olive oil

      Slice tomatoes and mozzarella so they are approximately the same thickness.  Layer slices into a glass serving dish with at least 1 inch high sides.  Sprinkle basil leaves on top. Whisk together next 5 ingredients until well combined.  Slowly, pour olive oil into mixture while whisking constantly.  Pour oil/vinegar over tomatoes and cheese, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes for flavors to combine.

      Tuesday, May 17, 2011

      I have crabs... and I couldn't be happier!

      So, I've said from the beginning that there are going to be exceptions to my local rule.  This has got to be one of them! 

      Soft shell crabs are about my FAVORITE food in the world.  I'm pretty sure that they are the most delicious seafood of them all... although it might just be that they're only available for about two weeks a year, so they're always a special treat.  Nah, I'm going to go with most delicious seafood of them all.  And they're so easy to make!  Which is good, because, seeing as they're only available two weeks a year, I don't get a lot of opportunity to practice...

      I can never quite remember which two weeks, though, and I have missed them in the past.  Yesterday, on my way home from work, something told me to swing by the Public Market.  Having just gotten home from my dance trip, there was very little food in the fridge.  My original plan was to swing by Outpost and find something to make for dinner, but a little voice in my head said: "You have to teach tonight.  You don't have time for real food.  Cheat.  Get some fish!"  I tend to listen to the little food voice in my head... except, maybe, for the one that is constantly screaming "FEED ME SUSHI!!!" because that one doesn't understand that I have a budget...  But this was the good voice... The sane voice that tells me to eat beef when my iron is low, and craves vegetables all winter, and demanded I buy 7 kinds of tomato plants at the farmers market...  It may be the same voice that tells me that a bottle of red wine and a bar of dark baking chocolate are good for my heart, but we all have to have some flaws, right?

      Anyway, I went to the Public Market, and wandered down to visit my lovely fishmonger boyfriend, and as I was pondering what to get he looked at me with a little wink and said "we have soft shell crabs..."

      "Yes!  Thank you!  Yes!! NOW!"

      Anyway, I've also gotten to the point where I need to pick some of my rhubarb, so I decided to use up some of that as well.  I love rhubarb pie probably more than the next person, but I also really enjoy rhubarb in savory dishes.  I've used it as a sauce for pork before, and so this recipe was somewhat inspired by that taste:
      Rhubarb Risotto with Grilled Soft Shell Crab
      Serves 2 with leftovers

      • 3-4 cups chicken stock (L)
      • 3-4 slices thick sliced bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (L)
      • 1 shallot, minced (L)
      • 4 cloves garlic, minced (L)
      • 2 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced (*L)
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • 1 1/2 cups arriboro rice
      • 1/2 cup dry white or rose wine
      • honey or maple syrup to taste (L)
      • 2 tbsp butter (L)
      • 1/4 cup chives, minced (*L)

      • 6 soft shell crabs
      • Olive oil
      • Sea salt
      • Freshly ground pepper
      • Minced Chives (*L)
      This recipe could easily be made vegetarian.  Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock, and use 2 tbsp olive oil in place of the bacon.

      Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a medium sauce pan.

      In a large saute pan, fry bacon until crispy.  Remove bacon, leaving drippings in pan.  Add onions and garlic, and saute until softened.  Add rhubarb and continue to cook until the rhubarb begins to soften and has released some of its liquid.  Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque with a little white dot in the center.

      Add wine, and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated (I used a rose, and it made the rice just a little bit pink!).  Do not let the rice become completely dry.  Add about 1/3 of the stock to the pan and stir.  Allow to cook, uncovered, until most of the stock has been absorbed, stirring regularly.  Add 1/3 more of the stock.  Again, cook uncovered, stirring regularly, until most of the stock is absorbed.  Add final 1/3 of stock and stir vigorously.   Allow to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the stock is absorbed.  Taste and season as desired.  If the risotto is too tart, add a little bit of the honey or maple syrup (not too much.  This is not supposed to be a sweat dish!).  Remove from heat.  Add the butter and retained bacon bits, stir, and allow to sit covered for about 5 minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir again to incorporate.

      Meanwhile, brush crabs with olive oil, and season generously with salt, pepper, and chives.  Grill over a medium high grill, for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until firm to the touch but not burnt.  Do not overcook, they should still be juicy, even in the ends of their legs.

      I served this with a mixed green salad from Growing Power (L), with Feta Cheese (L) and Rhubarb Vinaigrette Dressing:

      • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced rhubarb (*L)
      • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (L)
      • 1/3 cup sweet, fruity wine vinegar (I used raspberry blush because I had it, but really anything would work.  I considered using a pear white wine vinegar too).
      • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
      • 1/8 tsp sea salt
      • 3/4 cup olive oil
      In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, syrup, and vinegar.  Cook, uncovered, until rhubarb is very soft.  Transfer to a blender, add remaining ingredients, and blend until well combined and rhubarb is liquefied.   Allow to cool.

      Monday, May 16, 2011


      What a busy weekend!  This past weekend, my dance troupe performed and taught at Tribal Renaissance in Eau Claire, WI.  With workshops, performances, and vending (not to mention staying in a hotel!) there was little time for eating much less cooking!  I was very fortunate Friday night, and we stumbled across Hooligans Steak and Seafood Pub.  Their "Just Local Combo Plate" was exactly what I needed after a long day of driving and being stuck in completely insane traffic.  Smoked trout, deviled eggs, cheese, and summer sausage, all sourced locally.  Got it to go, and went home and ate in the hotel room!

      Our tour guide, Wilson
      The rest of the weekend I was happy to have leftovers in the hotel fridge from the amazing date I went on with my husband on Thursday.  The weather in Milwaukee has been terrible so far this spring, but Thursday it was finally nice for us and we went on a horse drawn carriage ride through downtown, which was absolutely beautiful.  We packed a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine (not sure that's legal... but oh well, and got a tour of our own town. 

      This is a date I would highly recommend, and most larger cities have carriage rides, I think.  Yes.  The ride itself is a little pricey, but if you pack your own dinner and wine it's going to be a lot less than dinner out at a fancy restaurant.  And, in my opinion, picnics can feel incredibly fancy if done correctly.  I went with the traditional sandwiches and potato salad, but by using some less traditional ingredients I got spectacular results:

      Steak Sandwiches:
      • Tomato Chutney:
        • 3 vine ripened tomatoes (L)
        • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
        • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
        • 1/2 cup honey (L)
        • 1 tsp salt
        • 2 tsp mustard seeds
        • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
        • 1/4 cup chopped chives
      • 1 thin, boneless steak.  I used a flat iron, but you could use flank or anything along those lines (L)
      • Salt & freshly ground pepper
      • 1 tbsp minced garlic (L)
      • 1 tbsp minced chives (L*)
      • 1 tbsp minced oregano
      • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
      • Mayonnaise
      • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (L)
      • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese (L)
      • Spinach (L)
      • 2 long, crusty rolls
      Chop tomatoes.

      Bring vinegars, sugar, salt mustard seed, and black pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir in tomatoes and chives, and simmer for about an hour and a half until thickened and reduced to approximately 1 1/2 cups.
        Season steak with salt and pepper.

        In a glass baking dish, combine garlic, chives, oregano and olive oil.  Add the steak and turn to coat.  Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature, turning occasionally.  Grill over medium high heat until medium rare - only a few minutes on each side.  Steaks like this tend to be very tough if overcooked, so please don't.  If you don't like beef that's still pink, then replace the steak with roast beef from your local deli.  If you overcook the meat, you will not like this recipe!  Allow the meat to rest before slicing!

        Slice the rolls and spread mayo on both sides.  Slice the steak on an angle, against the grain, into about 1/4 inch thick slices and layer on bottom of sandwich.  Sprinkle with cheese and lay spinach on top.  Add tomato chutney.

        Cut in half and wrap in aluminum foil if you are picnicking!

        Fancy Potato Salad
        • 1 lb fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices (L)
        • 1 cooked chicken breast, torn into bit sized pieces (L)
        • 1 smoked trout fillet, chopped into bite sized pieces (L)
        • 2 tbsp chopped chives (*L)
        • 1 large handful sorrel leaves, torn into bite sized pieces (*L)
        • 1/2 cup radish greens and young roots (*L) (I was thinning my radishes.  This seemed like a good use for what I pulled!)
        • 1/4 cup mayo
        • 1/4 cup sour cream

        Place potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft.  Drain, and refrigerate the potatoes until they are cool.

        In a large bowl, combine cooked potatoes with remaining ingredients, stirring gently to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

        Wednesday, May 11, 2011

        Dandelion Soup

        I can imagine the circumstances under which this recipe was born.  A farmsteader in late April or early May.  The snow has melted, but nothing is growing yet.  The air is still cold.  The potatoes from last year have all been eaten or have gone bad.  After a long winter, you are not just starving for something fresh to eat, you're literally starving.  And then, these tiny little plants with soft leaves and bright yellow flowers start popping up in your garden.  You didn't plant them.  They're crowding out what you did plant.  They've got to go!  But got to go where?  Into the compost pile where they can spread into more of your gardens?  Into the fire?  No, into your belly!

        I brought my leftovers to work for lunch, and while some of my co-workers were adventurous and tried, the majority turned up their noses.  Eat a weed?  Is it safe?  Sorry, Kate, that's too weird for me.  Or, my favorite.  Just a laugh.  Oh, wait, you're serious?  Eww...

        Grocery stores have certainly changed people.  In many ways, this is a good thing.  We expand our palates by being exposed to new things.  Children can learn about other cultures through their food, and the foreign becomes less strange and scary.  Diets can be better, in theory, because fresh fruit and vegetables can be eaten even in the middle of winter.

        But diets aren't better.  Obesity, especially obesity among children is on the rise.  Why?  With the abundance of food comes the abundance of fast food, prepared food, and convenience food.  Not only can we not be bothered to raise and butcher our own cow, or bake our own buns, we can't even be bothered to form our own hamburger patties.  We have Burger King make it "our way," because we can't be bothered to make it ourselves.  And we lose these recipes; OUR recipes.  Sushi is normal, but the recipes of the individuals who built our country are too weird to try?  The ingredients of my gum include glycerol, soy lecithin, aspertame-asesulfame, hydroxylated soy lechithin, BHT, and Phenylalanine - and I'm sure you'd gladly steal a stick - but dandelions, which we can all recognize by sight, are just to strange of ingredients for you to take the risk...

        This recipe calls for 1 cup dandelion leaves.
        This is way more than that!  1 cup is about
        one big plant.
        So, I DARE you.  Try this.  It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, and I bet you have most or all of the ingredients in your house... or yard.  

        Oh, and I've added a new notation.  (L) means local, but (L*) means I picked it in my own back yard.

        Dandelion Soup
        Taken from the Laura Ingles Wilder Cookbook

        Serves 2 as a main course

        • 1/4 cup butter (L)
        • 1 cup finely chopped dandelion leaves (do NOT pick them out of your yard if you use pesticides.  You can find them at specialty food stores) (L*)
        • 1 tbsp minced garlic (L)
        • 1 tbsp minced chives (L*)
        • 1 tsp salt
        • 1/2 tsp pepper
        • 3 tbsp flour
        • 4 cups milk
        Dandelion leaves sauteing
        in butter
        Melt butter.  Add greens, herbs, and seasonings.  Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.  Leaves will shrink and soften.  Sprinkle in flour, stirring to coat greens evenly  Cook about 5 additional minutes.

        Dandelion leaves cooking
        with flour
        Stir in milk, cooking over low heat, stirring until smooth.  Simmer until milk is hot and greens are tender, about 5 more minutes.

        This is all the recipe called for.  I added a few Herbed Egg Dumplings:
        • 2 large eggs (L)
        • 1 tbsp chives, minced (L*)
        • 1 tbsp oregano, minced  (L*)
        • Pinch salt
        • 1/2 to 1 cup flour (L)
        Add about 1 1/2 to 2 inches water to a small pot, salt, and bring to a boil.

        Beat eggs in a small bowl.  Beat in chives, oregano, and salt.  Add flour slowly, until mixture is stiff and no longer sticky.  Drop by small spoonfuls into the boiling water and cook until dumplings are cooked through, about 2-3 minutes depending on size.  Drain water.

        Place dumplings in the bottom of large soup bowls and pour dandelion soup on top.  Eat while hot.

        *This was even better warmed up and eaten the second day.  I kept the dumplings separate so they didn't get soggy.

        Tuesday, May 10, 2011

        Ice Cream for Mom

        So, around Christmas time, I had major reconstructive jaw surgery.  As a gift, my wonderful troupe director, Jennifer Nolan, gave me an ice cream machine.  I will admit that, during the recovery time after my surgery, I did not use it once.  All I could eat was ice cream, pudding, and other sweet, soft nonsense.  What I really wanted was protein.  That, and toast.  I really wanted toast.  Not sure why, but toast was my number 1 craving!

        Anyway, I didn't use the ice cream maker then, and it sat with my other large kitchen tools (stand mixer, bread machine, crock pot) pretty much all winter.  I made some fancy ice cream for valentines day, but that, I think, is it.

        I hauled it out again for mothers day, and have officially decided that ice cream should be my new thing.  I can get eggs from the market, and I can find local dairy products at the grocery store... I love ice cream... Making it myself almost makes it feel healthy!

        So, for mother's day, I went to my mom's house for dinner.  Her husband, who is in culinary school made dinner, which was great, and I brought this for dessert.

        Raspberry Champagne Ice Cream:

        For champagne:

        Take about 1/2 bottle of the lowest alcohol content sparkling wine you can find (I used Asti), and pour into a glass baking dish.  Do not pour more than 1/2 an inch into the dish.  I actually ended up using two dishes, since my bigger baking dishes were being used for brunch.  Allow to freeze, breaking up with a fork every couple hours.  Because of the alcohol, this will not freeze solid, but you should end up with an icy slush.  I ended up doing this overnight.  You could, in theory, end here and have the best snow cone ever!

        For custard:
        • 2 cups half and half (L)
        • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (L)
        • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half, seeds scraped
        • 8 egg yolks (L)
        • 3/4 cups honey (L)
        • 1/4 tsp salt
        Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl, and nest a heat proof bowl inside.  Have a fine mesh sieve near by.  You will not have time to set this up once you've started making the custard, so do this ahead of time!

        In a heavy saucepan, combine half and half, cream, and vanilla bean pod and seeds.  Warm over medium high heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture barely comes to a simmer - about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a heat proof bowl, combine the egg yolk, sugar, and salt.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture lightens in color and doubles in volume: about 2 minutes.

        Once cream mixture is at a bare simmer, remove from heat.  Whisking constantly, pour about 1 cup of the mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the cream, whisking constantly, and place over medium heat.  Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the mixture forms a custard thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.  DO NOT allow the mixture to boil.
        Ice cream churning

        Pour the custard into the fine mesh sieve, into the heat proof bowl in the ice bath.  Discard the vanilla bean.  If you have any chunks that resemble scrambled eggs, you overcooked the custard.  Throw it out and start over.  Sorry.

        Stir the custard in the iced bowl constantly until the custard has cooled.  Remove the bowl from the ice wrap and cover with plastic - resting the plastic right on top of the custard.  Refrigerate at least overnight, up to 3 days. 

        Pour the cold custard into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers directions.  While the custard is churning, add in the champagne slushy and about 1/2 cup frozen raspberries.  Spoon into a freezer-safe container, cover tightly, and freeze until firm.
          If you really like a smooth ice cream, this might not be for you.  The champagne is little ice crystals, so there is definitely a crunchy ice component to the ice cream.  I thought it was good, but I did get a comment that the texture was "interesting."  (Define interesting: Oh God, oh God, we're all going to die?)  Once I explained what was going on, though, people seemed to like it... or at least they said they did.  Jeff did tell me that he prefers Ben and Jerry's, but I don't think that's a fair comparison unless I make some Chubby Hubby.  Maybe that should be my next ice cream experiment. 

          Monday, May 9, 2011

          Spring is Springing... But It's Not Quite Sprung

          There are a few signs that winter is over and spring is finally venturing into Wisconsin.  Not the temperature, exactly.  It's hardly peeked above 60.  Right now, for example, the high today was 54 degrees.  The average temperature for today is 64.  I know I shouldn't expect to go swimming outside, but I'd at least like to pack up my winter coats!  Usually, I get to bring my mom Lilies of the Vally for Mother's Day, but they're hardly poking out of the ground.

          There are signs of life, however:

          Robin's Egg
          Kohlrabi starting to come up
          Daffodils in my front yard
          Actually, I almost have enough rhubarb to make something!
          Chives (and peas in the pot)


          Wheat Grass

          But, the most exciting signs of spring are taking place outside of my garden!  This Saturday was the start of the West Allis Farmer's Market, which, in my experience, is the biggest farmer's market in the area.  I won't say it's the best - because I certainly don't want to start a fight, and biggest doesn't always mean best, but it is definitely the biggest that I have been to.  They also seem to have the most plants, so that is where I tend to go to purchase plants for my garden.  What I have above were all started from seeds, or perennials. 

          But this week, they had the most exciting thing in the history of ever:

          I swear, there is salad under those tomatoes!
          OMG: TOMATOES. And Cucumbers.  Yes, okay they're hot house grown.  But they were still much tastier than anything in the grocery store, and I have been feeling tomato deprived.  I asked the farmer how he could possibly have tomatoes and he answered: "Because I'm Magic!"  While I can rationally understand why a hot house is not magic, I am still going to believe that answer, because everything about growing food seems just a little magical to me.

          I made a salad with ranch dressing.  It was awesome.

          This weekend was also mother's day.  Jeff's family came over, and I made them brunch.  It was actually very hectic, because the eggs just would not get cooked, so I have no pictures.  But, I did have some very successful dishes, and I wanted to share those.

          These recipes all serve 8 with leftovers

          Make Ahead French Toast with Pears
          This recipe was modified from one I found, in which you were supposed to cook down some apples with seasonings.  That's great if I had apples and/or time to cook them, but there has to be an easier way.  I went to Outpost and found a jar of canned pears from a local orchard, and substituted those.  Really, I am sure you could use any fruit.  I expect to be canning fruit myself this summer, so this could become a regular meal at my house next winter.

          • 1 pint jar canned pears (L)
          • 1 French baguette, sliced into 3/4 inch thick slices (L)
          • 4 large eggs (L)
          • 1 1/4 cups milk, half and half, cream, or some combination.  I actually used mostly buttermilk, because I had it for the ranch (L)
          • 2 tsp vanilla extract
          • 1 tsp almond extract
          • Freshly ground nutmeg
          • Freshly ground cinnamon
          • Butter
          Butter the bottom and sides of a 8x10 (or whatever large size you have) cake pan.  Lay pears in a single layer on the bottom of the pan, squeezing as tightly together as possible.  Lay overlapping slices of bread on top of pears.  Combine all other ingredients, and pour over the bread and pears.  Cover in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight. 

          When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap and allow dish to warm while pre-heating oven to 375 degrees.  Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, or until bread is golden and custard is firm.  Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

          You could try to flip this, but I actually thought the bottoms of the bread were pretty, golden, and toasted, and I had no idea if it would look good if I did try to flip it, so I served it right out of the cake pan.  I had syrup, but hardly any of it got used.

          Smoked Salmon and Spinach Egg Bake
           The recipe I modified for this said it would take 45 minutes.  I used 8 whole eggs and 8 egg whites, as opposed to the recommended 6/6, so I upped that to an hour.  It took about an hour and a half!! 

          • 8 whole eggs (L)
          • 8 egg whites (L)
          • 1 cup club soda
          • 1 cup milk, cream, or half and half (L)
          • 4 large handfuls spinach, washed and roughly chopped (L)
          • 3-4 scallions, white and tender green parts chopped (L)
          • 1/2 garlic head, chopped (L)
          • 1 cup cheese (I used 1/2 Carr Valley Snow White Goat Cheddar (L) and 1/2 Parmesan (L))
          • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
          • 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeng
          • 1 smoked salmon fillet (L)
          • Butter
          Whisk together eggs, club soda, and milk.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.  Stir in cheese, spinach, onions, and garlic.  Add in salmon and stir gently to combine.

          Butter the sides and bottom of an 8 x 10 baking dish (I'm just realizing that I used the 8X10 on the french toast, so the dish I actually used might have been smaller... that might have been our problem!!) and pour ingredients in.  Bake at 350 degrees for an unknown amount of time, or until set in the middle.  I think if you use the right size pan, it should be 45 minutes to an hour.

          Breakfast Potatoes:

          • 2-3 lbs new potatoes (Yay!  There are potatoes again too!!  No more weird substitutes... although I have grown to love me some celery root) (L)
          • 2 tbs butter (L)
          • Fresh Chives, minced (L)
          • 1/2 head garlic, minced (L)
          • Spices as desired.  I used rosemary (L) and paprika, but you could really use anything you wanted.
          • Lots of Kosher salt and pepper
          Slice potatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds.  Place in a pot and just barely cover with cold water.  Salt generously.  Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are just starting to get soft - not cooked through.  I have found this is almost exactly the time when the water comes to a hard boil.  Drain water.  Add butter to a large frying pan and melt.  Add potatoes, chives, garlic, and spices, and saute until potatoes are tender and start to brown.  These hold well in a warm oven, and reheat great!

          Friday, May 6, 2011

          Happy Cinco De Mayo!

          Mexican food means to me (in addition to Margaritas) either: 1. Super Americanized Chicken Tacos (you know, some chicken breast, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream...) or, 2. Going out for Mexican food!  I don't have a lot of real Mexican dishes in my repertoire.  And by a lot I mean any.  I make a mean taco dip...

          I picked this recipe because I thought it would be a good opportunity to use up some of the leftover pumpkin seeds I had from the Chewda... That would have been a great plan, had I read the recipe ahead of time and realized that there were no pumpkin seeds in it.  And also, that there were a lot of things I DIDN'T have... even after a shopping exertion.  I'm not sure how authentic this recipe (taken from was to begin with, and I really didn't follow it that much anyway.  So, I still might not have any real Mexican dishes in my repertoire.  But this was good and fairly easy, and I will make it again!

          This also has the benefit of being a one pot meal, unless you want to serve it with rice, which I totally did!

          Pumpkin Chicken Mole
          (serves 2 with leftovers for dinner or lunch the next day)
          • 2 dried Serrano chillies (L) 
          • 2 tbsp olive oil 
          • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped roughly (L)
          • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (L)
          • 3/4 cups canned diced tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes if you have them (I don't)
          • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (L)
          • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
          • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into about 1/2 inch thick slices (L)
          • splash half and half (L)
          • Fresh cilantro
          • Sour Cream
          • Lime wedges
          • Salt
          • Pepper
          • Garlic Powder
          • Onion Powder
           Cut the stems off of the chilies, cut them in half, and remove the seeds.  Heat a large pot over medium heat, and toast the chilies until they start to darken. DO NOT stand over the pot and breath deeply, as I was coughing all night!  Once chilies have toasted (about 3-5 minutes), remove and place into a bowl of warm water to soften.  Allow to soak for about 30 minutes.

          Meanwhile, add oil to the same pot.  Saute onions and garlic until they are staring to brown.  Place onions, garlic, (leave any remaining oil in the pot) tomatoes, and softened chillies into a food processor, and blend until smooth.

          Season chicken with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic, and put into the pot, adding more oil if necessary.  Cook until browned over medium high heat.  Chicken does not need to be cooked through.  Add contents of the food processor to the pot with the chicken, along with chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and is starting to fall apart, and sauce is thickened.  Add pumpkin, taste, and adjust seasonings - adding honey if you would like the Mole to be sweeter.  Add a splash of cream and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce comes back to temperature.

          Serve over rice if desired, with cilantro, sour cream, and a squeeze of lime over the top.

          Wednesday, May 4, 2011

          Slow Cooked Lamb Curry

          I love my slow cooker.  I spent way too much money on it, but I use it all the time.  I read somewhere that if you take the price of a pair of shoes and divide it by how many times you wear the shoes, then that is the actual price of the pair of shoes.  I am going to use the same logic on all my cooking tools.

          It just makes me happy to be at work, knowing that when I'm done dealing with the nonsense that the day may hold and get back home again, dinner will be ready.  It's relaxing.  And lots of times my hands smell like the spice rub that I used on whatever I'm making, so I can go stick my hands in my co-workers face and make them jealous.  True story.  I do that.

          This particular recipe is modified from William Sonoma's The New Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I also have William Sonoma's Essentials of Slow Cooking, which I think they no longer sell, but which is also a really good cookbook.  I like the William Sonoma cookbooks, because they have pictures.  I believe all cook books should have pictures, so I know if I did it REALLY WRONG. ("No?  This isn't supposed to be purple?  Hmm... Maybe I shouldn't eat it.")

          This, however, was not wrong, and was enjoyed by all.  It was not too spicy or to curry-y.  In fact, next time I think I would add more curry.  But I like curry, so that's just me.

          Making this recipe was actually inspired by my dad and my trip to Smelt Fest, where he told me he didn't like curry.  Which made me want curry.  Because I REALLY like curry.

          This recipe can be prepared quickly before leaving for work.  And I do mean quickly, because I am always running late in the morning and do not wake up earlier to get stuff done.

          Lamb and Spinach Curry
          • 1/3 cup olive oil
          • 3 lb lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes.  (L) 
          • 2 tbsp salt, divided
          • 1 tbsp garlic powder
          • 1 tbsp onion powder
          • 1 tbsp coriander 
          • 1 tsp black pepper
          • 3 shallots, chopped (L)
          • 1/2 head garlic, minced (L)
          • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
          • 2 tsp cumin
          • 2 dried chillies, whole (L)
          • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
          • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
          • 1 tbsp salt, plus more to taste
          • 6 cups spinach (L) 
          • 2 tbsp Garam Masala
          • 2 cups plain yogurt, or use the recipe for Yogurt Dipping Sauce

          Place lamb in a large bowl and toss with 1 tbsp salt, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, and pepper.

          Warm oil in a large fry pan over medium high heat until hot.  Add the lamb and saute until just browned.  Transfer to your crock pot.

          If necessary, add more oil to the pan and allow to heat back up.  Add the shallots and saute until they start to brown.  Add garlic and peppers and continue to cook until onions are golden.  Don't burn the garlic!  Stir in the ginger, cumin, and turmeric, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.  Add broth and deglaze the pan, bringing the broth to a boil.  Pour over lamb in the crock pot.

          Cover, and cook for 8-10 hours.

          Once you are ready to eat, stir the spinach into the crock pot and allow to wilt, about 5 minutes more.  Mix in Garam Masala.  Serve over rice with yogurt.

          I did use a bone in shoulder shank, and while I cut as much meat as I possibly could off the bone, I browned this as well and included it in the cooking.  I feel like a bone adds a lot of flavor and, while it takes away from the amount of meat you have, it's a good addition.  Plus, after it's been slow cooked, you can pull off the rest of the meat that you couldn't get off when it was raw!

          Tuesday, May 3, 2011

          Fish + Cheese = (a) Delicious (b) Evil (Cirlce One)

          Check it out.  I like seafood.  I like dairy.  I like fish.  I like cheese.  They don't go together?  Says who!?  I did some serious searching on the internet for about 3 minutes and I could not find a reason why you aren't supposed to eat them together.  So I'm gonna.  Deal.  Plus, I can give 5 good reasons why you SHOULD eat seafood and dairy: 
          1. New England Clam Chowder
          2. Fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp or salmon (or both!)
          3. Seafood Etouffee
          4. Shrimp tacos (with Chiuaua Cheese)
          5. Tonight's dinner

          This is something my dad has been making for as long as I can remember having teeth (probably longer...).  I did cheat a little, because it's not tomato season yet, but I had a few leftover from the Student Showcase meal, and I figured I had better eat them up.  (See My Top Chef Challenge Post.)  This meal is quick, fresh, and easy.  I think dinner was literally ready in less than 15 minutes.  And I do not believe in abusing the word literally.

          Dad's Cheesy Grilled Fish
          • 4 fish fillets (I used Rushing Waters Rainbow Trout)
          • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, including tender green parts
          • 2-3 tomatoes, sliced
          • 1/3 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese - really any kind will do depending on your mood and the contents of your cheese drawer.  I used cheddar this time.
          • Salt and freshly ground pepper
          Season the fish with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle green onions on top, then layer tomatoes on top of the green onions.  Grill, tomato side up, until fish is cooked almost all the way through.  Time will depend on how thick your fillets are.  When the fish are about 5 minutes away from done, sprinkle the cheese on top.  Continue cooking until fish is fully cooked and the cheese is melted.  Eat, and silently mock all those who are "too good" to eat fish and cheese.  More for you.

          The salad is simply some local mixed greens with fresh goat cheese and tahini sauce for dressing.

          Monday, May 2, 2011

          Buffalo Steak, Asparagus, and Mashed Root Veggies.

          Another sign that winter is finally coming to an end - the Winter Farmer's Market is coming to an end!  This week was the last week, and next week the first "regular" Farmer's Market starts up.  The greater Milwaukee area actually has a lot of farmer's markets, which is nice.  What's not so nice is that almost all of them are on Saturday mornings, and I don't have time to get to them all!
          Most of the farmers that I met this winter are either going to be at the West Allis farmer's market, which is probably the biggest one in the area, or the South Shore Farmer's Market, which is right by my house.  My Buffalo farmers, however, are going to be at the Tosa Farmer's Market, which I don't think I'm going to be able to get to regularly.  It's annoying, because I've developed quite a fondness for buffalo.  The main thing I don't like about beef is the fatty bits.  According to my husband and Anthony Bourdain, the fatty bits are the best part, but I just can't deal with the chewy texture.  Buffalo has all the richness of beef while still being very lean.  It makes me happy.

          I seasoned the buffalo with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and minced chives.  I grilled the asparagus and mushrooms with butter, salt, and pepper, wrapped up in aluminum foil.  The potatoes are not potatoes (because I still don't have any!) but are turnips and parsnips, made just like mashed potatoes. 100% local, except for the asparagus. 

          Sunday, May 1, 2011

          My "Top Chef" Challenge

          I am, among other things, a food show junky.  Top Chef is one of my favorites; although I probably have 10 favorites...

          So, when I was preparing for Tamarind Tribal Belly Dance's Student Showcase, I couldn't help but feel like I was on an episode of Top Chef.  I would like to see them try this challenge:  Provide appetizers for an unknown number of people, using as many local ingredients as possible, for $150.  Also, it's May 1st in Wisconsin, which is well before the growing season.  Also, try to make it sort of Middle Eastern themed.  Oh, and there will be a bunch of vegetarians...


          Overall, the day was a total success.  My students were AMAZING and made me very proud.  And the food was good, although it vanished more quickly than I would have preferred.  I didn't have the option of going completely local, but I did try my best.  Unfortunately, the day got away from me and I completely forgot to take pictures of anything.  I'm sorry.  I suck.

          Most of the recipes were taken, almost directly, from the Aarti Party website at Food Network.  So, most of the pictures that I have here are taken from there as well.

          Chewda: Indian Chex Mix
          From what I found online, this is very similar to Chex Mix in the sense that everyone has their own recipe.  It was salty, spicy, and sweet.  I did eat a lot of it right after making it the night before the Showcase, and while it was good room temperature, it was even better warm.  This recipe makes 4 cups, and I doubled that. 

          • 2 cups Corn Flakes cereal
          • 2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
          • 1/4 cups peanuts (I used Spanish)
          • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
          • 2 tablespoons oil
          • 1 tsp mustard seeds 
          • 1/2 habanero chili (Local)
          • 1/2 tsp tumeric
          • 1/2 tsp hot madras curry powder
          • small handful banana chips
          • 2 tablespoons golden rasins
          • Kosher Salt
          In a large wok over medium heat, toast the corn cereal, puffed rice cereal, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds
          until the cereals have crisped up, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan.

          Warm the oil in the same wok over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds (stand back, they'll pop!
          ), curry leaves, chile, and turmeric. Cook about 30 seconds. Turn the heat off.

          Add the cereal mixture, banana chips, and raisins. Season with salt. Toss until well
          combined, and pour into a big bowl.

          Mint Pea-Lafels (Like a Falafel, but with Peas!)
          Picture of Fried Pea and Mint Patty Sandwiches: Pea-lafels Recipe
           This Recipe is supposed to serve four.  I multiplied it by 8.  Warning, if you're going to do that, make sure you have a big enough bowl.  I did not.  And food process in batches.  Also, this recipe was supposed to be deep fried.  I ended up baking them because when they went into the oil they just fell apart and it was nasty.  Baked, though, they worked out well and were a lot healthier.  Also, I'm going to freeze a few and see if they heat up well later.  If so, this would be a good snack for our feeding FatChanceBellyDance when they come to visit in the fall.

          • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
          • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
          • 1 cup frozen peas (Local)
          • 1 cup frozen edamame (Local)
          • 1 small red onion or shallot (local)
          • Two cloves garlic (local)
          • 3/4 cups mint leaves
          • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for pans.
          • 1/4 cup flour (local)
          • 2 large pitas, halved
          • 2 roma tomatoes
          • 1 cucumber, sliced thinly
          Preheat oven to 400.

          In a small skillet, toast the fennel and coriander seeds for a couple of minutes until they're fragrant and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Don't walk away from the pan! They'll burn!

          Remove from the pan and throw into a coffee/spice grinder. Grind to a fine powder.

          Throw the peas, edamame, ground spices, shallot, garlic, mint leaves, olive
          oil, and salt into a food processor. Puree until smooth. It won't get completely
          smooth because of the edamame, but process until it is as smooth as possible.

          Scrape into a big bowl and stir in the flour. The mixture will still be pretty soft. Not to worry!

          Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets with olive oil.  With your hands, scoop out a small amount (like the size of a small ball of cookie dough), and roll into a ball.  Flatten into a disc, and place onto the cookie sheets.  Don't let them touch, but the patties can be pretty close together as they don't expand at all.

          Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.  Flip.  If they fall apart when you pick them up to flip them, they didn't cook long enough.  Cook for 15 minutes longer on the other side.

          These keep warm well in a crock pot.  Updates later on whether they can be frozen and re-heated.

          Serve with Yogurt Dipping Sauce:

          • 1 cup plain yogurt (local)
          • 1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
          • Kosher Salt
          Combine first two ingredients in a bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Season with salt.

          Cucumber Raita
          Makes four cups.  I doubled it.

          Picture of Indian Cucumber and Yogurt Salad: Cucumber Raita Recipe
          • 2 cups low fat yogurt (local)
          • 2 cups grated cucumber
          • 1 clove garlic, minced (local)
          • 4 sprigs mint leaves, minced
          • 1 tsp kosher salt
          • 2 tbsp golden raisins
          • freshly ground black pepper
          Mix ingredients together vigorously.

          This is really good when the rest of the food is really spicy!

          Sloppy Bombay Joes
          OMG, these were so good.  They were sweet, and spicy, and crunchy, and GOOD!  And not any harder than regular sloppy joes or chili or any other meaty snack foods.  They were a little watery, though.  More like chili than sloppy joes.  I might cut out the water entirely.  I will absolutely be making these again.  As stated above, these are not my pictures; I served this in pitas.

          This recipe serves 4-6.  I made it x4.
          Picture of Sloppy Bombay Joes Recipe
          • 2 tbsp olive oil
          • 1 tbsp minced ginger
          • 3 cloves garlic, minced (local)
          • 2 habanero peppers, whole (local)
          • 1 tsp garam masala
          • 1/2 tsp paprika
          • 15 oz. tomato sauce
          • 1 cup water
          • 3 tablespoons olive oil
          • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
          • 1/4 cup golden raisins
          • 1 tsp cumin seeds
          • 1/2 large white onion, finely diced (local)
          • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced.
          • 1 lb ground beef (local)
          • 1/2 tsp honey (local)
          • 1/4 cup half and half (local)
          • 4-6 pita halves
          Begin by making the sauce: Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it
          shimmers. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a
          little. Add the garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and
          water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15

          Meanwhile, warm two tablespoons of oil until hot.  Add the pistachios and raisins, cook until the raisins swell up and the pistachios are slightly toasted.  Remove raisins and pistachios and set aside.

          Add 1-2 tablespoons more oil and return the pan to heat.  Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds.  Stir in the onions and pepper, and saute until softened and starting to brown.  Add the habenero.  Saute for 3 more minutes, seasoning with salt.  Stir in ground beef, breaking up the big lumps, and allow to brown.  Add the sauce, stir, bring to a boil, then lower and allow to simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thickened - about 15 minutes.  Fish out and remove the two peppers, unless you want to give someone a terrible (but potentially hilarious) surprise.  Add honey, half-and-half, pistachios, and raisins.  Stir, taste, and add seasons if appropriate.

          Fill the pitas with the sloppy joes, and enjoy!

          I also had local sausage and cheese.  I wish I had some now!!  Mmm... Cheese....