March 26, 2011

On a Roll

I may or may not be very, very pleased with myself right now.

This is what I did this afternoon:

I went to Coastal Seafoods and bought 2 lobsters (that Zach was somewhat freaked out by), I had my picture taken with said lobsters, and then I killed them by submerging their clawing selves into a boiling pot of water, white wine, onion halves, fresh thyme, and celery stalks. The least I could do was given them fragrant water to die in. (Is this morbid? I’m thinking so.)

Moving on…

Then I whisked up (literally) some homemade mayonnaise. It was a good enough workout that I’m confident that I burned all of the calories in the lobster roll (and yes, I do know how many calories that is, I also know how hard the whisking job was). I chilled that mayonnaise.

I spent a good 30 minutes struggling to get the lobster meat out of those bright coral-colored crustaceans. Chopped up the meat.

Chopped some iceberg, some green onions, melted some butter, and put the paprika on standby.

Then I sliced up some buns. Not your regular hotdog buns, of course. Also, unfortunately, not the traditional New England top-split hot dog buns that kind of look like folded pieces of sandwich bread. I had to use what we have here in Minneapolis: Breadsmith brat buns. They actually didn’t disappoint. I split them open, brushed them with a generous amount of butter and grilled them until they were golden crispy buttery brown.

I placed some shredded iceberg in the bottom of the buns, spooned in the glistening lobster salad, sprinkled on some green onions and paprika, and then drizzled the remaining melted butter over the tops of them. I decided at that moment that the chance of us liking them greatly increased with the drizzling of melted butter across the top.

And the result was something even better than I had anticipated. I’m not usually a fan of iceberg, but it was a necessary component to this lobster roll. The green onions were also crucial. The whole cool, crispy, velvety, smooth, but zippy roll was perfect.

It was delicious.

It was really, really amazing.

I know this because Zach told me about 50 times how good it was while we were eating. To be fair, I think only about half of those times were because he really meant it. I think the other half were said because he didn’t want me to get mad that he still had the game on and was peering over his shoulder after every bite to look at the score. And I also know how good they are because I didn’t care that he had the game on while we ate.

We may be in Minnesota, but this girl is on a roll with her lobsta roll making…

Lobster Rolls (Adapted slightly from the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit)


2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
¼ tsp Dijon mustard

Lobster Rolls

1 cup dry white wine
1 large onion, halved
2 celery stalks
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tbsp sea salt
3 - 1½  lb live lobsters
4 Breadsmith brat buns
6 tbsp melted butter, unsalted
1 1/3 cups thinly shredded iceberg lettuce
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Paprika, to garnish

Boil lobsters:

Fill very large pot with 12 quarts water, wine, onion, celery, and thyme. Bring to boil.

When water boils, add 2 tbsp salt to pot. Add lobsters. Put lid back on and wait for water to boil again (about 8 minutes). After water is boiling again, take lid off and continue to cook lobsters for about 2 more minutes or until cooked through. Remove lobsters from pot and let cool for 15 mins.

Make mayonnaise:

Put egg yolks in medium glass bowl. Add lemon juice and 1 tbsp water, and whisk. Put bowl over a small pot of simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). Whisk constantly until mixture gets very thick, about 4-5 minutes. Off heat, slowly add in olive oil, whisking continuously. Then whisk in mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Assemble rolls:

Remove lobster meat, and dice into 1-inch chunks, and place in medium bowl. Add in about ½ cup mayonnaise, just to bind it.

Heat frying pan over medium heat. Slice buns (not all the way through), brush insides with butter, and place buttered sides down in frying pan. Press down to brown the buns, about 5 minutes.

Put buns on plate. Layer some of the shredded iceberg onto bun. Top with lobster salad. Repeat until all buns and salad are used. Sprinkle with green onions and paprika. Drizzle remaining melted butter over the tops of the lobster rolls.

Serve immediately.

March 23, 2011

Holy Chickpeas, That's the Sound of Crispiness Happening!

And I thought the only way to have an exciting dinner during the week was to go out for dinner…

Oh no, no, no….

You just need to fry up some chickpeas, is all.

Here I was, thinking I was making a mellow dinner tonight: Spinach with Crispy Chickpeas and Ricotta Salata from Urban Italian.

I drained my chickpeas, rinsed them, patted them dry, just like I was supposed to.

Mixed them with a tablespoon of flour.

Heated up some olive oil until it smoked. Threw in the chickpeas, waited for the “chickpeas will begin to snap-crackle-pop; that’s the sound of crispiness happening” that Andrew Carmellini said would take place. I was expecting more of a Rice Krispies snap-crackle-pop. A delicate snap-crackle-pop. A discrete snap-crackle-pop.

They popped alright. A little too much so. I actually stood back, looked around the kitchen and started trying to come up with a game plan. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to survive the chickpea popping. I immediately started playing out bad chickpea scenarios in my head. I was rather afraid to go up to the pot and shake them every few minutes like I was supposed to do.

I am pretty sure I actually saw one little chickpea pop itself out of the pot and shoot across the kitchen (I haven’t found it yet to confirm for sure).

But I eventually got my wits back about me. I wearily went up to the pot and shook it. I survived it. But just to be extra careful, after that point, I used a spoon so that I could have more distance. I had visions of those chickpea poppers popping my eyeballs out, or leaving a good-sized oily burn mark on my face.

Turns out crispy chickpeas are delicious though if you survive making them. They take on a very different not-so-chickpea-y flavor when crisped in oil. I would totally put a bowl of these out at a cocktail party or with drinks.

My body is thanking me for some non-pizza, non-Starburst jelly beans, non-whoopie pie nourishment. My body thanks you, you poppy little chickpeas.

Crispy Chickpeas (Adapted from Spinach with Crispy Chickpeas and Ricotta Salata from Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini)

15 oz canned chickpeas
1 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp each salt and fresh cracked pepper

Rise and drain the chickpeas. Lay them on paper towels to dry.

Heat oil in deep pot on high heat until it starts smoking. In the meantime, mix the chickpeas in a bowl with the flour.

When oil is ready, place chickpeas in the pot and stir once to coat all chickpeas with the oil.

Let them sit for a minute or two (like Carmellini warns, they will start cracking and popping). Shake the pan every few minutes or stir with long-handled spoon, depending on your comfort level.

Keep pan-frying until the chickpeas are browned on all sides and crispy, about 8 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and season with the salt and pepper.

March 19, 2011

Whoopie Pie Madness (like March Madness, but Better)

This is the only nod I will give to March Madness. I don’t like sports. I don’t like basketball. I don’t like when conversations revolve around sports or basketball.

(But…I do always like to mention that despite this, I did win with my March Madness bracket one year. It was when I worked at American Girl, and I had outsourced the picks to someone else. But I think it still counts.)

Regardless, Zach was having a few people over to watch the games tonight and had planned to make brownies for dessert. But then he remembered that one of his buddies doesn’t like chocolate. So, he bought Starburst jelly beans for our non-chocolate loving friend. This morning, I started to question this. I mean, I do love Starburst jelly beans myself, but it felt like a shoddy attempt at hosting a guest.

I was actually delighted deep down to have a good reason to bake something. I’m having a hard time justifying baking just for the two us lately because…we’ve been eating a lot lately.

Whoopie pies have been on my mind recently. And then I came across a recipe for them in one of the first cookbooks I opened this morning. Done.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. Whoopie indeed!

“Pumpkin bars on steroids” was how I think one of the boys described them.

They were different than pumpkin bars, it’s true. They were much better.

They start out with perfect pumpkin-y pillows of delight. Cakey, moist, spiced like it’s Thanksgiving. They didn’t even require a mixer (I’m a fan of things that don’t require me to lug out that heavy thing.) Just some good elbow grease to combine the ingredients.

And then, as if they aren’t cute enough or delicious enough of their own, you pipe them with luxurious cream cheese frosting. You top said frosted pumpkin-y pillows of delight with another pumpkin-y pillow of delight. You repeat until either the cookies are gone or the frosting is gone. You look at them proudly.

You eat one.

And then you die and go to heaven (or write about them).

Obviously, the basketball stripes are optional. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

Pumpkin Whoopie Cookies:

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp ground cloves
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, room temp
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

To Make the Cookies:

Preheat oven to 350.

In large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. (Sounds like a lot of spices, but it’s fine…)

In another large bowl, whisk brown sugar with oil until combined. Add pumpkin and combine. Add eggs and vanilla; whisk to combine.

Add flour mixture to wet mixture and stir until well incorporated.

Using a 1.75 inch spring-loaded ice cream scoop, drop batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment, an inch apart.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until cookies are starting to crack and cake tester comes out clean from middle.

Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely on cooling rack.

To make the Frosting:

Using electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter until there are no lumps. Add cream cheese, and beat until combined. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla; beat until combined.

To assemble:

Flip half of the cookies over. Put frosting in large Ziploc bag and make sure all air is squeezed out of bag. Cut ½ inch off the corner of the bag. Pipe frosting out onto the upside down cookies. When finished, top with another cookie to complete the sandwich, pressing down lightly.

Let whoopie pies set in refrigerator for 30 mins before serving.

March 17, 2011

A Familiar Friend: Broders' Pasta Bar

I’ve developed a bit of a reputation when it comes to Broders' Pasta Bar.

Anyone who knows anything about me knows how I feel about it. It’s been a staple (seriously, a staple) for the past, I dunno, 5 years?

A weeknight destination for us. We generally saddle up to the bar, Zach and I, sit down, polish off a half carafe of Montepulciano, a shared Caesar, 2 pastas. And about 50% of the time, a tiramisu.

At one point, we were going so often that we were starting to get VIP perks (skipping the wait list, free dessert). With this, I fell even more in love. Zach got scared. Very very scared. “I think we must have hit some ridiculous sales threshold,” he said.

But I didn’t care. That’s what happens when you’re in love. You just don’t care.

Broders' should be in the arsenal of every single person in Minneapolis. The food is solid, the wait staff is small and always the same. Family owned. Cozy. Bustling with Southwest Mpls neighborhood vibes.

Unfortunately, we got out of the Broders' groove, Zach and I, since our whole “let’s try not to go out to eat  every single night thing.” Still not sure why we were / are trying that. I see us slowly slipping back into old routines as of late…

It’s seen me through a lot, that Broders' Pasta Bar. The stresses of homework and consulting projects during b-school, the excitement of being home for the weekend when I was temporarily relocated to Bentonville, AR for work. The reunion of my parents and I when they were back in town for Thanksgiving. Random Thursday nights. Random Tuesday nights. Even a fight between Zach and I.

My favorite thing on the menu? The number 9. The penne with rosemary cream tomato sauce. I must learn how to replicate it at home. It’s so simple, but so good, so comforting. Perfectly al dente penne, woodsy rosemary, sweet tomato sauce, creamy delicious comforting smooth heavy cream. It’s utterly delicious. Every four bites or so, I re-stir, so that the creamy goodness fully coats each penne piece. And every four bites, I melt all over again.

Once in a while, curiosity gets the best of me, and I try something else. Like the gnocchi with walnut saffron cream sauce (I’ve told you before how I feel about cream). Like the lasagna with crab.

Everything is always good, but I always go back to the number 9. It’s one of my favorite dishes in town. And for $9.50, a total steal.

Just like old times, we went back to Broders' tonight. It is Thursday after all. We had the half carafe, split the Caesar, 2 pastas.

Just like a familiar friend, that pasta bar.

Broders' Pasta Bar on Urbanspoon

March 14, 2011

A Mother Daughter Feast Throughout Mpls: In Photos

Food highlights from one food-obsessed mom/daughter duo's long weekend visit in Minneapolis. In photos. In random order. In all honesty.

March 13, 2011


Here are the little Thin Mint troops all lined up.

“Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place,” says the Girl Scouts website.

Making Girl Scout cookies from scratch will do the same thing, I learned.

Courage: Required to deal with the caramel / coconut mixture for the Samoas. It took some major muscle to mix together 3 cups of coconut with 14 oz of melted caramel (that may or may not have been slightly stale). It also took some courage to attempt to spread the...shall we say…chewy…caramel / coconut mixture onto the delicate shortbread cookies without breaking them. And probably more than anything, it took some serious courage to bite into these cookies after the caramel hardened…I mean…set. Serious courage.

Confidence: Required to give it another go with a different kind of cookie (Thin Mints) and know that it would be a success. The Samoas were a challenge with their many steps and labor. And homemade Samoas weren’t as sweet as their pre-packaged counterpart. (And who eats Samoas unless they’re looking for something super sweet?) And as you saw above, they were a bit…chewy. I’m amazed no one pulled their fillings out eating them. You could say these darn Samoas rattled my confidence. But, I shook it off, gathered it back up, and gave it another shot with Thin Mints, saying to myself the whole time, “You can do it, scout, you can do it.”

Character: Required to chew the Samoas in front of others. The boys (Zach and John-Paul) ate many. And each time they did, they ended up hovered over the sink trying to catch crumbs and strings of caramel while they worked the chewy caramel / coconut mixture in their mouths. They looked fairly ridiculous, but I’m not sure they cared.

Make the world a better place: Of course I would like to think I made the world a better place today. Maybe at least in the close vicinity of Drew Ave S. We’ll see which neighbors come get a few for themselves (ahem, Khanna / Newcoms and Prices).

What else did I take away from this “enriching experience?”

That I will give the Samoas another go someday, with a different recipe and with great attention to the caramel. Will probably make my own so that it will be softer.

That the $0.79 I paid for the Thin Mints recipe from Top Secret Recipes was a total steal. These are an exact replica—quite delicious, just like their pre-packaged counterpart.

Hmm, I think I deserve a badge.

March 12, 2011

Will Travail for Food

Okay, so last night I was at Bar La Grassa--the place that for the past year has been the "it" reservation to have. You couldn't get in on a weekend night unless you had planned in advance. Way in advance.

The tables have turned this year. I hear Heidi's is now the equally (or more) challenging "it" reservation to have.

And now Robbinsdale is also offering up its own challenge. Robbinsdale!

It's called Travail (pronounced to rhyme with hi, not rail). The French word for work.

I now know that the chefs there (all 9? of them) work extremely hard at what they put on the table. It's all delicious. I now also know that one has to work strategically to get a table. We showed up at 4:48 pm tonight--because I thought a 5:00 dinner on a Saturday night was a sure fire way to not have to wait. 4:48 vs 5:00 because we're always early.

We were numbers 25, 26, 27, and 28 in line. On 4:48 pm on a Saturday night! In Robbinsdale! When it was 19 degrees out! (Actually, 19 degrees out when we got there, 17 by the time we got in.)



And now I see why. In short, Travail is a compilation of some great Twin Cities chefs who all cook and serve what they cook. With some funk, with some attitude, but with sincerity.

Simple menu items are listed on the blackboards used to decorate the space.
Beet Salad
Blue Cheese Tots

But what I will be having next time is the $60 10-course tasting menu for 2. Each course consists of 1 plate for you and your date to share. It's clearly the popular choice there.

But we newcomers ordered a la carte, and also ate well.

Blue Cheese Tots were lightly fried, actually tasted like potatoes, had a subtle hint of blue cheese, and came in a bowl smeared with homemade ketchup.

The Broadway Butter Burger (yes, lame, but what I was hungry for) was very tasty, with 2 kinds of cheese, onions, mustard, and pickles. But maybe a tad too salty (I've had 2 glasses of water already since getting home). Accompanying fries: amazing.

The Steak was perfectly cooked. More exciting though were the accompaniments! Not baby--but premie bokchoy, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, and silky creamy scalloped potatoes.

The Agnolotti was buttery for sure. Extremely buttery, says John-Paul. And rich. But somehow delicate all at the same time. With a smart piece of grilled bread to sop up the remaining butteriness when finished.

The dessert sampler was loved by all in this crazy Yates / Cohen group. De-constructed pineapple upside down cake prepared on a frozen marble slab, an orange and chocolate collage of sorts, and a rendition of a s'more under a glass cloche that smelled like campfire when lifted off. For reals.

And my personal fave of the night, the thing that I will be anxiously awaiting next time I go back: the lemon bar with sour cream dippin' dot ice cream and lemon thyme vinaigrette. Perfection.

Will go back to this place. Soon. And often. But god, between this and Lola, 5:00 is going to become the norm vs the exception.

Travail Kitchen & Amusements on Urbanspoon

March 6, 2011

And the Winner is...

Lindsay B of California! Yay!

Thanks to all of my new followers—wish I could give you all Maison Bouche chocolates!