July 31, 2011

Corny and Cheesy

I refuse to throw away any of my food magazines. I hoard them away, letting them collect and pile up, sure that I will use them again one day. I generally don’t. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m completely overwhelmed by them all, piles upon piles. I know that if I start with them, it would likely lead to a full day given to food magazines. (Maybe that isn’t so bad…)

However, once in a while, when I really love something, I’ll tear it out of the magazine and file it away. Now, I have to really love something to get myself to tear apart a magazine. And I get a little bit of heartburn over it. I love magazines too much to tear them apart.

But this corn recipe is one that I loved enough to commit magazine murder.

It’s from an old issue of Gourmet (I miss Gourmet—don’t you?).

The whole menu that it was a part of is pretty fabulous and something I make every summer: Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs, Corn on the Cob with Mint-Feta Butter (I actually use a Mexican queso fresco cheese instead b/c I hate feta), and Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita Bread. It involves the grill, it involves sweet corn—it’s really a great summer menu.

It’s one of those menus that you kind of stumble upon, decide to try for guests, and then get blown away by it. It’s deceivingly good.

I think it’s the corn though that has me coming back every summer, and that has me waiting and waiting for sweet corn to appear at the farmer’s market.

As if sweet corn isn’t fabulous enough its own, for this recipe you mix together lots of freshly chopped mint, freshly grated queso fresco cheese, and butter, and then slather it on the hot cooked corn. Sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, it’s perfect.

It’s what everyone should eat on a summer Sunday night.

Corn on the Cob with Mint-Cheese Butter, Adapted from August 2009 issue of Gourmet

½ stick unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups grated Mexican queso fresco cheese
¼ c freshly chopped mint
8 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked, cobs cut in half
Salt and pepper

Mix together butter, cheese, and mint. Set aside.

Cook the corn for a few minutes in boiling water.

Add cooked corn to butter and cheese mixture and stir, until evenly coated.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.

July 27, 2011

Desperate Times Call for Inspiring Menus

When I’m stressed, I usually look for a cooking project. Something to keep me occupied and something that will comfort me.

So, this weekend when I was feeling a bit frazzled, I decided that I was going to tackle Kinfolk Mag’s Menu for 2 (adjusted for 3 so that my brother could also partake).

I came across Kinfolk recently, a new pub that prides itself on being all about intimate gatherings. The timing was ironic, arriving in the midst of me feeling the need for more food magazines in my rotation. Only problem is that Kinfolk is bi-annual and currently sold out in print. But, you can still read it on your iPad (or online), a solid back-up option.

I immediately fell hard for Kinfolk, gradually getting more and more giddy and excited while scrolling through its pages. It’s exactly what gets my mind racing and heart thumping: inspiring menus, heavy detail on the aesthetics, suggestive of a simpler life in which people have the time to make said inspired menus. During the week. If I could pull off this Menu for 2 during the week, it would be a miracle. So, Kinfolk is truly an aspirational magazine for me. But I think that’s why I love it.

So, Sunday was going to be the day that I made the Menu for 2. It gave me something to focus on and plan all weekend.

It started Saturday, when I gathered all of my ingredients, making a special stop at Lucia’s to make sure I had the perfect bread. That night, I also started the Overnight Tomatoes for the sandwich. You half cherry tomatoes, mix them with olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and thyme, and put them in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. Then you turn the oven off, leave the tomatoes in there, and let them cook in the leftover heat overnight. And you try to fall asleep upstairs while you know the oven is still blazing hot. If you’re anything like me, you will understand the unease of going to bed while the oven is coming down from 425 degrees. 

However, in the morning, I woke up to perfectly roasted, very tasty Overnight Tomatoes. (I will find other uses for these tomatoes; they are keepers.)

Sunday morning was spent making the rest of the menu:

Darn Good Sandwiches
Best Berry Salad
Cocoa Nib Shortbread Rounds
Freshly-Squeezed Grapefruit Juice (made sparkling)

How good does that sound? I think in my next life I want to be a menu writer.

The sandwiches were intriguing layers of grilled bread, thick-cut bacon, manchego, a fried egg, frisee, overnight tomatoes—all slathered with a crème fraiche vinaigrette. They were quite tasty. There was a lot going on in those sandwiches.

The Best Berry Salad was pretty. All shiny with its blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. All doused with a vanilla bean simple syrup. All sprinkled with lemon zest.

The Cocoa Nib Shortbread Rounds were totally not my usual baking project. I usually opt for something more decadent and sinful. But they were quite nice: buttery, crisp, sensible, and dotted with just enough cocoa.

In true Kinfolk fashion, I decided we would eat this meal outside, away from the TV, away from our iPhones. I set the table. I put a vase of flowers out. I even used an accent plate, my Italian glass water bottle, and our glasses that have to be washed by hand. 

And we ate.

July 24, 2011

Strawberries & Cream Pancakes

I made a fairly important discovery a few weeks ago.

I learned that if you substitute the milk in pancake batter for half and half, you end up with amazingly rich, fluffy pancakes. Seems so obvious, but I hadn’t tried it before. It’s not a healthy trade-in, that’s for sure. But what’s a little bit of half and half gonna do to anyone…?

These pancakes were already pretty great before the discovery; now they are even better.

This recipe is really, really versatile. It’s one of the only recipes I really play around with. I keep the basic recipe written on our chalkboard wall in the kitchen so that it’s always at the ready. And then I tweak based on my mood. I learned a few years ago that you can throw in a handful of uncooked old-fashioned oats and make yourself think they are whole grain. I’ve added bananas to them. I’ve added blueberries to them. I’ve added apples and cinnamon to them. They are always good. Especially on stormy mornings like yesterday.

A few weeks ago, when I added the half and half, I also added fresh strawberries from the farmers market. It has become my favorite version to date.

Making pancakes from scratch is not hard. At all.  And I almost always have everything on hand to make them—even when my fridge and pantry are barren.

Strawberries & Cream Pancakes

1 egg
1 c flour
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¾ c half and half
2 tbsp canola oil
¼ c old-fashioned oats
4 medium strawberries, sliced

Heat non-stick pan / griddle over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk egg in medium bowl. Add all of the other ingredients except the strawberries. Mix to combine and until most lumps are gone, but don’t over-mix. Fold in sliced strawberries.

Use ice cream scoop or ¼ measuring cup to place batter into pan. Let cook until bubbles form on the top. Flip when light golden brown. Cook until other side is light golden brown and they are cooked throughout.

Serve with real maple syrup.

July 17, 2011

Don't Underestimate the Falafel

I am loving the food trucks in town this summer. It’s adding a whole new component to my love for all things food related in this wonderful foodie city.

Smack Shack has been a favorite for a while now (and I will blog about it as soon as I get some pics; taking pics is the last thing on my mind when I’m eating one of their lobster rolls).

And the Indian Spiced Mini Doughnuts at Chef Shack are a long-time favorite. Come to think of it, I think Chef Shack was my first foray into food trucks in Mpls.

Today, we braved the heat to try Foxy Falafel. I guess it’s not a food truck, per-se, but it’s portable food that’s shows up at various locations around town. Same thing.

Did you know that I was a falafel virgin until today? I had never had falafel. There aren’t many things hubby has had that I haven’t. But this was one of them. And it turns out I’ve been missing out.

I knew the basic premise: deep fried little balls of ground chickpeas. Sounds fairly simple, no?

But what I didn’t know was all of the things they could be topped with!

What also surprised me most was how fresh it all tasted. The falafel themselves were deep-fried obvi, but everything else around them was cool, bright, and fresh. And tasty.

I had the Beet Falafel, so there were beets ground up with my chickpeas that turned the inside a beautiful purple. It started with a pita pocket; in the bottom of it was a smear of hummus and a nest of pickled cabbage. Then came the falafel. And all of that was topped with fresh tomatoes and cukes, and a creamy goat cheese sauce. Oh, and there was faint preserved lemon somewhere in the lovely thing. And THEN you are encouraged to top the whole thing with all sorts of homemade pickles: radishes, garlic scapes, cauliflower. I rather loved that.

Zach had the straight-up Foxy Falafel they serve. He was lucky enough to start with a clean enough slate that he could pick from the three sauces they had. There was a cucumber yogurt one that was calling my name. However, I was encouraged to not add to my already sophisticated flavors, and I listened.

Open just on the weekends. You can get the falafels at Kingsfield Farmers Market Sundays, and at the Fulton Farmers Market a few Saturdays this summer (including this upcoming Saturday!).

I give Foxy Falafel a thumbs up for being one of the only things one could stand to eat outside today when it was almost 100 degrees.

I also give them kudos for their pedal-powered smoothie bike! To peddle away to make someone a fresh smoothie, particularly when it’s 100 degrees out, is true love. Will be trying one of those next time.

July 15, 2011

Snap Happy

Seasonal recipes always put me in a bit of a frenzy. There is always an extreme sense of urgency that I feel with seasonal recipes. It’s like I think that peaches will be in season for exactly 1 day, that zucchini will be in season for maybe 2 days tops, and that maybe we'll get a week of good tomatoes. It’s not rational. Of course, you do have to be intentional about hitting the seasons before they escape you, but I get a little unnecessarily nutty over it. Just this week I got myself all wound up worrying that I might have missed zucchini season and wouldn’t be able to make Zach his beloved zucchini bread. It’s kind of crazy, and I very much realize it as I type it.

But at least, as demonstrated by this recipe, I didn’t miss snap pea and radish season this year. Whew. We’re a little behind in our season here in Minnesota. We’re still working our way through said snap peas and radishes. And I'm desperately awaiting corn. I have big plans for corn this year.

But for now, I happily made this Sugar Snap Salad with fresh from the farmers market snap peas, radishes, and mint.

It was a delicious salad. Lots of bright and fresh flavors: tart lemon juice, crisp spicy radishes, earthy snap peas, salty ricotta salata, and mint.

And it had sumac, which thrilled me. I thought I certainly would never use it again when I was forced to buy a HUGE bag of it for the teaspoon or so I needed of it last month. But alas, I have used the sumac again. And have even passed on some to a friend who was also going to make this recipe.

So, my reco to you is to snap to it and make this salad before snap pea and radish season escapes you!! Hurry!

Sugar Snap Salad, Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

1.5 lbs sugar snap peas, ends trimmed off
Kosher salt
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp sumac
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly
4 oz ricotta salata, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped mint

In medium pot of boiling salted water, cook snap peas until crisp-tender. Drain into colander and run very cold water over them to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and sumac.

Place the snap peas, radishes, mint, and ricotta salata in a bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette. Season with fresh ground black pepper.

July 10, 2011

Pretty in Pink

When it gets really hot, I seriously crave cold drinks. It just started to be summer here in Minnesota a few weeks ago, but we’ve already had quite a few 90-plus days. And in that time, I’ve collected a good number of cold drink recipes. I nabbed a rose water milkshake recipe on Pinterest; I filed away a burnt banana chocolate malt recipe from Joy the Baker. I’ve ear marked the equipment I need to make homemade sodas in the most recent Williams-Sonoma catalog. And I happily sipped (or chugged) my watermelon mint water from the Mill City  Farmer’s Market yesterday (one of three reasons why I love that market).

So this weekend, I decided a cold drink was in order. I wanted to do something seasonal. And I wanted a little bit of a project. Not a lot of a project.

Strawberry Ice Cream Sodas.

As with a lot of what I’ve been making lately, they are incredibly easy, but so sweet and refreshing.

You start with fresh strawberries (preferably fresh from the a farmer’s market). You combine them with sugar and lemon juice, put them in the fridge, and let them do their thing overnight.

Then the next day, you squeeze the buh-Jesus out of them through a sieve and collect the bright pink luscious syrup they make. It’s so pretty and delicious, it even made a smiley face in the bowl. Can you see it?

When you’re ready to enjoy, you put some of the syrup on the bottom of a soda fountain glass, pour some club soda in, stir. And then you bring out the big guns. And scoop in some strawberry ice cream. And top with a little bit more club soda.

Then you make sure the lovely recipient of your drink is given a straw and a spoon. And you enjoy while sitting on the porch. (We actually didn’t enjoy while sitting on the porch. We enjoyed while putting our bedroom back together after having hardwoods installed THREE months ago. But the porch would have been a nice touch.)

Strawberry Ice Cream Sodas, adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

Strawberry Syrup

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
½ cup sugar
Juice from 1 lemon

Also need:

Club soda
Strawberry ice cream (I like Haagen Dazs best, and not only b/c I work for General Mills)

To make syrup, stir together the sliced strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve, pushing down on the strawberries to release all of their juices.

To assemble, place 3 tbsp of the syrup in the bottom of a soda fountain glass. Fill the glass 2/3 full of club soda, and stir. Add 3 scoops of ice cream, and top with a little bit more club soda.

July 8, 2011

The Perfect Summer Friday Sandwich

I’ve been holding this one under my hat for a while. I was waiting and waiting for the perfect way to introduce this sandwich to you. But enough is enough; I’m just going to come out with it.

This is the Roast Beef Sandwich from Clancey’s Meats & Fish, and it’s one of the best sandwiches in town for sure. It’s the perfect get-off-work-early-on-a-Friday sandwich.

I always get a good feeling when I go into Clancey’s, probably because when I go in there I either have a special dinner in the works and I need to pick up the meat for it or because I’m going to eat this sandwich.

It’s quite simple, this Roast Beef Sandwich, but quite perfectly executed with only the best ingredients. The baguette is crusty on the outside, appropriately soft in the inside, and flavorful. The roast beef is rare and so fresh. Marinated peppers, fresh lettuce, a very healthy dose of fresh horseradish (that always clears out my sinuses). And I always request oil and vinegar instead of a smear of mayonnaise.

The first time I had this sandwich, I almost lost my mind with delight. Why doesn’t everyone in town talk about this sandwich?!

I think because most people don’t know it exists. That is the only possible explanation.

Try it, people, try it.

The only bad thing about this sandwich is that I love it so much that I won’t try any of their other sandwiches. And last Friday when I picked this up, they had a pulled pork sandwich special that I’m sure was amazing.

Clancey’s is primarily a butcher shop; sandwiches are secondary to what they do. It’s the perfect place to get great meat. They have just about any cut you can dream of and they also make homemade brats and burger patties (some with interesting flavor additions like blue cheese and green onions) in house. They’re always helpful, always knowledgeable.

And heck, they make killer sandwiches.

July 5, 2011

Red, White, and Blueberry Clafouti

Clafouti made with fresh fruit was always the quintessential summer dessert in our house growing up, after we got past all of the Yates family chocolate cakes for the April, May, and June birthdays.

I love strawberry shortcake as much as the next person, but I haven’t had a whole lot of strawberry shortcakes in my lifetime. Clafouti has always been the substitute—if you can call it a substitute. They both have summer fruit in common. But instead of the biscuits and whipped cream you get with shortcake, you get luxurious custard with clafouti. I’m not saying one is better than the other—they’re just different.

Clafouti is a super versatile, super super super easy dessert. You can use all sorts of fruits. My mom started out making this with cherries. I like it best with blueberries. But I’ve also used pears and apples when blueberries aren’t in season and have had success.

You basically put all of the ingredients except the fruit in the blender, and then pour the custard mixture over the fruit and bake. It comes out all puffy and just barely golden. The blueberries get all juicy. It’s perfect and rustic all at the same time.

There really isn’t a whole lot to it as far as ingredients go. I ignore the half cup of sugar, and tell myself that it packs lots of dairy with its milk and eggs. I also give myself a pat on the back for the miniscule amount of butter it calls for. I don’t normally gravitate towards desserts with this little butter.

But for its nutritional sensibility, it’s one of those desserts you can’t stop eating once you start. Zach and I polished off more of the pan than I’m willing to disclose last night. And today, the leftovers in the fridge have been taunting me.

I have also been known to eat it for breakfast. Hey, eggs, milk, and fruit? You could do worse...

I have certainly done worse.

Blueberry Clafouti, adapted from French Cooking, Round the World Books

1 pint blueberries
1 ¼ c milk
4 eggs
½ c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 c flour
1 ½ tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Place blueberries in round ceramic quiche pan.

Mix together all other ingredients in blender.

Pour custard mixture over fruit and bake for about 30 minutes, until custard is set.

July 3, 2011

Shameless Stealing Continued. With Potato Salad.

I’m going to continue to steal shamelessly from my mom this weekend.

Over the years, particularly as I’ve started cooking for myself and Zach, I have come to appreciate her ability to cook. Particularly her ability to cook without using recipes.

She can make delicious food rather effortlessly and rather creatively on her own. She isn’t bogged down by following exact ingredients, exact amounts, and exact processes, and I admire this.

This is not a skill I possess. Yet. But I’m determined to be able to do so confidently one day. For now, I will continue to mostly rely on recipes. I like the black and whiteness of recipes. Generally, if you follow a recipe, you’ll end up with good results. I like this. There are few things I find more frustrating than spending a lot of time making something and not having it turn out. I never learned the whole “it’s the journey” thing.

The downside to my mom generally not using recipes and making it up as she goes is that it’s a little difficult for her to pass on recipes to me. She tries to approximate amounts and times and processes, but I swear when I make her dishes myself (particularly her soups), they are never as good.

This weekend I had a hankering for her potato salad sans mayonnaise. It’s light, summery, salty, fresh, velvety, and delicious. Her secret ingredient is the leaves from the inner stalks of celery. Chopped along with some parsley, they add a really refreshing bite. The green olives add the perfect amount of saltiness. The olive oil generously coats everything and makes it glisten.  And the lemon zips it all up a bit. And when you dress the potatoes while they’re still hot, they have the ability to soak up the vinaigrette in a way that potato salad made with mayonnaise just can’t compete with.

And it’s even better after it sits for a while at room temp.

Mom’s Potato Salad

1-1.5 lbs new potatoes, cooked until tender, and cut into quarters
¼ c thinly sliced celery (inner stalks)
¼ c sliced pitted green olives
¼ c chopped mixture of inner celery stalk leaves and parsley
1 clove garlic minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir together all ingredients, except the potatoes. Then add potatoes and toss.


Can be refrigerated, but I like to serve it at room temp.

Serves 4

July 2, 2011

Not Your Mama's Mayonnaise

It’s my mama’s mayonnaise.

And it’s





It’s seriously the best mayonnaise that I think exists. Possibly one of the best foods that exists.

And that is saying a lot coming from me because I have a weird relationship with mayonnaise. I spent most of my life refusing to eat it. These days, I’ll eat it, but am incredibly picky about where it comes from and the quality of it. You wouldn’t catch me dead eating a sandwich from Jimmy John’s with mayonnaise on it. Or the potato salad you buy at the grocery store drenched in it. No way. Not gonna happen.

But as the binding agent for a lobster roll or smeared onto a BLT at Lucia’s, I will for sure eat it. And homemade by myself or my mom, I’ll eat it by the spoonful.

And it’s really the easiest thing in the world to make.

My favorite way to enjoy it is this: slice a good baguette, liberally smear the baguette slices with mayonnaise, and top with a slice of heirloom tomato and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper.

Don’t toast the bread. Don’t add a basil leaf. Leave it what it should be—simple.

Please go make this.

And then try not to wish my mama was your mama. J

Mom’s Homemade Olive Oil Mayonnaise

1 pasteurized egg
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 c good quality olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

In blender, blend egg, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar for 10 seconds.

With blender running, slowly pour in olive oil through feed tube (make sure to hold a dish towel over feed tube as you do this to avoid a mess). Mayonnaise will thicken.

Add salt and pepper and blend to incorporate.