Friday, April 27, 2012

Asparagus Fried Rice Bowl - April 26, 3012

My parents brought me this lovely bunch of asparagus, grown in their neighbor's garden, when they stopped by this week.  Since they were headed out of town for the next few days (visiting my sister in Portland), I got to enjoy it.  Lucky me!  I did one batch on the grill, wrapped in aluminum foil and seasoned with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  It was delicious.

The following night I decided to use some in a fried rice bowl, topped with a fried egg, toasted sesame oil, and tamari.  Also quite good, although with freshly picked produce, simpler is almost always better.  Speaking of freshly picked produce, remember to use your asparagus quickly, as it's flavorful sugars turn rapidly to less flavorful starches once it's picked.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Kefta with Ginger-Miso-Apple Salad - April 14, 2012

Nick and I made this last weekend, inspired by an episode of 'No Reservations' we had just watched on our DVR.  I am not so much into mainstream cable "food TV," choosing instead to look to PBS for my fix, but I make an exception for Tony Bourdain.  He consistently provides great inspiration from the cuisine of his exotic locales.

We made our kefta with ground beef because I sadly have an aversion to ground lamb.  The ground beef was delicious, amazing really, with the addition of the spices.  Certainly much more flavorful than traditional grilled burgers (which I love) and a really fun choice for upcoming summer grill outs.  Nick found the recipe online, and I'm not sure which one it was, but this one closely approximates it.  Just a little advice: when the directions say to soak the skewers, it's probably a good idea to do it, as you can see from the pictures what happens when you don't.

We served our kefta on a bed of spinach dressed in a lovely ginger-miso-apple dressing.  JJ sent me the recipe and it's delicious.  She stated that she modified several different recipes to come up with something that approximated a ginger-miso dressing she'd had somewhere.  If you want to make your own, just combine roughly equal portions of olive oil, sweet white miso and finely shredded apple, and season with sesame oil, rice vinegar and grated ginger to taste.  Add a little sugar if you'd like and then add apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or a combination of the two until the consistency is to your liking.  It's really good, and worked great with the kefta.  Thanks for the recipe JJ!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spinach and Mushroom Galette - April 9, 2012

I found this recipe while perusing Erin's lovely blog a couple weeks ago.  It looked so good, and healthy to boot. Nick and I have been eating more meat than I like lately, so this was a nice, veg-centric meal.  I ended up using regular old white mushrooms since they were the only affordable option at the co-op.  In addition to the spinach, I also added in some dandelion greens that were nearing the end of their shelf-life.  Instead of leeks, I used ramps, which are just wild leeks and so worked out quite nicely.  For the crust, I substituted whole wheat flour for half of the flour called for.  It made for a hearty crust that crisped up in the oven and easily resisted any sogginess, despite the large amounts of moisture in both the mushrooms and greens.

This was delicious!  Between three of us we ate every last crumb.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Tuna Salad Sandwiches - April 11, 2012

The cupboards were pretty bare last week as I hadn't been to the store in awhile.  After staring at the contents of our refrigerator with the door open for a few minutes, I noticed some celery that really needed to be used.  I had a couple tins of tuna in the pantry too, plus quite a bit of bread (that's what happens when you work at a bakery, I guess).  Dinner options were between tuna sandwiches and pasta with tomato sauce.  I asked my sister, Nat, what she preferred since she arrived home before Nick and thus got first choice (she's staying with us while in the process of a move).  Tuna sandwiches won this round.

Along with the celery, I found a lone carrot hiding out in the crisper drawer, so I shredded it and added it to the mix.  I also threw in the last remaining fresh parsley to supplement the celery and brighten the flavor.  Just a little mayonnaise to hold everything together and voila, dinner is served.  Nat likes her tuna sandwiches, along with most everything else, with a bit of Siracha.
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Jerk Seafood Hobo Packs - April 1, 2012

Nick did these up on the grill a couple weekends ago.  This marks our first grill out of the 2012 season!  These seafood hobo packs are an old favorite of ours, but we rarely make them because you really need more than two people to enjoy the feast.  Luckily, my sister Nat has been crashing with us the past couple weeks, so we had an extra plate at the table.

I also made up a fresh green salad with some spinach and ramp greens, dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  It was such a treat to enjoy some local greens!

The hobo packs are served up family style from a big bowl after just 10 to 15 minutes on the grill.  This is a perfect beach house rental meal, since all you need is some aluminum foil and access to fresh shell fish (those last three words are really difficult to say out loud).  No fancy cooking equipment is required, with the exception of the grill.  It's a good idea to have some crusty baguette on hand to sop up all of the delicious broth left in the bottom of the pile of mollusks.  That's the best part, after all.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Book Review: "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" - April 3, 2012

Hello, my name is Jaime and I am a cookbook addict. I have never been able to resist the lure of a new cookbook, especially one that has such a compelling premise as Jennifer Reese's Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. After unexpectedly losing her job, she started filling her free time with recipe experiments in order to determine what you should and should not cook from scratch. I enjoyed reading about her chronicles, while privately seething in jealousy of her California yard large enough to accomodate a variety of farm animals and the financial security that apparently allowed her to become a full time blogger/homemaker. I fantasize about being able to chuck it all, strap on apron, and step out my backdoor with a bucket full of chicken feed. Then reality hits and I wake up in our DC-area townhouse to the sound of the nearby Metro train and head off on another business trip... with one of my "back-to-the-land" library books for reading on the airplane (above photo taken aboard one such plane...).

Reese's narrative and concept are excellent, but unfortunately I found some of her recipes to be a bit too imprecise. For example, in her directions for making ricotta she says to just bring the milk to "near boiling." I'd previously used Smitten Kitchen's technique, which calls for an exact 190 degrees. I figured Reese probably knew what she was talking about, so I left the thermometer in the drawer. The result was utter disaster. The milk never got nearly hot enough and only a few little curds formed. Rather than throw out one entire gallon of organic whole milk, I pulled the thermometer out and started over. 

Ricotta, made by bring the milk to 190 degrees, then adding acid and letting it sit for 30 minutes before draining.

Whey draining from the ricotta cheese.

I also didn't care for her English muffin recipe. I've experimented with a few different recipes and found that the only ones that come close to the factory-produced ideal of nooks and crannies are the batter-type recipes that you "bake" like a pancake. I've been particularly pleased with Michael Ruhlman's version, which I prefer to the Alton Brown recipe just because I'd rather use real milk than the powdered stuff which I don't trust to be corn-free.

In the end, I'm glad I read the book (borrowed from the library - the only way I can keep my cookbook addiction from breaking the bank) and plan to try some of the other recipes in it eventually (cream cheese, Canadian bacon, to name a couple). But my chicken and goat raising will have to remain just a fantasy.

Pickled Ramps - April 1, 2012

Ramp season is upon us, a good month earlier than usual here in Minnesota!  I picked up a couple bunches at the co-op last week and pickled them over the weekend.  I used a variation of this recipe, adapting it to what I had on hand.  I added a bit of fresh orange zest and grated fresh ginger to season.  These are just refrigerator pickles, and so have to be consumed within the week or so.  That shouldn't be a problem.

Just a note about the greens: I chose not to pickle the green parts of the ramps, choosing instead to use them fresh, chopped into salads and the like.  Fresh ramps are incredibly delicious, and so I find splitting the greens from the bulbs to be a nice way to enjoy both flavors.
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Monday, April 02, 2012

Cabbage and Sausage Soup - March 30, 2012

Minneapolis saw some cooler weather last week (at least cooler than the 70 degree days we'd been enjoying, although still incredibly temperate for March).  It was good soup weather, and hopefully that's the last time I write that this year.  I threw this in the crock pot one morning before work.  Onions, carrots, celery, and shredded cabbage combined with a handful of brown basmati rice, and some leftover beer brats from a previous dinner.  I poured enough water in to cover everything and seasoned with chicken stock concentrate, salt, pepper and some fresh thyme.  This cooked away on low all day and was ready for dinner upon my return home, filling the house with the smell of cooked cabbage.  Perhaps not the best smell in the world, but this soup was delicious.
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