Tuesday, November 24, 2015

21st Annual Friends Thanksgiving

Our Friends Thanksgiving festivities began two decades ago when our group of friends returned to Minnesota as fresh college graduates and a little bit vegetarian (two friends came back having abandoned the meat-eating customs of their forebearers). It was the first first fancy dinner party post-college and it felt very grownup with mismatched stemware, polished silver and linen napkins. We've yet to miss a year, although the circle of friends expands and we serve cheese, butter and a fish course for the non-vegans. (It still feels ever so slightly very grown up.)

This year we gathered again in the home of our friend whose table comfortably seats ten and we feasted on autumn's harvest. The host and I are both members of Fig to Fork and had tasty mussels and shrimp hanging out in our freezers from this month's deliveries. With the addition of cod, scallops and clams we concocted a delicious cioppino for our main course. Get the recipe here.

2015 Friends Thanksgiving

House Cocktail
Local Cheese Plate

First Course
Sweet Potato Bisque
Herb Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Bread

Main Course

Chocolate Ginger Cake
Chocolate Coconut Sorbet


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blue House Benefit Dinner

It is a fact well known that I cannot take a decent picture of meatballs. (I also cannot make a proper pot of coffee but that is a failure for another day, as currently there is a tall blonde from Starbuck's resting on my desk.) Therefore, you'll have to trust me when I tell you, as I stray from the Law of Jante, that my meatballs are pretty darned good-looking and typically pretty darned tasty.

A friend of mine recently held an auction to benefit the Blue House orphanage, and I donated a Nordic-inspired dinner. Attendees bid on a chance to dine at my friends stunning Scandinavian-designed and decorated home and to enjoy a four course dinner complete with Gamle Ode cocktails and wine pairings all prepared by me. This weekend twelve of us gathered to celebrate the successes of the Ugandan girls from Blue House and raised a bit of money to help continue to great work being done at the orphanage and school.

The only photographic evidence of our evening is the image above, taken post dinner party. Get the recipe for Modern Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberry Curry over at Called to the Table.


Rye Dill Blini topped with Love Tree Farmstead cheese
and pickled cucumbers and poblano peppers


First Course:
Salmon Brandade

Chenin blanc

Main Course:
Modern Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberry Curry
Roasted seasonal vegetables

Pinot Noir

Kladdkaka (Swedish gooey cake), raspberry compote, 
and coconut sorbet


Sunday, November 15, 2015

You can be my wingman anytime.

One of T's favorite places to Happy Hour is Masu in NE Minneapolis. He eats as much sushi as humanly possible and wanders around in euphoria for a few days afterward. This weekend he was feeling adventurous and wasn't satisfied with a simple board of rolls. "Chicken wings! Ginger!" he ordered.

The wings arrived and T dove in. "Wow!" nibble nibble nibble. "THESE ARE AMAZING!" nibble nibble nibble. Before the sushi arrived T finished the wings and continued to rave about them. In fact, he's brought them up several times since.

I can be a bit competitive when it comes to certain food items. My pizza? The best you'll ever have. My meatballs? Don't even think about it. And my wings? Best of the best. Far be it for me to lay down and allow a good sushi place to out-wing me.

My ginger wings are not identical twins to those at Masu, more like the fraternal sister with brazen ideas: my ginger wings are a little hotter, a little wilder. This sauce pairs well with shrimp also.

Ginger Wings
Serves 2 to 4

12 large chicken wings
2 tablespoons flour
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and black pepper

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour and spices. Dry chicken wings thoroughly with paper towels and toss in flour spice mixture until well coated. Lay in single layer on parchment lined baking sheet and bake in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes.

For the sauce:
2 inches ginger, grated
3 large garlic cloves, grated
Zest and juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup each low-sodium soy sauce and teriyaki
2 tablespoons each honey and Thai chili paste (sambal)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
A few dashes fish sauce
1 tablespoon butter

Mix all ingredients in small sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Toss cooked chicken wings in sauce and return to oven for 3 minutes. Serve with additional sauce and garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fishing with Fig to Fork

"I never really cooked much fish before," my friend K confessed. "But lately, I've been loving it!"

We are both cooking from Fig to Fork deliveries these days, and when those boxes contain fish or seafood our kitchens turn out restaurant quality plates, especially when we follow the enclosed
recipes from local chefs. This month's chef is Erick Harcey whose recipes are phenomenal.

"That salmon!" I offered.

"Oh, that salmon," K agreed. Chef Harcey gave us instructions to sear the salmon and serve with honey glazed carrots (I added potatoes, my spin on Danish sugared potatoes) and walnut pesto (I used local hazelnuts instead of walnut) garnished with basil. It was easily one of the best meals I've ever made.

T always assigns really good dishes a price tag."This is at least a 25 dollar plate," he announced. "Is there more salmon?"

This past week an enormous pile of mussels arrived and I love mussels. K admitted she'd never cooked them before. "Just follow the chef's instructions and you'll be fine," I assured her.

In my kitchen I steamed the mussels in white wine and fresh herbs, and as I squeezed a lemon over the whole thing and took my first bite I announced, "This is at least a $20 plate." T nodded his head in agreement.

(On a side note, Chef Harcey is opening a Swedish restaurant in Minneapolis this month and I can hardly stand the wait!)


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Vile Weed Pizza

Like watching Fargo or The Walking Dead, or memorizing all of the lyrics to every Taylor Swift song ever recorded, kale is one of those cultural icons that everyone who is anyone claims to love. But god I hate kale. I just hate it.

I actually boarded the kale bus pretty early (and immediately asked for a transfer). Ten or fifteen years ago I started reading online about the miraculous green and began experimenting with ways to make the vile weed edible. Before the green became trendy, I was making kale chips and trying to pawn them off on coworkers. I added kale to soups and hotdishes, hoping my daughter wouldn't notice the off flavor and texture in her tuna casserole. (Ironically, my now-adult daughter eats more vegetables, including kale, in a day than most people eat in a lifetime.) After our rough beginning, I broke up with kale and never looked back.

Enter Fig to Fork. I signed on the to food delivery service this summer and if you've seen my postings about them you already know what a huge fan I am. Occasionally the box will contain ingredients I am not too keen on, but in an effort to open my mind and expand my menu repertoire I promised myself that I would add even the unlikeable ingredients to our meals. Happily, the results thus far have been pretty spectacular. I'm now indulging regularly on Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Who'd have predicted?

And then came the kale.

UGH KALE THE VILE WEED! Oh Fig to Fork, how could you do this to me?!

A promise is a promise, even when made to myself. In an effort to make kale edible, I added my least favorite food to my most favorite food: kale + pizza = (I hoped) delicious. And it was!  Next time (oh dear, did I just write that?) I might add some nuts to the base and perhaps some chopped apple.

Kale Pizza
8 slices

For the crust:
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few tablespoons olive oil

In small mixing bowl combine yeast, sugar, and water. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in bowl of food processor fit with metal blade combine flour and yeast. Turn processor on and add yeast mixture and olive oil until ball of dough forms. Place dough in bowl with a few teaspoons of olive oil, turning dough so that it is well oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in draft-free area until dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.

For the toppings:
Large bunch of curly kale, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
5 ounces shiitake, sliced
1/4 cup red pepper and onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
Several sprigs thyme
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
4 ounces provolone, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan, shredded

After preparing dough, in very large bowl combine kale and a tablespoon or two of olive oil and then toss with plenty of salt. Set aside while dough rises, tossing occasionally to evenly distribute olive oil and salt.

In large saute pan heat remaining olive oil over medium high and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to brown and soften. Add red pepper and onion, tomatoes, garlic, and a few teaspoons of thyme leaves and continue cooking until vegetables are soft. Salt and pepper to taste.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place kale on paper and bake in preheated 400 degree oven until edges of kale begin to brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Toss kale and return to oven for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

To assemble:
On parchment paper push dough into a 12-inch round. Cover with mozzarella and provolone. Dot with a teaspoon of thyme leaves. Par-bake in preheated 450 degree oven until cheese just melts, about 5 to 7 minutes. Evenly distribute mushroom mixture over cheese, top with kale and Parmesan, Return to oven and continue cooking until Parmesan is melted and just turning golden, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cooking lessons from the master

An apple pie cools on the counter and I am armed with mushrooms and cheese from the farmers market and a few loaves of bread from our favorite bakery. T and the cats settle in on the couch awaiting the start to our Godfather marathon. These are the days that sooth us during ridiculously busy lives.

I learned most everything I know about red sauce and pastas from an Italian friend, by way of Jersey. None of the specifics she taught me are written down. She never meausred anything. Maybe these aren't the kinds of recipes you can capture. Maybe this kind of kitchen magic is learned only through experience, or osmosis, or luck. DJ taught me the "a little of this, taste, a little more of that" method. She taught me that tasting while you cook is the most important ingredient in any recipe.

I stand at the stove stirring a pot of all-day red gravy and recall that friend from long ago. I can almost hear her voice directing me: add salt and pepper to every element as you go, don't cook the garlic too long or it will burn, cook the tomato paste before adding liquids, deglaze the pan with red wine, add yolk and nutmeg to the ricotta, and cook the sausages and meatballs in a vat of red sauce while the lasagne bakes.

None of my pans are deep enough to handle one of DJ's lasagnes. I pull out a disposable foil pan and line it with more foil, and then butter the bottom and sides. Layer after layer, I build a lasagne so high I have to remove the top oven rack to make room for my masterpiece. Red sauce thick with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and garlic; sheets of pasta; mozzarella, provolone, asiago; ricotta, egg yolks, fresh parsley, parmesian, and nutmeg; more sauce tucked between each blanket of cheese and pasta. A final sprinkling of fresh parsley completes the dish. Hidden in the oven for over an hour, the layers meld and become one perfect hotdish.

I am careful to plate each slice of lasagne with an equal portion of stovetop sausage and red gravy, and I know that if DJ were still here she'd approve.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cookie talk

The recent StarTribune Holiday Cookie Contest deadline last week reminded me that I had not yet posted the recipe for Ginger Citrus Cookies, this year's State Fair Gold Medal Blue Ribbon cookies. While I wont be entering the StarTrib contest again (two times ARE a charm!) I do love dabbling in all things cookie and I love putting a new spin on a classic cookie.

Pinchies are named for our beloved ginger cat Orson (a.k.a. Pinchy because he has a sweet little pinchy face) and the bones of the original recipe came from my great great uncle's parish cookbook from 1932. The cookbook recipe is for chocolate pinwheels. I changed the chocolate to ginger (our daughter is a ginger fiend) and rather than a standard pinwheel I borrowed the "S" cat shape from Lucia Buns. The cookie came together pretty nicely and it would be a great addition to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas cookie plates. T requested ice cream sandwiches (Ginger ice cream? Orange sorbet?) next time I make these.

Ginger Citrus Pinchies
Makes about 16 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature for about 30 minutes
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups Gold Medal all-purpose or unbleached flour + 1 tablespoon, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest from 1 orange (about 1/2 teaspoon)
zest from 1 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoon molasses
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cayenne powder

To prepare dough: use standup mixer with paddle (or handmixer) to cream butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn mixer to low and add yolk; add milk  and mix well. In small mixing bowl whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture and continue beating until dough forms.

Divide dough in half (there will be just over 2 cups total). Add half dough back to mixing bowl along with vanilla, orange zest and lemon zest. Mix until incorporated. Form dough into ball and wrap in plastic; set aside. Place remaining dough in mixing bowl along with 1 tablespoon flour, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and cayenne. Mix until incorporated. Form dough into ball and wrap in plastic. Note: dough will be very soft.

Chill both dough balls at least 30 minutes.

Place parchment over work surface and roll each dough ball into a 8x5-inch rectangle 1/4-inch thick. Place one dough rectangle over the other, aligning the dough as perfectly as possible. Starting at one of the narrow ends of the dough, use the parchment paper to gently roll the dough into a spiral, stopping a little more than halfway up the rectangle. Flip dough upside down and roll the other end into a spiral so that dough resembles an S-shaped log.

Wrap in clean plastic and chill at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice chilled dough into 1/4-inch thick slices (will total about 16 S-shaped cookies). Place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1-2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until evenly browned on bottom. Cool on rack.