September 11, 2014

Blue Cheese Dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing

I just don't like store-bought salad dressings. They always contain some "weird" flavor that I can't put my finger on even when I search the ingredient list. Sugar? Maybe. Xanthan Gum? Does that have a flavor? But I still occasionally buy a bottle because they're quick. My last purchase was a jar of blue cheese dressing from the refrigerator case that set me back almost $5. I spooned it over a buffalo chicken salad and, yep, was let down. Again, that indefinable flavor.

Serendipitously, a few nights ago my husband came home with a huge, HUGE wedge of Gorgonzola from our local Italian deli (he gets a little panicky when he's procuring food and tends to blurt out things like - "I'll take a pound!" in this case of really good, $20 a pound cheese). So it's a fine time to make a batch of luscious blue cheese dressing. This is creamy and rich and the blue cheese is prominent but not overpowering. I like the flavor of fresh herbs and added chopped parsley—basil would be nice too or you could skip it. Measurements are approximate. Add a little more or less to taste and for the thickness you like.

Blue Cheese Dressing

Makes about 1 cup 

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
2 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons minced onion
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper and kosher salt

Combine in a bowl or big jar. Stir/mash up with fork to blend. Chill and use within a week.


September 5, 2014

Brown Butter Brownies




I'm such an culinary jerk sometimes. Last weekend our good friends came over for dinner with their two young kids, ages 5 and 7. They live in a distant suburb and we don't get to see them as often as we like so I was really excited. They were bringing some wine from a vineyard we visited on a fun trip to Napa a few years ago and I was in charge of the food. 

September 1, 2014

Corn Soup with Tofu Larb



Corn Soup with Tofu Larb

Did you know they grow sweet corn in Thailand? Me neither, but I googled it after I tested this recipe for Food52's "best warm weather soup" contest and they do.

Kind of fun to discover that our Midwestern summer staple, corn, is a natural and delicious partner to Thai flavors. This soup delivers big corn taste in a broth that's spiked with ginger and cilantro and finished with a pile of crispy Thai-sauced tofu, a riff on larb, which is a southeast Asian staple of minced meat flavored with fish sauce, chili's and herbs.

August 26, 2014

Sambal Chicken Skewers

Sambal Chicken Skewers


I made this because my husband asked me to "cook the cover" which happened to be last June's issue of Bon Appetit. I'm always going through old cooking magazines looking for ideas and I leave them all over the house. This one caught his eye. Chicken cut into chunks, skewered, grilled and basted with a sticky, spicy chili and sriracha sauce. 

I apologize for the lack of photos...my family was sitting at the kitchen counter harassing me about their hunger as I tried to take pictures. And then they ate all of it—fast. And then my husband starting doing the dishes, so I vacated the kitchen—fast, and ran upstairs to listen to the radio and sort my tee-shirt drawer. Don't judge. Everyone relaxes in their own way and getting control of this drawer by sorting my cotton tops into long sleeved, short sleeved, turtleneck and time-to-go and folding them into neat little geometric piles makes me feel like a person who has drawers that look like this, who never miss an appointment, who always get the forms in on time and never walk the dogs in their pajamas with yesterday's mascara raccooning their eyes. Like Babe Paley. Except Babe Paley probably didn't own 23 tee-shirts. Nevertheless, I'm sure her drawers of say, Hermes scarves, looked as good as my tee-shirt drawer does now making it just as effortless for her to choose which scarf to tie on to the handle of her handbag or over her coif as it will be for me to select a tee that perfectly complements my cargo pants or jeans. Babe and I have much in common. 

August 15, 2014

Naan

Naan


Naan

My husband called his maternal grandmother, "nan", pronounced "naan" like this flatbread. Fitting because she was a professional baker who hailed from Poland and made dishes that linger in the families memory: rich bread, elaborate cakes for birthdays, donuts she fried fresh in her kitchen, polish cheesecake, soup noodles and so on.  I would've liked to have met her but she passed away before I came into the picture. 

Her food lives on — my mother-in-law has reluctantly shared a few recipes but asked that I please not put them on "that computer thing of yours" (i.e., this blog), which I will of course honor, not wanting to blow the lid off the cooking world by revealing that nana put a pinch of cream of tartar in her donut batter (just an example, I know no such thing to be true). 

August 11, 2014

Tofu Fried Rice

Tofu Fried Rice




I spent last weekend at a horse show in Des Moines, Iowa with my equestrian daughter. It was the last show of the summer, which is always bittersweet. Sweet in that I can wash and vacuum out my car and and have it stay mud-free for longer than a week. Sweet because I now get to enjoy a summer weekend at home in Minneapolis. But bittersweet because some lovely young women who my daughter has rode with for the past few years are off to college and won't be hanging around the barn anymore, talking horses and life and giving my girl a peek into the older teenage years that await.

We all applauded and whistled and shed tears as they rode their last rounds and, driving away from the show grounds, felt their moving on. And while we look forward and expect good things from the next chapter, we mourn the one that is passing. These kids are focused riders who have grown up at the barn and benefited from the generosity of the equine community of parents, trainers, adult riders, grooms, show judges, in-gate guys and office staff who support them, teach them, hold them accountable, occasionally give them a friendly ribbing and keep the whole thing running smoothly (or as smoothly as a horse show can go —another story altogether).

What's special about this world for a child, in addition to the partnership and commitment to their equine partner, is that they have friends of all ages. The friendships come naturally and are free of drama because they share a central thing in their lives, horses and riding. I think this comes as a relief to many girls who don't always have the same kind of ease in their school friendships.

August 6, 2014

Cucumber Soup


Cucumber Soup




The inspiration for this cool and creamy soup came from my little one's driveway garden (the only reliably sunny spot on our city lot) where the cucumbers and parsley are kind of going nuts.

A quick spin in the blender with a few other ingredients makes for a clean, tasty and surprisingly filling summer soup. The yogurt and almonds give it some heft and the olive oil a little fruitiness. Fresh and delicious. It also holds well in the fridge without separating. I had it the next day with a spoonful of leftover rice and it was divine.

August 2, 2014

15 Minute Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

15 Minute Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies


August. Precious August with its blue skies, breezy heat and armloads of pristine vegetables that, if we had them year-round, would make Californians out of all of us. Back-to-school missives are trying to infiltrate our summer mode and we swat them away like mosquitoes, trying to hold off the inevitable return to schedule and routine. 

A day baking in the kitchen doesn't suit my current frame of mind so these peanut butter cookies fit the bill. Just a few ingredients and they take about 15 minutes to throw together and bake. A bit longer if you dip them in chocolate glaze. Store them in the refrigerator—they're even better cold—full of rich peanut butter flavor and the dark chocolate glaze, if you choose to go that route, is a perfect compliment. 

July 29, 2014

Lentil Potato Salad with Feta


Lentil Potato Salad with Feta




I can't resist the cartons of itsy-bitsy potatoes at the farmer's market this time of year. Tender and tasting of earth, which I guess is to say dirt, they cook quickly and pair with just about anything, such is the easy-going nature of these tubers. A quick boil, a gentle smash and they're ready to hang out with green lentils, fresh herbs, a bit of onion, a chunk of feta, lots of good olive oil and a healthy shot of lemon juice. Good warm now, even better for lunch tomorrow.



July 20, 2014

Yogurt Buttermilk Herb Dressing/Dip


Yogurt buttermilk herb dressing

Homemade buttermilk herb dressing is so good and I love to occasionally douse my salads with the stuff but it does contain a fair amount of mayonnaise which makes it kind of bad for you. Bummer.

I replaced the mayo with plain yogurt in this version and it's pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as the naughty variety but it's an excellent stand-in and maybe even better when you use it as a dip for potato chips since it's a little tangier than the original, like a sour cream dip.

I know I know—now it's healthy and I dunk chips into it? Doesn't that defeat the purpose? Naw. In the world of crunchy salty snack foods potato chips are practically healthy...just three ingredients and you can pronounce and source each of them. How's that for a rationalization?


July 15, 2014

Raw and Grilled Corn Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette





It's almost full-throated, stop at every farm stand, butter and salt dripping down your wrist, stuck between your teeth corn-o-copia time in Minnesota. Corn on the cob recalls the best summer meals and memories; steak, burgers or fish you or your sister or your dad caught in the lake and fried in a big skillet served alongside perfect corn and sliced tomatoes with black pepper and salt from the glass shaker on the table with grains of rice in it to keep the salt from caking and refusing to pass through the holes on the lid. After dinner it's endless games of gin rummy or cribbage with a little baby powder sprinkled on the cards to keep them dry and able to shuffle properly, which is to say thoroughly because these are games of skill. Skill—never luck. 

This recipe is made with corn I got at the grocery store. Not the perfect corn because it wasn't picked this morning and sold roadside in a paper sack or on a folding table outside the meat market by an older gent or kids sitting on lawn chairs looking like they have all the time in the world to sit and sell corn for a few bucks a bag. 

I left half of the corn raw and grilled the other half until slightly charred, sliced it off the cobs and combined it with a bit of red onion, red pepper, thinly sliced red cabbage, a spoonful of parmesan (feta or goat cheese would be good too) and a splash of punchy cumin vinaigrette. Great with grilled chicken on the side or cut into chunks and added to the bowl. 

July 2, 2014

The Best Granola I Didn't Make




My friend Angie makes the best granola and sells it at our local farmer's market and co-op. It's extremely tasty and full of clean, simple ingredients like dried fruit, lots of nuts, coconut, oats and maple syrup. In addition to being a granola entrepreneur, Angie is the mother of four busy kids, a runner, former peace corps volunteer and has an upbeat (but not in an annoying way) personality. I think she's written a few children's books too—I can't keep up.

She asked me to photograph her delicious product and I'm happy to do it provided I can keep my family from tearing into the bags long enough for me to take the pictures. They've agreed to keep away but have laid claim to their favorite variety so when the last photo is taken, they'll be digging in—usually with hands straight in the bag. No need for milk, yogurt or spoon. It's so good.

Buy it at the Linden Hills Farmers Market on Sundays from 9-1, the Linden Hills Co-Op or her website www.gustolagranola.com


June 20, 2014

Crustless Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Crustless Fruit Tart with Dark Chocolate Sauce



Sometimes, a girl just doesn't want to turn the oven on so you have to do without. Crust. You have to do without crust and suffer through vanilla flecked custard, fresh berries, creamy bananas and dark, dark chocolate sauce that lies on the plate without pedestal, without solid ground save the inedible plate. It's hard. I know. But it's hot and humid here and a BTU spewing oven won't improve the situation.

Vaguely flag-like in it's colors, with a smatter of green mint to echo the season. It's kind of fancy and really simple. The sauce is like Hershey's in the can only better (you knew I was going to say that). Nice served cold—almost tastes like a banana split. 

June 16, 2014

Speedy Silky Scrambled Eggs with Chimichurri


Scrambled Eggs with Chimichurri



I'm going to cut to the chase because I'm kind of excited about this dish and what I learned about making scrambled eggs.

You DON'T have to cook eggs low and slow to get a great rich texture. They can come together faster than it takes to make a piece of toast.

You DON'T have to pre-whisk eggs before you add them to the hot pan. One less dish to wash. You also don't have to fold them. You can whisk the bejesus out of them and get tiny tender curds that are fabulous in the way that tiny things can be.


You DON'T have to stick with salt and pepper and grated cheese for add-ins. Yawn. Throw in chimichurri sauce, pesto, harissa or romesco and eat fancy flavor-packed eggs for dinner.


All of this goes against decades of reluctant scrambled egg cooking and consumption on my part. No wonder I didn't like them much. This method cooks them in about 45 seconds and produces a plate of eggs that are rich and smooth like a risotto or polenta. Great on toast.

June 9, 2014

Grilled Zucchini Crostini with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Grilled Zucchini Crostini with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese


Cue the Police, Synchronicity, The Clash, Rock the Casbah or perhaps Yes, Owner of a Lonely Heart. Open up a bottle of white zinfandel (maybe rosé since we're all grown up now), whip up this crostini and feel the 80's love.

Nothing yodels the cuisine of that decade like sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh basil—the calling cards of cutting edge yuppie restaurants back then. I don't think I've eaten this combination since pasta took over America, the somewhat overlooked Generation X (nice to meet you) became adults and Millennials were born, told they were important and driven around in Volvos with bouncing yellow "Baby on Board" signs in the rear window.

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