October 27, 2014

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

I've had many scones that are nearly indistinguishable from muffins—soft and fluffy with a top that is just slightly firmer than the interior. That's not what I'm looking for in a scone. I want a scone to be very crisp and even a little dry so you can break off chunks and pop them in your mouth to be followed by a sip of hot tea or coffee. 

I've been on a maple kick lately so my pantry has an arsenal of maple essentials; syrup, sugar and extract—and using all three in a recipe really punches up the maple flavor which is kind of hard to achieve with just one of these elements.

I used whole wheat pastry flour which subs so well for AP and delivers heartier flavor while still staying tender, and made a maple glaze with butter and cream to spoon over the top of the finished scones. You can skip the glaze, if you like. Still good—lightly sweet and less sticky.

A good scone tip from Melissa Clark at the New York Times  is to separate the wedges on your baking sheet so they get crisp all around. 

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

Makes 8

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons maple sugar (sub 3 tablespoons white), plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing
1 large egg
1 teaspoon maple extract (sub vanilla)
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400º.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.

Combine cream, egg, extract and syrup in a bowl or large mixing cup and whisk to combine.

Add cold butter cubes to flour mixture and pulse until it breaks down to the size of peas. Dump into large bowl, add most of cream mixture and gently combine in as few strokes as possible. If the dough seems dry add the rest of the cream (I used all of it). Lightly flour a flat surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead a few times until it comes together then pat into a 1" thick round (you can also use a rolling pin).

Cut the round in half lengthwise and crosswise so you have 4 quarters, then cut each quarter into 2 wedges. You'll end up with 8 pieces. Brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with maple sugar. Put on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool on racks. 

Maple Glaze
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon maple extract
Pinch kosher salt

Combine everything in a small heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil, whisking a few times to combine. Let it boil, turning down heat if it gets too wild, for a few minutes until slightly reduced and thickened. Spoon over cooled scones (a cooling rack set over a sheet pan catches drips and makes for easy clean-up). 

October 21, 2014

"New Midwestern Table" Milk Cabbage

"New Midwestern" Milk Cabbage

"New Midwestern" Milk Cabbage

Last weekend I read Amy Thielen's cookbook, The New Midwestern Table from cover to cover and I really can't say enough about it.

I'll try and make nearly everything (perhaps not the headcheese although she manages to make it look and sound delicious) but the recipes aren't even the best part of the book. The best part is the way she writes, with a voice that is sure of itself but not show-offy and laced with affection and appreciation of her roots that, like mine, aren't sexy Mediterranean or Latin but stolid German, Slovakian maybe with a little French Canadian thrown in. The food reflects the sensibilities of these people—straightforward, thrifty, nourishing and delicious. Meat, potatoes, gravy, lake fish, seasonal vegetables, preserved foods.....done simply and really well.

Photos by Jennifer May

Food Network wisely and somewhat surprisingly created a show around her called Heartland Table. No catch-phrases or cleavage. Just good food cooked by Amy in her northern MN kitchen. I can't wait for the new season which starts on October 26.

OK. Now about this particular dish. I adore cabbage in all it's forms: sauerkraut, slaws, in rolls stuffed with ground beef and raw in salads but wasn't aware of this version. You sauté a bit of garlic in butter, add milk, rosemary, salt and pepper and mounds of shredded cabbage and cook until softened but still firm. It's mild, flavorful and comforting. This may sound weird, but the salt and pepper taste fantastic in this. You know how butter, salt and pepper shine on a potato or pasta? It's like that here too with the garlic and rosemary present but not overpowering. She recommends serving it alongside rice or mashed potatoes to sop up the milk "gravy" from the cabbage and I agree...it's good stuff.

Note:  Amy's roots in food run deep. Her cousins run the "world famous" Thielen's Meat Market in Pierz, MN — a stopover on our trip up north to the cabin for 25 years. Their bacon is the "world famous" part but all the meat is delicious—I'm partial to the sausages, some of which are pictured behind the cabbage in the top photo. They're closed on Sundays when they could do a bang-up business from people heading back to the city. I like that.

Milk Cabbage

recipe courtesy of Amy Thielen from The New Midwestern Table

1 small head (firm and heavy ) white cabbage, sliced "2 nickels" thick
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup whole milk
1 small sprig rosemary (fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1. Heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and swirl a minute until fragrant. Add the rosemary, cabbage, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Pour the milk over the top and raise the heat a bit to a simmer (bubbles around the edges) then turn heat back down, cover and simmer for about 4-7 minutes until cabbage is tender but still a little crisp. Fish out rosemary and discard. Put into a shallow dish, sprinkle walnuts over the top and serve. 

October 14, 2014

Spinach Arugula Tart with a Potato Crust

What's the difference between a tart and a quiche? It seems like a tart has less filling than a quiche and possibly fewer eggs.  Also, tarts are usually baked in a pan with removable sides and may or may not have an 'e' on the end. So I'm calling this a tart(e). 

I pinned a pretty picture of a potato crust herb tart from the Sweet Daily Blog about a year ago and have finally gotten around to giving it a whirl. Excellent. Just the thing for anyone who craves the comfort of a warm, savory tart but could do without the pastry crust. The potatoes are soft and crispy and the filling fresh, tangy and flavorful from the cottage and feta cheese and not too eggy ('cause it's not a quiche, right?). 

October 8, 2014

Apple Dumplings with Cider Cream Sauce

Apple Dumplings with Cider Cream Sauce

I won't lie. There's a boatload of butter in this recipe. But, man, it makes for delicious, flaky, flavorful crust and these little guys have a lot of it. A crispy personal apple pie with a sauce that tastes like melted apple cider ice cream.  An idea from Vanilla Bean blogger Sarah Kieffer. Taste like autumn, plus I get to practice making pastry which I'm steadily improving at, even enjoying.

October 3, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes — Because summer is over and we can turn the oven on now.

Roasted Tomatoes

Every fall I try and hit that sweet spot where the tomatoes are still fresh and cheap at the Farmer's Market and the weather has cooled enough to allow me to run the oven all day. When that happens I roast tomatoes to freeze for winter. I use them in sauce and soup and pizza. They're so much better than canned or the hauled from afar on a truck variety. Put them in freezer bags in one cup portions for long-term frozen storage or cover with olive oil and stash in fridge for a week or so to use on sandwiches, bruschetta, quesadillas and salads. 

September 29, 2014

Salt-Roasted Beets

I've wanted to try a salt-crust for awhile, probably because I'm such a salt fiend. I have at least six varieties in my pantry (grey, pink, black, truffle, flaked, kosher, slab) most of which have been gifts from people who know me well. I salt almost everything. I even carry around a little baggie of it in my purse in case I'm caught with a takeout sandwich or salad that needs a little pop. 

With salt-roasting you bury the food (fish, meat, vegetables) in a sandy mixture of salt, egg whites and herbs. It creates an oven within your oven and cooks the food gently and evenly. When it hardens and browns you crack open the crust to reveal a tenderly cooked thing. 

September 25, 2014

Maple Glazed Maple Banana Bread or How Many Times Can I Use the Word "Maple" in One Post?

Maple Glazed Maple Banana Bread

Nineteen, as it turns out. My thesaurus provides no other option.

My favorites pancakes are at The Egg & I, a breakfast place in Minneapolis. I used to go there in my post-college hangover days, then my post-long-run training-for-marathon days, then my post-childbirth up-all-night-jiggling-a-baby-to-sleep days. Now I just go with the kids when I'm hungry for a big breakfast and too lazy to cook. Their multi-grain "kamikaze" cakes are huge and tender and topped with berries, bananas, nuts and lots of butter and maple syrup. I also love their veggie omelet but today I was thinking about those pancakes when I made this bread (I would've included berries but fresh berries never stick around for long in our fridge).

I used maple sugar—a pricey alternative to white or brown that has nice maple flavor and is twice as sweet so you use less—and maple syrup. I also browned the butter. Ever since I made this bread with brown butter I don't want it any other way. It didn't have quite enough maple flavor so I added a sweet glaze on top, with a good dose of salt to liven it up. If you have maple extract, I would substitute it for the vanilla. I couldn't find any at my local grocery so will be ordering some online because I think there's a bunch of maple goodies in my future.

September 22, 2014

Yogurt Dressing (especially for lentils)

I'm happy when I've got a container of cooked lentils in the fridge. Peppery and meaty with lots of protein and fiber—they're great with a salad of greens, leftover roasted vegetables, slivered onions and walnuts for a hearty, healthy, quick lunch. But this isn't a recipe for lentils—I just cook them according to the tiny words printed on the bag and you can too. This is a recipe for the simple sauce that is my favorite way to dress lentils—warm or cold. The salty, garlicky yogurt is rich and creamy and provides a zesty counterpoint to the earthly legumes. Happy lentil lunching!

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.

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




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.

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