July 20, 2014

Yogurt Buttermilk Herb Dressing/Dip

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?

Yogurt Buttermilk Herb Dressing

makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives and basil)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine everything in a jar and shake until smooth (or whisk in a bowl) adding a bit more buttermilk or olive oil to thin if necessary. Cover and chill. 

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.

June 2, 2014

Crispy Potato Salad with Scallion Oil and Cambozola

Crispy Potato Salad with Scallion Oil and Cambozola

Here we go. End of another school year and how sweet it was. My girls are growing and learning and struggling just the right amount (I hope).

May 30, 2014

Spicy White Bean Dip (AKA Kickass Dip)

I'm digging the governor of Minnesota. He gets things done. Scion of a local wealthy family, hockey player, Yale educated, once married to a Rockefeller, had and lost a previous public office, stint at farming, recovering alcoholic. He's funny looking, completely lacking in charm and doesn't care about whether or not he's "likeable". He speaks straight, is whip smart, sticks to his positions, isn't afraid of anyone, isn't a bully, is proud of his sons and mourns his dogs who passed a few years ago. I love this guy. I don't know how the hell he ever got elected but I'm glad he did.

I was reading about him in the newspaper as I tucked into this INCREDIBLE curry/spicy dip I made off the Lady & Pups blog. The article talks about how he's insisting the state get rid of stupid laws like the one requiring the agriculture commissioner to personally hunt down any wild boars running loose in Minneapolis. That would be this guy:

May 27, 2014

Strawberry Banana Bread with Brown Butter

Strawberry Banana Bread with Brown Butter

Quick breads are not quick to make unless you count prep time plus at least an hour in the oven quick. To me, quick is 15 minutes and I always seek out the speedy route—express checkout lines, express yoga classes, express shipping, express pass at an amusement park (worth every penny). I wish there were express hair services—an hour sitting in a chair getting my hair cut is barely tolerable and two and a half hours purgatory for color makes me crazy. Next time I'm going to ask if I can run an errand while I "process". People may stare at my crazy head of foil but I don't mind. At least I'd be getting something done.

So why are they called quick breads? Only because they don't contain yeast so you don't have to wait for them to rise. For bread, they're quick. Bread quick, not quick quick.

This one has strawberries and bananas—a classic if perhaps overdone combination and brown butter, which makes everything better. I like to brown my butter dangerously close to burnt—as brown as possible for maximum flavor. So good in this bread, as well as drizzled over fish and chicken...but I guess that's just butter in general. Having a new technique gives me a reason to lavish it on everything. I made extra to chill and spread on the finished bread.

May 20, 2014

Thai Meatball Bowl

Thai Meatball Bowl

You know how people keep the same hairstyle for 30 years? I wonder if it's really true that you have one style that suits your particular face, head shape and hair texture and only one? Or is it that you have a certain style that you associate with your most attractive, confident and/or carefree self and while the rest of you gets a little melty with age you can still control your tresses and have the same hair you had when you were firing on all cylinders, which is a comfort. Or maybe that's a cliche and you're firing on more cylinders now that you're older, wiser and calmer and that hairstyle is a friendly ornament of more foolish days that you're grateful for because without them you wouldn't have the perspective and empathy you possess now.

Recipes are like that—the ones we make over and over because they work, make us and the people we love happy and possibly harken back to good times. Pistachio lamb meatballs were one of the first blog recipes I posted that my family was enthusiastic about so I make them frequently, but today I decided to try this Thai version I came across on the Epicurious site.  You can make a sandwich with them—like a bánh mì, or throw them in a bowl with coconut rice, crunchy raw vegetables and cool cilantro yogurt.

May 7, 2014

Salad with Pickled Fennel and Polenta Croutons

I was tempted to name this post "Gluten Free Croutons" because gluten free is such a big deal and I'd probably get more hits or visits or whatever, but come on, we all know that has nothing to do with why I used polenta for croutons. I was simply trying to think of an alternative to bread which I probably eat too much of. I first saw these on Giada's De Laurentiis cooking show and while I wish she wouldn't pronounce parmeGGIANO that way and wear glossy pink nail polish while she cooks which I fear will infiltrate the food, her ideas and recipes are pretty good. 

The croutons are great—soft and crispy and satisfy your fiercest carb craving. Try and use them while they're a bit warm. I put them in this composed salad. Salad as a composition...an arrangement of harmonious ingredients put together in an appealing way. Just like Gershwin. Rhapsody in cornmeal, salami and fennel. 

I did a quick pickle on a fennel bulb and added goat cheese, salami, julienned orange pepper and a bit of basil. They're all sort of Italian and gather together as a happy family on the plate.  I put it on a bed of baby kale but I think it would be good with any slightly bitter lettuce. I cheated and used prepared polenta (shelf-stable rolls near the pasta). I'm sure it would be even better with homemade. 

May 2, 2014

Olive Oil Poached Salad

A few times a year I think of my Great Uncle Art and when I do I feel humble, and pissed. It was Art, a world class humbler whose motto was "don't get a fat head, you're not so special", who told me I had my Aunt Grace's nose.

My Aunt Grace was magnificent. She stood less than five feet tall and radiated energy. Truly, you could feel waves of energy pulsing around her. She was one of eleven children raised in a small farming community of French Canadians and the only child to up and move to the city (downtown, no less), get a job in an office and give her cheerful opinion to anyone who'd listen be it a person on the bus or a vagrant on the street. She wasn't afraid of anything, laughed a lot and had beautiful eyes. But she did have the nose. A more robust version of my own with a crooked Picasso part in the middle and a drooping tip. An unfortunate nose. And my Uncle Art, honest to a fault was talking to me at Thanksgiving when I was 14 and said, "you turned out pretty—where'd that come from?" He paused and studied me and then said with utter frankness, "eh but you got that bad nose same as Grace" I was speechless. What a shit. My Uncle Mark, who overheard, tried to act like Art was joking and hustled me away.

But the damage was done. I had a nose that was the bane of conventional attractiveness. But I shared it with the indomitable Grace and that made it better.

April 23, 2014

Dinner a la Plancha (steak and vegetables)

I've been eating a lot more steak ever since I found out about this cooking method. I blame you, Eric Ripert! You know him... handsome (but not in an icky he's going to use it for evil way) chef who's a meat-eating Buddhist and owner of Le Bernadin in New York. One of the glossy food magazines ran a piece on him last summer and he made a steak using this method on a piece of slate. I improvised and used my cast iron griddle and I've never gone back. 

Why is this method great? You get a super hot flat surface that sears meat to perfection with no flare ups, great crust and no smoking up the kitchen. What more do you want? Vegetables, you say? No problem. Throw those on too—and you don't have to worry about them falling through the grates. Perfect for burgers too.

You can use a heavy frying pan, a piece of untreated slate from a home improvement store or, bite the bullet and get one of these great griddles. I use mine on the stovetop too—for pancakes, grilled cheese, quesadillas. It's a worthwhile item to have if you cook for more than one and you like a nice brown crust on things. 

April 16, 2014

Mocha Dirt Cake

Mocha Dirt Cake

mocha dirt cake

You can find the recipe for this mocha dirt cake over at Minnesota Monthly, where I've been writing about all things coffee for the past week. This alluring sweet has coffee grounds in the "dirt" layer and espresso in the creamy filling. It's an addictive combination of crispy, creamy, sweet but not too and would be a show stopper on your Easter table. Check it out here. 

April 14, 2014

For better iced coffee, back away from the drip-pot...

cold brewed coffee

I'm writing over at Minnesota Monthly today about how to make delicious cold-brewed coffee. Turns out, I was doing it all wrong. Check it out here

This is the nice woman from Caribou who set me straight. Thanks Liz!
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