Archive for April 2012

Iron Chef Honey Dinner

April 30th, 2012 — 8:40am

From left to right, top to bottom: Gentle Breeze Honey (Fancy White Clover and Wildflower); Honey Sticks, Bit-O-Honey candy; sampling honey from Jill and Ryan’s trip to France; Old Sugar Factory Honey Liqueur; Spring Vegetable Salad with Truffle Whipped Honey; Crostini with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, Honey and Fig Jam; Pistachio-Honey Cake with Berries and Cream; Honey Cake; Blackberry Honey Popsicles; Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes; Turkey Chili with Honey.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Spaghetti With Ramps

April 30th, 2012 — 5:07am

april-2012-203And here’s the recipe I made last week to use up the last of the ramps. Although the ramp season is so fleeting, it was nice to try a few new recipes this spring and to pickle several bunches to continue enjoying their unique flavor for weeks to come. I enjoyed the simplicity of this recipe—the lemon zest and toasted bread crumbs (I toasted Panko bread crumbs in a bit of butter) were also a nice touch.

Spaghetti With Ramps (from Harmony Valley Farm)
2 bunches (1/2 lb.) ramps
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 C. extra virgin Olive oil
1 lb. spaghetti
2 T freshly grated Parmesan
Accompaniment: toasted bread crumbs

Blanch whole ramps in boiling, salted water 2 – 3 seconds. Transfer to cutting
board with tongs. Coarsely chop and put in a blender with zest. Add spaghetti
to boiling water and cook a few minutes. Then ladle out 1/2 C. pasta
water and add to blender. Puree ramps until smooth and season with salt.
Continue to cook spaghetti until al dente, then ladle out an additional 1/2 C.
pasta water before draining in a colander. Return pasta to pot with ramp
puree and toss with parmesan over moderate heat 1 – 2 minutes. Thin sauce
with a little pasta water as needed to coat pasta.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

Derby Acquisition

April 26th, 2012 — 9:16am

april-2012-196As I find myself in full-on Kentucky Derby Party prep mode (the 138th-annual running of the roses is next Saturday!), I was thrilled to have recently acquired a set of 25 official Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses. I used to think I was high rolling with a set of eight, but now I’m really big time. When I finally do expand my living quarters beyond a one-bedroom apartment and open up the derby party invite list, I’ll be ready!

And how exactly did I acquire these glasses? About a year ago, I learned that a professional acquaintance of mine is also a big Derby fan. She and her friends have had many Derby parties throughout the years, but have since retired from the scene. After we bonded over the Derby, she generously offered me her Derby glass collection. Although I insisted on paying her, she wouldn’t have it—she told me she simply wanted to pass on the Derby karma and find them a good home. In addition to the glasses, she also gave me an embroidered horse and jockey flag, sort of like this one. I couldn’t believe my great luck!

The official derby glasses are used at the Kentucky Derby to serve mint juleps—they’re the quintessential souvenir. There’s a new design each year, and all of the previous years winners are printed on the back. Many people collect the glasses, and some are extremely rare—there are a few from the 1930’s that are worth more than $15,000. Someday it would be fun to organize a collection (maybe try to collect every glass since they year I was born) but for now, I simply want everyone at my party to have a mint julep served in an official glass. Just like at the Derby.

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Running Music Play List

April 26th, 2012 — 7:15am

april-2012-192As I prepare for next month’s Ice Age 50, I’ve been spending a lot of time running. The last several weekends I’ve driven to La Grange (near Whitewater) to run on the race course. I’m convinced nothing beats trail running—I love zoning out and losing myself in nature, but simultaneously needing to be so in tune with the trail, my body and obstacles that lie ahead.

Lately my long runs are 4+ hours…which, at times, can get a little lonely. I’ve been using my ipod as a way to reward myself at the end of each long run. I’ll tell myself, at mile 20, you can start listening to music. Then I have something to look forward to, and just when I’m starting to feel tired and sluggish, the beat helps put a little bounce back in my step. Here are a few of my favorites. If you have suggestions of other songs to add to the mix, please let me know!

The Beatdown – Gayngs
Interstellar – Frankie Rose
Odessa – Caribou
Kids – MGMT
Helenea Beat – Foster the People
Brush the Heat – Little Dragon
Tribulations – LCD Soundsystem
Fences – Phoenix

Comment » | Racing and Training

Gnudi with Ramps and Morels

April 25th, 2012 — 10:08am

april-2012-165Here is the latest dish I whipped up using purchases from this week’s farmers’ market. The recipe is from a cookbook Larry gave me for Christmas titled Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. I love it because it’s organized by season—which seems to be a growing trend in cookbooks.

This particular recipe was inspired by a dish at The Spotted Pig in New York City. It’s essentially “naked pasta,” which forms around the outside of the cheese mixture when covered with semolina and chilled overnight. The dish is sophisticated, rich and creamy. The original recipe calls for Fiddleheads (in the mushrooms saute), but since the only places these grow in North America are Northern New England and parts of Canada, I had to leave them out. If you do come across Fiddleheads, I’m sure they’d make the dish more interesting. Certainly visually.

Gnudi with Ramps and Morels (adapted from Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm, serves 6)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 large organic eggs
1 large organic egg yolk
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp minced fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups semolina

Mushroom Saute
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups morels
1 cup chopped ramps
1 cup fiddleheads, blanched

Cream sauce
3 cups whipping (35%) cream
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare the gnudi: In a large bowl, combine Parmesan, ricotta, eggs, egg yolk and nutmeg. Using a whisk or hand blender, whip mixture until smooth and airy. Fold in flour and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

With floured hands, roll gnudi into 1-inch balls, placing them in a clean bowl. Cover gnudi balls completely with semolina. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add gnudi and reduce heat to a simmer. Working in batches, poach gnudi until they float to the top, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushroom saute: In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add morels, ramps and fiddleheads; saute until golden and softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain the fat from the pan before adding the cream in the next step.

Prepare the cream sauce: In the same skillet, heat cream over high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Turn heat off and stir in Parmesan until well combined.

To assemble: Divide gnudi evenly among 6 bowls and top with cream sauce, then the mushroom saute.


Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Pickled Ramps

April 24th, 2012 — 8:17am

april-2012-1471Following is the recipe we used to pickle ramps over the weekend. Last year we particularly enjoyed using picked ramps in a salad with Snug Haven spinach, sunchoke chips, Bleu Mont bandaged cheddar, and a homemade vinaigrette.

Pickled Ramps (from Gothamist)
3 bunches of Ramps, white parts only
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup bottled water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon coriander seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns, and fennel seed
1 dried hot chile pepper

1. Clean Ramps and separate white from green as described above, reserving greens for another use.

2. Prepare brine bringing vinegar, water, sugar and wine to a boil for 1 minute.

3. Add dried spices and remove from the heat after 1 minute.

4. Blanch Ramp bottoms in heavily salted water (should taste salty like sea water) for 1-2 minutes, till just after (15 seconds) the remaining greens on the Ramp bottoms turn very bright green.

5. Drain and cool quickly using ice and running cold water.

6. Pour brine over Ramps and let sit for 3-5 days, after which you should use them or prepare them for storing.april-2012-143


2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

Austin & TX Hill Country – Day 3

April 24th, 2012 — 4:38am

texas-2012-1101Our third day in Texas was spent entirely in the Hill Country, and mostly on our bikes. Based on a recommendation from Frank, the owner of our B & B, we decided to do a ride from Fredericksburg to Comfort, TX (the Guadernales route on Frank sold me on the 54-mile route when he described a cafe (High’s) in Comfort (the half-way point of the ride) that serves amazing cookies. He explained he always needs a little incentive now-a-days when he rides, and I agreed that cookies often serve as a motivating force for me, too.lar

According to the route summary, the ride “traverses a ridge separating the Pedernales River valley from the Guadalupe River valley. It encompasses quite a bit of climbing, including a mildly steep slope almost ten miles in length from Fredericksburg toward Comfort and the challengingly steep slopes of the Bat Cave Summit. The route also includes two fabulous descents, one on the ride down to Comfort, the other towards the end on the return leg to Fredericksburg. Comfort, with many shops and restaurants, makes for an interesting way-point.”texas-2012-105

What struck me the most during the ride were the countless ranches we passed (and the cattle grids we rode over), the great roads and lack of traffic, the wildflowers, the heat (85+ degrees), and the charming town of Comfort.

When we finally reached Comfort, I was disappointed to find that High’s Cafe was closed. Meaning no cookie. Actually, it seemed like more than half the town was closed (it was Wednesday). Luckily, we found 7th Heaven Cafe, apparently known for its “Slap Your Momma Good!” hamburgers. We shared a sandwich and a slice of Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, which more or less made up for my initial cookie disappointment. Comfort was a cute town—several cafes, antique stores, and beautiful, restored buildings.lunch

We were a little pokey on our way back to Fredericksburg, stopping along the way to explore the Grapetown Schoolhouse and take pictures with Texas longhorns. I was notably fading, tired from the heat and sun, so the last part of the ride was a struggle. Although it was a great ride, I was happy to finish and get off my bike once we returned to Fredericksburg.kk

After a quick snack and glass of wine back at our B & B, we ventured to Luckenbach, Texas, located about 10 miles southeast of Fredericksburg. I think it was the highlight of the trip for Larry. Luckenbach rose to fame after Country music legend Waylon Jennings wrote a song about going there to escape big city life. Boasting a “population 3” sign,  Luckenbach  includes a post office/general store/saloon and a dance hall. With a Lone Star in hand, Larry and I found a picnic table under the towering oak trees to listen to Jeremy Steding, a Vintage Country/Americana singer/songwriter. The music and atmosphere were fantastic—I think we could have easily sat there all night soaking it all in. texas-2012-1301

Eventually we said goodnight to Luckenbach and headed to dinner at Hill Top Cafe, located 10 miles north of Fredericksburg. The restaurant had been recommended to us by one of our biking teammates. I loved the live music and kitschy atmosphere—lots of character and personality. Disappointingly, the service was bad—the worst we experienced during our trip—and the food (I ordered the Southern Fried Mississippi Catfish) was unmemorable. An interesting experience, though.

All in all, it was a great day in the Hill Country.




Comment » | Vacation and Travel

Spinach, Ramps and Provolone Pie

April 23rd, 2012 — 4:50am

pieI first discovered ramps at the farmers’ market last spring and have been hooked ever since. According to an info sheet I picked up at the Harmony Valley Farm booth during the market, ramps are found in early spring in the maple woods of Western Wisconsin. They have a mild, garlic-leek flavor, which intensifies as they mature during their brief 2-3 week harvest. The entire plant is edible, and they are best paired with spinach, eggs, potatoes, and cheese.

Last year Larry and I experimented with pickling ramps (amazing in salads) and also made Pasta with Ramps and Cured Pork, which was one of the best meals we made last year.

I was disappointed to learn that this year’s ramp season will be particularly short. The woman we talked to at Harmony Valley Farms told us it was the last week for ramps. We stocked up, purchasing more than $30 worth to cook with and pickle. We pickled on Saturday night (recipe soon to follow) and here is a recipe for a pie I made for brunch on Sunday. It was delicious.

Spinach, Ramps and Provolone Pie (Terese Allen, Madison Foodwriter)

1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper
1 (4 ounce) bunch ramps
1/2 pound spinach, coarsely chopped
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 ounces grated Provolone cheese (1 cup)
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 unbaked pie crust

Heat butter in a large skillet. Clean and chop ramp stems and bulbs. Add to butter and Saute until tender. Chop ramp leaves. Add to skillet with spinach. Cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and milk in bowl. Stir in the spinach and cheese. Season again to taste. Sprinkle cheese over bottom of crust. Gently pour in egg/cheese/spinach mix. Bake until custard is just set in the middle—45-55 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serves 6-8.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Weekend Highlights

April 23rd, 2012 — 3:45am

marketFirst farmers’ market of the season!


This week’s finds – morels, spinach, ramps, asparagus, and Hook’s cheddar


NY Times’ Mark Bittman at Isthmus Green Day


Celebrating Record Store Day at Strictly Discs


Pickling ramps


Wisconsin Film Festival


Eight films in five days.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Lemon-Raspberry Coffeecake

April 20th, 2012 — 5:09am

april-2012-105Lately I’ve had such a hankering to cook with fresh springtime ingredients like asparagus, leeks, ramps, and morels. Cookbooks are strewn across my apartment with spring recipes marked and ready to tackle. When I came across this recipe for Lemon-Raspberry Coffeecake, I was hooked by a simple introduction: “The lemony cheesecake center and fresh raspberries make this a springtime-perfect coffeecake.” I whipped it up and brought it to the office earlier this week. It was a hit. The subtle cheesecake filling makes for a very moist cake, and the lemon-raspberry combination definitely screams spring.

Lemon-Raspberry Coffeecake (from Better Homes and Gardens, April 2012)

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 egg
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease bottom of 9 x 1 1/2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment. Grease and lightly flour pan; set aside. For cake, in a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. In medium mixing bowl, beat 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the butter with mixer speed medium to high until combined. Add 1 egg and the vanilla. Beat on low to medium speed. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to sugar mixture, beating just until combined after each addition; set aside.

3. For cheesecake filling, in a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar on medium to high until combined. Add lemon peed and 1 egg. Beat until combined.

4. Spoon half the cake batter into prepared pan, spreading to edges. Pour cream cheese mixture on cake batter, spreading to edges. Dollop remaining batter on cream cheese layer, carefully spreading to edges of pan.

5. Bake 20 minutes or until puffed. Gently press raspberries into cake. Bake 25 to 30 minutes more or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Loosen edges of cake from pan; remove from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes 10 servings.

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