Archive for January 2013

Honey and Harissa Farro Salad

January 31st, 2013 — 11:13am

When I received the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas this year, I couldn’t wait to dig in. Deb Perelman’s blog by the same name is one of my favorites. A self-described self-taught, obsessive home cook, Deb remarkably does it all from a 42-square foot galley kitchen in New York City. One of her standing beliefs is that there’s no such thing as a bad cook; only bad recipes. And in my experience, the recipes she posts on her blog are consistently easy to follow and result in great tasting food. She also has a wonderful sense of humor and a truly engaging style of writing.

Over the weekend I tried Deb’s recipe for Honey and Harissa Farro Salad from her new cookbook. I was intending to bring it to a birthday potluck, but at the last minute, the party was cancelled. Nevertheless, we put the salad to good use—devouring leftovers day after day. I love the flavor and texture of the salad, and it’s healthy and filling enough for a meal.

This was the first time I’ve used Harissa (a Tunisian hot chili sauce), which I found at Willy Street Co-op. Its uniquely spicy flavor was a great addition to the salad. I doubled the original recipe because I figured if I was going to go through all of the effort of chopping and roasting vegetables, I might as well make it worth my while. And that it certainly was. Trust me, you’ll be happy to have leftovers.

Honey and Harissa Farro Salad (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook; serves 8 to 12 – doubled from the original version)

2 cup uncooked farro
8 cups water or broth

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound carrots (about 8 medium)
2 pound (about 4 large) parsnips

10 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon harissa, or to taste
2 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
A few pinches of ground cumin

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 cup (8 ounces) crumbled feta

In a large pot, bring the farro, water or broth, and a few pinches of salt (if using water or unsalted broth) to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the farro until tender, for about 15 to 20 minutes. If extra water or broth remains, drain it. Set the farro aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets by coating each with one tablespoon of olive oil. Peel carrots and parsnips, and cut them into 2-inch lengths, and then lengthwise into matchsticks about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheets and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven. After 20 minutes, remove the pans from the pans from the oven to stir, and then return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together, seasoning to taste with salt. Use more harissa if you’d like more heat. In a large bowl, combine farro and roasted vegetables. Stir in most of the mint and feta, leaving a bit of each for garnish. Stir in dressing, to taste. Serve, garnished with the reserved feta and mint.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 1/30

January 30th, 2013 — 11:27am

Despite blizard-like conditions, today was the spring semester grand opening of Slow Food UW Cafe. I’m thankful the students are back on campus so I can resume my weekly routine of Wednesday lunches. And I’d trek through any blizzard for Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch.

My picks from this week’s menu included: Gruyere, Honey Dijon with Caramelized Dates and Mustard Greens on Seeded Olive Oil Bread; Roasted Root Veggies with Cinnamon and Rosemary; White Bean, Chorizo and Kale Soup; and a Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownie. All for less than $10.

Everything was fantastic. I particularly loved the side of roasted root veggies with cinnamon and rosemary (the subtle flavor of cinnamon was a great addition), and the vegetarian sandwich—which both my friend Julie and I agreed was so simple, fresh and flavorful. As a whole, I’d say it ranked among my all-time favorite cafe lunches. And I’m definitely going to try to recreate the root veggies side.

1 comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Cyclocross Nationals Race Report

January 29th, 2013 — 11:47am

A year ago, I remember spectating at the National Cyclocross Championships in Madison. It was unseasonably warm and the course was ridiculously muddy. I was in awe watching the women’s elite race. I knew then that I absolutely wanted to try cyclocross when the season started again in the fall. Part of me even dreamed about toeing the line when the National Championships returned to Madison the following January. It was a pipe dream for sure. But nevertheless, I tucked the thought away in the back of my head and kept it to myself.

Earlier this month (January 8-13), Madison hosted the National Championships for the second and final year. By then I had worked my way up to category two, so I was eligible to compete in the championship races. I registered for the women’s 30-34 championships on Friday and the women’s elite race on Sunday. I knew I wouldn’t be competitive in either, but just being there, having the opportunity to race at the national championships in my hometown during my first season, was an incredible opportunity and really, a dream come true.

Granted, when I signed up, I didn’t realize the course conditions I’d be facing on race day—a ridiculous mud fest on Friday, and deep, frozen ruts on Sunday. I didn’t have a clue how to ride in either. Luckily before my race on Friday, I overheard Van Dessel pro racer Rebecca Blatt telling another rider that the only way to learn how to ride in tough conditions is by riding in tough conditions. I realized that I could learn a lot from the experience.

The mud was wet, slick, and several inches deep on Friday. Since I don’t have a second (pit) bike, I skipped doing a practice lap in an effort to keep my bike clean and rideable. But that also meant I had no idea what was coming. And maybe that was a good thing.

There were 25 of us in the women’s 30-34 race, and I was called up 16th (call ups are in order of ranking). I found a spot in the middle of the second row. The start was fine and I hit the grass/mud in a good position, and held it for the first half lap. But then I began riding too fast for conditions. That, or I hit a nice patch of ice under the mud. Either way, I suddenly found myself out of control, slipping through the mud and off the course, finally crashing into a wooden sign post. I remember one woman behind me yelling at the top of her lungs “Oh my God,” obviously not wanting to follow my lead. At least six or seven women passed by as I struggled to release myself from the course tape. Luckily, I was okay and my bike was still rideable.

The rest of the race was just more of the same. The course reminded me of a slip-n-slide covered in several inches of wet mud. The steep descents were the worst. I grasped my breaks in fear, eventually causing my break pads to wear down to nothing. Which meant no breaks. I probably fell off my bike and into the mud at least a dozen times. It was like a combination of cylocross and women’s mud wrestling. By the end of the race,  I was covered in wet mud from head to toe. I ended up 14th, which seemed like a small victory since it was two places better than I was predicted to finish.

Sunday’s deep frozen ruts presented an entirely new challenge. This time I did do a practice loop, and nearly started crying a few minutes in. It wasn’t as muddy as Friday, but riding on the frozen ruts was like riding over train tracks. I heard one racer describe it as being a pin ball – forced to move in whichever direction the mud ruts take you. It was a entirely new experience for me.  Part of me told myself that I didn’t belong in the race, I couldn’t do it, and the other part of me was saying, just try it. It’s all about the experience. Everyone is going to struggle, and there are many women in this race that you’ve competed with and done just fine against. You’re not alone.

After the practice lap, I realized all of the mud that had accumulated on my bike during the loop (quite a bit) was now rock solid frozen on my bike. Larry and I frantically tried to chip away as it, while I simultaneously got dressed, ate, and set up my trainer for a quick spin. It was a little stressful and the closest I’ve ever come to missing a race start.

I found my  friend Julie at the start and was relieved to see a familiar face. I was called up 69th and she was 70th. We were toward the back of the pack. Of the 95 women registered, 17 didn’t start the race. I saw at least one woman I knew was signed up in the crowd spectating. When I looked at her questioningly, she just shook her head. The course conditions and cold temperatures were enough to convince her to sit this one out.

The start was exciting because I’ve never raced with such a large pack of women. There were 78 of us, compared to the group of 12-15 I compete with in regular season races. And there were so many spectators, which made it fun, too. I did what I could and felt pretty good on the first loop. I was definitely near the back of the pack, but seemed to be holding my own. While most racers had at least one pit bike and were exchanging bikes every half lap, I did what I could on my one and only. My bike was quickly covered in heavy, frozen mud, and by the second lap, it really started to slow me down. On one descent halfway through the second lap, I slid on a patch of icy mud and ran into another sign post. I hit my knee hard, and also realized I broke my shifter in the crash. That meant I’d be doing the rest of the race in one gear. I hoped, and thought it was pretty likely, I’d be pulled from the course after I finished my second lap. But I also really wanted to make it to that point and not be forced to abandon sooner due to a mechanical problem.

I rode on, very slowly, but surely. When I spotted Larry, I told him I was having bike issues and all of the built up mud was making it very difficult to pedal. He suggested that I stop in the pit and he’d be there to help me. When I arrived a minute or two later, he was there armed with a long stick, which he then used to poke at my bike to loosen the caked-up mud. I had to laugh at the site of Larry and his stick against the backdrop of teams of professional mechanics cleaning and preparing multiple bikes for one rider. But part of me felt proud, too, like I’m doing what I can on my one bike.

I was pulled from the course at the end of the lap. In cyclocross, once you’re lapped, or about to be overtaken by the race leader, you’re pulled from the race. Katie Compton, the reigning national champion, was just a few minutes behind me at that point. Forty-four of us were eventually lapped and pulled from the course. Only 28 women finished the race. Katie Compton won and said the course conditions were among the toughest she’s faced. In the end, I made it two laps and finished in 59th place. And that seemed like a victory to me.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Queso Fundido con Rajas y Chorizo

January 28th, 2013 — 12:53pm

When I found this recipe while paging through Larry’s copy of Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican, it was one of those fortuitous moments when I realized I had every single ingredient on hand (including chorizo, poblano peppers and mozzarella cheese) except tortillas, which were easy enough to pick up. It was like the stars aligned for me to make Queso Fundido con Rajas y Chorizo. And so I went with it. Hot out of the oven and spooned into warmed tortillas, the gooey cheese peppered with crumbled chorizo and strips of roasted poblano peppers was a dish worthy of a great cocktail party or the laziest of Sunday nights. I chose the latter. Followed by a fabulous (albeit sad) new episode of Downton Abbey.

Queso Fundido con Rajas y Chorizo (Melted Cheese with Roasted Peppers and Chorizo, from Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican; makes 2-4)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 fresh chile poblano, roasted and peeled, seeded and sliced into thin strips
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chorizo sausage, store-bought or homemade, casing removed
8 ounces (2 heaping cups) melting cheese like mozzarella and/or Monterey Jack, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Turn the oven on to 375 degrees and set an 8-to 9-inch pie pan or gratin dish in the lower third to heat while you prepare the toppings.

In a medium-small skillet, heat half the oil over medium. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the pepper strips, cook several minutes until they’re softening, then scoop the mixture into a small bowl. Measure the remaining oil into the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the chorizo and gently fry until done, about 10 minutes, breaking up any clumps as it cooks. Drain off excess fat and set the skillet aside.

Remove the hot pain from the oven and spread the cheese cubes in a shallow layer over the bottom. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is just melted. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle on the chile-onion mixture and the chorizo. Bake for 4 or 5 minutes to heat the vegetables and meat, then carry the hot, bubbling queso fundido to the table for people to scoop into warm flour tortillas, roll up and eat.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Blackberry, Lemon, and Thyme Muffins

January 23rd, 2013 — 12:44pm

I recently had a day off work and was in the mood to bake. I chose to make these muffins, the recipe for which I found in an old issue of Bon Appetit that includes a feature on “Coffee Shop Desserts.” In addition to recipes for Black Sesame-Pear Tea Cake and Cherry-Ginger Scones, I was drawn to these Blackberry, Lemon and Thyme Muffins for their interesting flavor combination.

These aren’t the quickest muffins to make; they require a nice, leisurely morning when you can truly revel in your success and kick back and enjoy a muffin straight from the oven with a cup of coffee. The next day, I brought the remaining muffins to work, where they were quickly gobbled up by my co-workers, who commented between bites about their nice texture and flavor.

Blackberry, Lemon and Thyme Muffins (from Elizabeth Belkind of Cake Monkey via Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes 16 standard muffins)

Crumble Topping
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg yolk

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed, drained) blackberries halved
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

For the crumble topping: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, thyme, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and using your fingertips, mix until pea-size lumps remain. Add egg yolk and stir to evenly distribute. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

For the muffins: Preheat oven to 325. Place paper liners in muffin pan. In medium bowl, whisk all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and creamy, about two minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat until combined. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla, and then gradually beat into butter mixture. Continue beating until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Combine buttermilk and lemon zest in a small bowl and gradually beat into butter mixture. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined (do not overmix).

In a small bowl, combine blackberries and thyme with 2 tablespoons flour. Fold into batter, gently crushing berries slightly to release juices. Divide batter between prepared muffins pans. Top each muffin with 1 tablespoon of crumble.

Bake until tops are golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan at least 20 minutes, then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Mabuhay Philippine Cuisine

January 16th, 2013 — 1:29pm

Earlier this week, Larry and I had dinner at a new Filipino restaurant that opened on Park Street last week. It’s called Mabuhay Philippine Cuisine, and it’s located at 1272 Park Street, in the strip mall next to Copps. The storefront was once occupied by Mi San Juanito, and more recently, by Smiley’s II, Madison’s first Columbian restaurant, which sadly, I never made it to since it both opened and closed in the span of four months.

As Mabuhay Philippine Cuisine, the restaurant still maintains a low-key, no-frills atmosphere, but the space has been spruced up a bit with a new wall color and curtains.

Once seated, our server (the owner and chef”s daughter) explained that the restaurant is the only Filipino restaurant in Madison, and also in the state of Wisconsin, for that matter. The restaurant offers a buffet experience for brunch, lunch and dinner (there’s no option to order off a menu). The price of the dinner buffet is $8.99, and drinks are extra (we grabbed cans of mango juice from the refrigerator). Our server was kind enough to walk us through the buffet line, explaining all of the many wonderful-looking dishes. Instead of a hot-lamp, Old Country Buffet feeling, it’s more homey, like many dishes set out at a gathering with family and friends.

The food was terrific, especially considering the $8.99 price tag. Over the course of two trips through the buffet line, I tried clams, fried shrimp, fried spring rolls, noodles (pancit), vegetable rice with Philippine sausage, seaweed, and a few fish dishes. During my third and final trip, I focused on sampling the many dessert offerings, including cookies, cakes and coconut rice.

The chef came by our table to see how we liked our food (it’s delicious, we replied enthusiastically), and our server patiently answered our many questions—when did you open, what are the origins or major influences of Philippine cuisine, etc. According to her daughter, the chef is an extremely passionate cook, and it was her dream to open the restaurant. Her passion comes through in the restaurant and food. She works every day of the week, and her family helps run the restaurant.

I suppose it goes without saying that I was so full and satisfied after the meal that I practically rolled out of the restaurant.

On our way out, one patron filled us in on the special buffet feature on Sundays—a whole roasted pig (lechon).

I’ll certainly be back to try that.

1 comment » | Restaurant Reviews

Cyclocross Nationals Festivities

January 9th, 2013 — 7:26am

There are so many fun events scheduled as part of this week’s Cyclocross National Championships in Madison. Polka dancing, Veldrijden Nacht at Machinery Row Bicycles (read: free beer, mussels, and frites from Sardine), a Bicycle Shanty competition and more! It’s the ultimate display of the combination of Wisconsin and cyclocross  cultures. This is the second and last year CX nationals will be held in Madison before moving to Boulder for 2014. Some of the world’s best professionals will be racing this weekend. And CX races in Wisconsin…in January? Epic. Check out some of  this week’s races and events. More details at

Comment » | Madtown Lovin', Racing and Training

New Year’s Resolution CX

January 8th, 2013 — 11:44am

It’s been tough staying motivated and focused leading up to Cyclocross National Championships in Madison later this week. The last regular season WCA race was a month ago, and the massive dumping of snow last month in Madison meant the end of outdoor training rides for the season. It’s never easy to get excited about riding my bike on the trainer in our dark, damp, cobweb-infested basement, and nor can it replicate riding on a CX course, but I’ve done a relatively good job of keeping a regular riding routine the past few weeks.

I really wanted one last race effort before nationals this week, so last Saturday  I drove to Chicagoland (or more precisely, Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale) for the New Year’s Resolution cyclocross race. I’m sure most of the riders there, including some big name pros, were in the same mindset, as the timing of the race made it an ideal opportunity to “fire up the engines” one last time as my friend Claire would say.

I was surprised to arrive to the race site and find green grass and sunny skies instead of the snow and arctic temperatures I expected. I hopped on the course in between races and did a couple practice loops, and then onto my trainer to continue warming up. I quickly shed layers as I became warmer and warmer under the mid-day sun.

When it came time to line up for the race, I was called up twelfth (staging determined by points rankings) and found a spot in the middle of the second row. There were 20ish riders in the women’s Cat 2/3 race. My only goal was to ride hard and strong, and hopefully gain a bit of confidence going into the week of nationals.

I had a good start, and few nice passes early on, and was surprised to find myself in second place early in the first loop. As always, I thought, surely this won’t last long, and sure enough, it didn’t. After a set of barriers, we came to a difficult section of muddy turns and climbs. I became flustered and got off my bike and ran through the turns, slipped and fell, and was immediately passed by a few riders. Honestly, I’m surprised I wasn’t passed by more riders then. I tried to hang with the three riders who passed me, and was able to do so for a while. We went back and forth, occasionally trading positions. One of the women just ahead of me slipped and fell at one point, and I was able to pull ahead into 4th place. But then, eventually, the same happened to me—I slipped on a corner and went down. She had been gaining on me, and my error was just what she needed to pull ahead.

After the fall I could feel myself becoming more cautious and timid on the corners and technical sections of the course. I was no longer riding fearless and smooth; in fact, I had become sloppy. The turns and long stretch of sand-traps were the worst. Although the sand was frozen and thus easy to ride across, the jumps into and out of each sand pit were steep and jarring. The woman ahead of me continued to build distance between us, but looking behind me, I was relieved to see that 6th place was not within striking distance. For the last lap, I focused on trying to hold my position. I was very happy with a 5th place finish. Most importantly, I had given myself the final race effort I felt I needed going into nationals this week, and the confidence to give it my best.

2 comments » | Racing and Training

Blue Mound State Park Candelight Ski, Hike and Showshoe Event

January 8th, 2013 — 9:37am

Upcoming events:

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Cabibbo’s Asiago Black Pepper Bread Brunch Bake

January 7th, 2013 — 8:52am

Just before the holidays, this recipe for “Cabibbo’s Asiago Black Pepper Bread Brunch Bake” appeared in the weekly Dane County Farmers’ Market e-Newsletter. It was perfect timing, as I was soon to immerse myself in a work-free week of lazy mornings, and hot, glutenous breakfasts.

This is a great breakfast option if you’re serving a crowd. You can assemble it the night before, and simply pop it in the oven in the morning. That means less time it the kitchen for you, and more time enjoying time with friends. The resulting brunch bake is hearty, fluffy and flavorful.

Cabibbo’s is a popular vendor at the Dane County Farmers’ Market. I’m particularly fond of their hazelnut chocolate chip biscotti. The Asiago Black Pepper Bread is delightful in this dish, but you could certainly swap it out for other kinds of bread (same goes for the cheese).

Cabibbo’s Asiago Black Pepper Bread Brunch Bake (from Cabibbo’s Bakery via the Dec. 22 Dane County Farmers’ Market e-Newsletter)
½ cup scallions
4 cups fresh spinach
1 pound sausage broken into medium chunks
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
7 eggs
2 ½ cups milk (2%)
½ cup skim milk
1 loaf Cabibbo’s Asiago Black Pepper Bread cut into large chunks
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese (shredded)
cooking oil

Coat a skillet and a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking oil.

Sauté scallions, red pepper, and mushrooms for around 4 minutes. Add sausage and spinach. Cook until sausage is browned.

Whisk eggs with milk.

In the baking dish, layer half the bread, half the egg mixture, and half the sausage/vegetable mixture. Repeat the layers. Press down on the mixture to be sure all the bread gets soaked. Set aside for at least 20 minutes. (It can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle with Monterey Jack just before baking. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour. It should be golden brown and puffy when done. Let cool five minutes before serving.

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