Archive for June 2013

Mirin-Poached Salmon with Spring Salad

June 27th, 2013 — 6:21am

June 2013 274I don’t usually eat a lot of salmon, but when I first saw this recipe in the April/May 2013 issue of Eating Well Magazine, it seemed like the perfect way to use seasonal produce like radishes, snap peas and pea sprouts. We ended up using pea vines instead of pea sprouts because they were more readily available at the farmers’ market. I really enjoyed this meal—it was healthy, beautiful, filling, and truly highlighted the season’s bounty. Plus it was a great way to use the mirin I had purchased a few months ago to make kimchi omlets.

Mirin-Poached Salmon with Spring Salad (from Eating Well, April/May 2013; makes 4 servings)

1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh ginger matchsticks
1-1 1/4 pounds salmon, tuna, mahi-mahi or cod, skinned if desired, cut into 4 portions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup radish matchsticks
1 cup thinly sliced snap peas
1 cup pea sprouts

Combine water, mirin, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger in a large skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes. Add fish; sprinkle with salt. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, turning once, just until opaque in the center, 4 to 8 minutes (depending on thickness).

Meanwhile, combine radishes, snap peas and pea sprouts in a medium bowl. When the fish is done, pour the braising liquid into the bowl and toss to coat. Serve the salad on the fish.

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Yue-Wah in a New Light

June 26th, 2013 — 4:36am

June 2013 091For several years, Yue-Wah Oriental Foods has been my favorite specialty grocery store in Madison. Located in the Villager Shopping Center on South Park Street, Yue-Wah is a family-run business that carries an expansive assortment of ethnic foods including Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian. When I’m looking for specialty ingredients for a recipe, Yue-Wah is always my first stop. It’s the kind of place I could spend hours, studying the rows and rows of noodles, spices, produce, etc. The prices are good, and the store is remarkably well-organized and clean.

Over the last several months, the family behind Yue-Wah accomplished an incredible task: packing up their 6,000 square-foot store (which was slated for demolition), and moving it to a brand new storefront next door. I have experience packing up and moving a one-bedroom apartment—but an entire grocery store? I can’t imagine.

During our first stop to the new storefront two weeks ago, it was weird to see Yue-Wah in a new light. Their digs are shiny and new. Most of the boxes are now unpacked and cleared away, and the transition seems almost complete. There are a few changes I noticed—for example, the produce is now located in the back of the store. But otherwise, it’s the same Yue-Wah I’ve always loved.

One of the owners seems to be having a difficult time with the transition. When we asked what she thought of the new store, she explained that, although her husband is really excited about it, change is really hard for her. They’d been in the old store for decades. With a small smile, she told us to ask her again in a few years. It was a rare moment of openness and emotion.

Go! Go explore Yue-Wah and it’s aisles of worldly foods. If possible, bring cash when you go—it really makes a difference for a small, family-run business. And in my experience, the owners are always willing to help—all you have to do is ask. June 2013 088

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Quinoa and Brown Rice Bowl with Vegetables and Tahini

June 25th, 2013 — 9:43am

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A few weeks ago, I began a routine of preparing a salad-ish dish on Sunday that I can package and use for lunches throughout the week. So far, my new routine has helped me make healthy food decisions, and it’s saved me a ton of time during the week. I chose this recipe for a quinoa and brown rice bowl with veggies for this week’s lunches. The recipe includes many ingredients and steps—so it does require an investment in time up front. But then you’ve got a week of healthy, delicious meals, with no worries until the following Sunday.

Quinoa and Brown Rice Bowl with Vegetables and Tahini (recipe from Gail Simmons via Food & Wine)

1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 cup red quinoa
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 carrot, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1 head of broccoli—stems peeled and sliced into coins, heads cut into small florets
One 12-ounce bunch kale, large stems discarded
1/4 cup tahini, at room temperature
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup mung bean sprouts

In a medium saucepan, cover the brown rice with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the rice is just tender, about 40 minutes. Drain and return the rice to the saucepan; keep covered.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the quinoa with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the quinoa is tender and all of the water has been absorbed, 20 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the shiitake, cover and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini, season with salt and cook, stirring a few times, until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Add the broccoli, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until deep green, 5 minutes. Add the kale, cover and cook, stirring a few times, until the broccoli and kale are just tender, 4 minutes. Season with salt. Stir in the other vegetables.

In a small bowl, whisk the tahini with the lemon juice, garlic, warm water and crushed red pepper. Season with salt.

Transfer the brown rice and quinoa to bowls. Top with the cooked vegetables, diced avocado and bean sprouts. Serve, passing the tahini sauce at the table.

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In Season: Strawberries

June 24th, 2013 — 10:27am

Following is a list of my favorite strawberry recipes from the last several years. From left to right, top to bottom:

1. Balsamic Strawberries with Strawberry Sorbet
2. Mascarpone Strawberry Tart
3. Fresh Strawberry Tart With Lemon Cream
4. Creamy Strawberry Crepes
5. Fresh Strawberries and Lemon Curd
6. Shortcakes with Chantilly Cream and Macerated Strawberries
7. No-Bake Strawberry Pie
8. Strawberry Scones
9. Strawberry Rhubarb Pistachio Tart
10. Pistachio-Honey Cake with Berries and Cream
11. Strawberry Basil Scones
12. Strawberry-Rhubarb Quinoa Pudding

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Make Music Madison

June 24th, 2013 — 6:04am

June 2013 219Last Friday marked the first “Make Music Madison,” a free, city-wide celebration of music inspired by the Fête de la Musique in Paris. Since La Fête began in the early 80’s, more than 500 cities in 110 countries have joined in to host similar music festivals on the same day  each year—June 21, the Summer Solstice—now dubbed World Music Day.  The goal is to bring people out on the streets all day to enjoy local music—all genres, professionals and amateurs—in more than 100 public venues ranging from backyard treehouses to libraries to Metro Transit bus-transfer points.

There were more than 300 performances throughout the day. Sadly, Friday’s rainy weather wasn’t ideal for music in the streets, but that didn’t seem to put much of a damper on the spirit of local music lovers. I caught one of my favorite local bands—VO5 on Friday night. The band transformed a street in our neighborhood into a disco kingdom with bright lights, fun music, sequined musicians, and a whole lot of dancing. Who knew I’d spend my Friday night as a dancing queen?

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Balsamic Strawberries with Strawberry Sorbet

June 22nd, 2013 — 5:40am

June 2013 151There’s nothing quite like fresh strawberries in the summertime. While there were a few vendors who had strawberries at the market two weeks ago, they made their grand appearance last week. Suddenly dozens of vendors had pints and quarts of small, but flavor-packed berries that taste and look remarkably different from the grocery-store variety. We purchased strawberries from a variety of vendors to taste and compare.

The first recipe on my list for this season was one from Mario Batali, featured in a recent issue of Food & Wine Magazine. It’s very simple—quartered strawberries tossed with good-quality balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper, served over strawberry sorbet. Mario recommends using a homemade strawberry sorbet to complement the balsamic-infused strawberries, but adds that store-bought also works well. I used this recipe for strawberry sorbet adapted from a recipe used at an ice cream parlor in Princeton, New Jersey. The resulting sorbet has a beautiful, red hue and is packed with strawberry flavor. It makes a wonderful dessert on its own. But add the balsamic-infused strawberries on top, and you truly have a showstopper.

Balsamic Strawberries with Strawberry Sorbet (from Mario Batali via Food & Wine; serves 6)

1 pound strawberries, quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
Strawberry sorbet, for serving

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the vinegar and a generous pinch of pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Serve over strawberry sorbet. June 2013 134

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A Sunday Ride to Riley Tavern

June 21st, 2013 — 8:55am

Larry and I hit the road last Sunday morning for a long bike ride. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and we had a mid-ride destination in mind. We took a 40-mile hilly and meandering route through Paoli and Mount Horeb, before finally pulling up to the Riley Tavern for a hard-earned pancake breakfast break.

Riley Tavern is nestled in the rolling hills of Verona and a popular destination for bikers—both the spandex and leather-wearing variety. It was my first visit, and I was excited. I had long dreamed of enjoying a plate of pancakes or a cheeseburger on the deck on a summer afternoon.

Before our ride, I read several online reviews for Riley Tavern. They weren’t stellar. The majority of reviewers mentioned the “crabby waitresses” and poor service. But other reviews seemed more balanced—it is what it is, the food is good and the atmosphere is great, but don’t expect any frills or bend-over-backwards service. Ultimately, the promise of pancakes helped me look past some of the more negative reviews.

When we arrived, the tavern was packed. It was Father’s Day, and there were many families enjoying breakfast. The bartender greeted us, took down our name, and invited us to enjoy a cup of coffee while we waited for a table. I filled up a mug immediately from the self-serve pots in back. After just a few minutes, we were seated with another couple at a table for four (breakfast is only served in the tavern, not on the deck). It was serendipitous, because we really hit it off with the other couple—Dan and Mary from Middleton. They were peace corps volunteers in Brazil in the 70’s, public television enthusiasts, and had a great zest for life and adventure. It was good conversation.

The pancake breakfast was simple, cheap, and tasty—$6.50 for orange juice (served in Dixie cups—refills upon request), unlimited coffee, four pancakes, and three sausage links. Pancake options include blueberry, chocolate chip, and buttermilk. I chose blueberry. And those crabby waitresses? I didn’t experience them, but the servers did seem to have a lot going on—they were running around trying to keep up with the breakfast crowd and seemed stressed. But overall, the service was fine.

It was a perfect mid-ride destination, and the breakfast was just what we needed to fuel ourselves for the ride back to Madison. And thankfully, we took a more direct route back to Madison—only 20 miles for the return trip.

1 comment » | Restaurant Reviews

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto

June 19th, 2013 — 4:59am

June 2013 184I’ve been saving this recipe since I tore it out of an issue of Cooking Light Magazine in December 2011. The peak of asparagus season seemed like the perfect time to finally put it to the test. The dish is relatively easy and quick to prepare, and the results are fantastic. I loved the crisp, tender asparagus in a coat of crunchy phyllo, with an unexpected underlayer of salty prosciutto. One note: a little prosciutto goes a long way—don’t worry if it seems like there is not quite enough on each spear of asparagus. These would make the perfect appetizer for a summer get-together—they look classy and taste great warm or at room temperature.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto (slightly adapted from Cooking Light, December 2011; makes 30 pieces)

3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 30 long, thin strips
30 asparagus spears, trimmed
10 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wrap one prosciutto strip around each asparagus spear, barber pole-style. Place a few phyllo sheets on a work surface (cover remaining phyllo with a sheet of plastic wrap topped by a damp cloth to prevent drying); coat phyllo with cooking spray. Cut crosswise into thirds to form several (4 1/2 x 9-inch) rectangles. Arrange 1 asparagus spear across 1 short end of each rectangle; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Arrange rolls on a baking sheet; coat rolls with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo, asparagus, and cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 5 minutes or until phyllo is golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature.June 2013 169

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Pelmeni’s Downtown Madison Comeback

June 18th, 2013 — 6:04am

February 2013 031If you were a student at UW-Madison or a frequent visitor to State Street during the mid 2000’s, you might remember Pel’meni, the Russian dumpling shop that was located in a tiny storefront halfway up State Street. My brother and his best friend were UW students at the time and lived almost exclusively off the meat and potato dumplings famously topped with Sriracha sauce, chopped cilantro, curry powder and a dollop of sour cream. For college students in particular, it was the perfect meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner—and especially bar time. Sadly, the owner, Paul Schwoerer, closed up shop rather suddenly in about 2006. Devotees like my brother were crushed.

Thankfully, my brother found a way to recreate the meal at home—and that’s when I became hooked. The dish is now one of the best in my repertoire, and the only one I can remember that left my partner speechless.

As much as I enjoy making pelmeni from scratch, there are times when I just want to enjoy a plate without spending hours making and rolling out dough, forming dumplings, and cooking small batches in boiling water.

A few years ago, to the joy and relief of many, Paul brought pelmeni back to the Madison area and began selling them from an EVP coffee shop (now Oasis Cafe) in Fitchburg during lunch hours. But for students and other downtown Madison dwellers, Fitchburg is a hike. And the first time I made the trek, I arrived only to discover that they were sold out for the day. Oh, the disappointment. I returned a few months later to enjoy a plate of steaming pelmeni with all the toppings—a wonderfully filling and satisfying meal.

Thankfully, Madisonians no longer need to trek all the way to Fitchburg to get their pelmeni fix. As of this past Saturday, pelmeni is back in downtown Madison where it belongs. Paul Schwoerer celebrated the grand opening of his latest venture, Paul’s Pel’meni, conveniently located at 203 West Gorham, just around the corner from AJ Bombers.

The space is modern, clean, and swanky compared to the former State Street digs, but still relatively small and simple. There are five tables and a few seats along the window. The focal point is three giant, silver pots at the counter—where the pelmeni are cooked in boiling water. The menu is simple, as it should be: full ($6.50) and half ($4.50) orders of pelmeni, with your choice of meat or potato filling, or a mix of both. Paul incorporates local ingredients whenever possible, including Black Earth meats and local eggs.

If opening day is any indication of success to come, Paul is off to a great start. It certainly helps to already have a cult following. Saturday was a very busy day. By the time we arrived after 5 p.m., they had run out of sour cream and cilantro. Paul was very apologetic (and even offered us a free meal), but I was just thankful he still had pelmeni. Even without the sour cream and cilantro, they were delicious. We took our second order to go and stopped at Capitol Centre Market for sour cream and cilanto on our way to enjoy a pelmeni picnic overlooking the lake in Wingra Park.

My brother, who now lives in San Francisco, is very jealous of my new-found easy access to pelmeni deliciousness. I hope it will spur him to make a visit to Madison very soon. Pelmeni may be just the thing to get him on the next flight.June 2013 117

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1 comment » | Restaurant Reviews

Cranberry-Almond Power Bars

June 14th, 2013 — 10:05am

June 2013 081Energy bars are my most recent culinary obsession. In the months leading up to an Ironman, I need good training and on-the-go fuel options, and this year I’m trying as much as possible to avoid expensive, processed sports foods. I’ve been experimenting with many different recipes. This week, I tried a recipe from Heidi Swanson of the popular food blog, 101 Cookbooks via Food & Wine. I swapped the almonds in for walnuts, but left the recipe otherwise unchanged. I love the subtle gingery taste in these bars, and the fact that only natural sweeteners are used. The best part about making energy bars is that you can make them your own—swapping in nuts, fruits, sweeteners, and grains of your choice. As long as you follow the general proportions in the recipe, they’ll be great!

Cranberry-Almond Power Bars (barely adapted from Heidi Swanson via Food & Wine; makes 16 bars)

1 1/4 cups almonds (I used a mixture of whole and sliced)
1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup oat bran
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly spray an 8-by-11-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden, about 9 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Transfer the almonds to a large bowl. Add the puffed rice, rolled oats, cranberries, oat bran and ginger and toss well.

In a small saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, cane sugar and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the syrup into the rice-oat mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer the warm mixture to the prepared baking dish and pack lightly with a spatula greased with cooking spray (I used a piece of waxed paper greased with cooking spray to press firmly and evenly into the edges and corners and smooth the top). Let cool for at least 45 minutes before cutting into 16 bars.

The cranberry-walnut bars can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper and kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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