Archive for February 2014


Scrambled Egg and Swiss Chard Tacos

February 27th, 2014 — 9:05am

DSC01975I just realized that yesterday I had brunch for lunch, and breakfast for dinner. And of course, breakfast for breakfast. That’s a lot of breakfast in one day. And that’s the way I like it. I’ve always wondered, who decided breakfast foods should be relegated to just one meal of the day anyways?

Last night I made scrambled egg and Swiss chard tacos. Earlier in the week, Larry picked up fresh tortillas from the Mexican market. As the recipe suggests, I served the scrambled egg and Swiss chard mixture with freshly made tomatillo salsa and sour cream. It was tasty, and a fairly easy meal—for whichever meal you please.

Scrambled Egg and Swiss Chard Tacos (From Food & Wine, January 2013; serves 6)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 tablespoons minced white onion
2 seeded serrano chiles, minced
Kosher salt
1 1/4 pounds rainbow Swiss chard, leaves and stems thinly sliced
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 seeded plum tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons minced cilantro
Freshly ground pepper
Warmed corn tortillas, for serving

In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add 1/2 cup of the onion, the chiles and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is just starting to brown, 8 minutes. Add the Swiss chard and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the eggs and tomatoes and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the eggs are just cooked, 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of onion and the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Serve the eggs in warm tortillas.

Serve With Salsa verde and Mexican crema or sour cream.

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Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 2/26

February 26th, 2014 — 12:09pm

DSC01948Brunch was the menu’s theme for today’s Slow Food UW Cafe lunch. I chose the steak and eggs savory bread pudding with hollandaise sauce, the maple bacon breakfast chili, and the cornmeal brown butter scone with rhubarb frosting. All for $8. The kitchen was a little backed up for some reason, so I waited at least 10 minutes for my food—which is unusual for the Cafe, but just fine by me. And it was nice that the cashiers provided a heads up.

The steak was excellent, but the bread pudding was dry and a little bland—definitely not enough hollandaise sauce. My friends ordered the vegetarian version (celeriac carrot), which was drenched in hollandaise and looked much more inviting. The maple bacon breakfast chili was great—easily my favorite part of this week’s meal. The dessert was good, though I wasn’t getting much brown butter or rhubarb flavor, and only detected the smallest hint of cornmeal. My friends and I agreed that lemon flavor came through much more than anything else. DSC01954

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Chocolate-Dipped Tangelos

February 25th, 2014 — 6:19am

DSC01784Last week we received a shipment of tangelos—a citrus fruit that is a cross between a tangerine and grapefruit—as part of a “fruit of the month club” a friend gifted us nearly a year ago. It’s a wonderful surprise to receive a box of fresh fruit at the peak of ripeness once a month. And it’s always something different—mangoes, pears, cherries, peaches, you name it.

I think this was my first time trying a tangelo. They’re about the size of a fist, much easier to peel than an orange, and very juicy, with a sweet, complex flavor.

I always like how the monthly fruit shipments include a card with tips for storage and serving. One of this month’s tips was to dip peeled sections of tangelos in melted dark chocolate, sprinkle with coarse sugar and chill until firm. While I’ve always loved baking with fruit, I also enjoy using fruit in a way that lets it take center stage. Kind of like Pears with Pomegranate & Goat Cheese or the pineapple dessert I made this past weekend. It doesn’t take much effort to make fruit a beautiful, healthy and memorable dessert.

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Iron Chef Pineapple (GF)

February 24th, 2014 — 10:06am

Last night the Iron Chef crew gathered (minus two participants) for Iron Chef Pineapple (gluten-free). I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with the GF distinction at first—it seemed overly restrictive and diet-specific. But in the end I realized the dishes I picked are ones I would have chosen even without the GF requirement. And, hell, there could be worse things than limiting our gluten intake for one meal. There was a lot of variety in dishes—-everything from pineapple, curry and raisin rice to steak and pineapple kebabs. Larry and I brought carnitas with roasted pineapple salsa and a simple dessert—almond and cashew paste layered between pineapple slices, topped with a bit of raspberry jam. It was a great meal—and I could almost fool myself into believing I was in Hawaii for the night.

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REAP Chef in the Classroom Benefit Breakfast

February 22nd, 2014 — 6:55am

DSC01813This morning was the annual REAP Chef in the Classroom Benefit Breakfast at the Dane County winter farmers’ market. It’s always a much-anticipated event because of James Beard Award-winning Chef Tory Miller’s involvement (L’Etoile and Graze). Honestly, I wasn’t intending to go. But then I saw the menu…

Banh xeo – sizzling rice crepe filled with kohlrabi, daikon, carrots, apples, roasted lemongrass pork, and fried eggs with spicy nuoc cham

Kimchi potato pancakes

Oats steamed with coconut milk in lotus leaves, topped with cherries, apples, and toasted hickory nuts

“Chinese five spice girls” from Graze (mini croissant)

And then I couldn’t stop thinking about those Kimchi potato pancakes, or any of it for that matter. And, I figured, it all supports a good cause—not only local producers, but the Chef in the Classroom program, which “brings local chefs into classrooms to teach engaging, hands-on cooking lessons that utilize local ingredients and that cultivate healthy eating and cooking habits that students can take home to their families.”DSC01817

The breakfast was prepared and served by Chef Tory Miller and Chef Lisa Jacobson of Mermaid Café, along with students from Sherman Middle School and East High School.

We arrived to get in line for breakfast at about 8:15. Which worked out well because by 8:30 (when they began serving), the line had grown much longer and was snaking toward the door. Thankfully, one of the volunteers made his way through the line offering cups of coffee—so you could say I was very content in line. We were also happy to run into Larry’s Aunt Ellen, who was impressively the very first person in line.DSC01815

The meal was fantastic. Although the kimchi pancakes didn’t stay intact and were more like potatoes in consistency, they were delicious. I loved the banh zeo—an eggy crepe filled with colorful shredded vegetables, thin slices of lemongrass-flavored pork and a fried egg. The thick, coconut-milk oatmeal was topped with crunchy walnuts and Door County cherries bursting with flavor. And finally, the mini croissant had a very unique anise flavor. I always love how during the market breakfasts, I can enjoy a little sample of several things (both sweet and savory), instead of committing to just one thing.

This week in particular was a very exciting meal, with proceeds supporting an equally exciting mission.DSC01812

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2 comments » | Madtown Lovin'

Blackberry Farms Griddle Cakes

February 21st, 2014 — 6:56am

DSC01660Breakfast will always be my favorite meal of the day; and Sunday, my favorite day of the week for breakfast. Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the season to enjoy leisurely Sunday mornings and elaborate breakfasts. It won’t be long before my Sunday mornings are reduced to a quick bowl of oatmeal on the run to make the most of spring and summer days. But for now, I’m savoring the cold, windy, icy conditions that leave me stuck inside, forced to endure a seemingly bottomless cup of coffee and stacks of pancakes smothered in real maple syrup.

Last week I tried a recipe for griddle cakes that I found in an issue of Bon Appétit from last spring. A beautiful picture of the griddle cakes actually grace the cover of the magazine. The recipe is from Blackberry Farm, an intimate luxury hotel in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains renowned for it’s pastoral landscape and farm-fresh cuisine. The griddle cakes are gluten-free and incorporate a variety of flours—-oat, buckwheat, and rice. I went to the Co-op to purchase small amounts of each. The only problem was that I labeled my bags with the bin numbers, and not the type of flour inside—which made for an interesting guessing game when it came time to make breakfast.

I loved these griddle cakes. The different flours provide great flavor, and the cornmeal gives the griddle cakes a gritty, cornbread-like texture. They brown nicely while cooking on a skillet, and make for a hearty breakfast.

Blackberry Farms Griddle Cakes (Bon Appétit, May 2013; serves 6)

1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil (for skillet)

Whisk egg, buttermilk, and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk oat flour, cornmeal, rice flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients, then whisk in butter until no lumps remain.

Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat; lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4-cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bottoms are browned and bubbles form on top of griddle cakes, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until griddle cakes are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

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Minestrone with Butternut Squash, Kale and White Beans

February 20th, 2014 — 9:52am

DSC01794My friend Claire recently shared with me the recipe for what has been her go-to soup recipe all winter long. It’s a minestrone chock full of healthy vegetables like butternut squash, carrots, and kale. Claire started with this recipe, and made a few modification like swapping bacon for spicy sopressata, and dry elbow pasta for fresh RP’s Egg Campanelli. The resulting minestrone is hearty and delicious. I loved the flavor from the sopressata and the creaminess of the fresh, egg pasta. If you’re expecting leftovers, though, dry pasta might be the way to go, as the egg pasta didn’t hold up as well in subsequent days. But if you expect to finish the minestrone in one sitting, then absolutely go for RP’s Egg Campanelli—it’s fantastic in this soup.

Minestrone with Butternut Squash, Kale and White Beans (recipe from my friend Claire, who modified this one; serves 6-8)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 cups (½-inch) diced peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
1 and 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium)
2 cups (½-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
2 cups (½-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 -5 cloves,)
1 pound Tuscan kale (Lacinato), stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
26 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional as needed (depending upon saltiness of the stock)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1 package of RP’s Egg Campanelli Pasta
4 ounces spicy sopressata or dried salami, ½-inch-diced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, squash, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10-15 minutes. Add the kale in batches, stirring so it cooks down. Once kale has lightly wilted, add the tomatoes, 8 cups chicken stock, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Once the soup has simmered and the vegetables are soft, discard the bay leaf. Add the beans, RP’s pasta, and diced sopressata or dried salami and heat through. Serve hot drizzled with olive oil and topped with Parmesan cheese.

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Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 2/19

February 19th, 2014 — 12:31pm

DSC01807Today’s Slow Food UW Cafe lunch menu featured two kinds of stromboli (pulled pork with gouda and apple, and a vegetarian version with squash, roasted garlic and pepper jack cheese). Other menu options included a polenta patty with red beans, rhubarb coleslaw, creamy almond soup, and profiteroles (cream puffs) with matcha (green tea powder) cream filling for dessert. This week, there were also parchment-wrapped granola bars available for $1.

I chose the pulled pork stromboli and the polenta patty with red beans. The stromboli was delicious—the outer dough tasted fresh and featured a shiny egg-washed sheen. The pulled pork, gouda and apple were a tasty combination. The red beans on the polenta patty had an overly-smoky flavor, which didn’t pair especially well with the stromboli (think: Italian with Mexican/Creole). While the rhubarb coleslaw made for a better pairing with the stromboli, my friend remarked that it was a little bitter tasting. I didn’t try the almond soup, but the dessert—cream puffs with matcha (green tea powder) cream filling—were excellent and reminded me of the time I made almond green tea cupcakes and searched high and low for matcha powder. I also bought one of the granola bars for the road. It was good, but overly sweet—more of a sugar coma inducing granola bar than a fuel for the afternoon kind of granola bar. But then again, sometimes I need a little sugar to get through the afternoon.

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart

February 19th, 2014 — 6:53am

DSC01680I wanted to serve an equally indulgent dessert with cheese fondue on Valentine’s Day. When I saw this showstopper chocolate-hazelnut tart in a recent issue of Food & Wine, I knew I had found the perfect match. Skinning hazelnuts is always a chore, but the task was made easier with a tip included in the recipe: toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 12 minutes, then transfer to a kitchen towel to rub off the skins. The hazelnuts are incorporated into the pastry crust, and also coarsely chopped to top the ganache filling (simply a combination of bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream). The tart is delicious and decadent. My dining companion could only finish a small piece; I, on the other hand, had no trouble polishing off a full slice.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart (From Food & Wine, January 2014; makes one 9-inch tart)

Pastry
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hazelnuts (2 ounces), toasted and skinned (see Note)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Filling
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 percent), chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup hazelnuts (5 ounces)—toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped (see Note)

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor, add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and process until fine. Scrape the nuts into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Add the flour, salt and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and mix until combined. Add the butter and mix at low speed until incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until a soft dough forms. Scrape the pastry onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° and coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with vegetable oil spray. Roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of wax paper to a 12-inch round. Ease the pastry into the tart pan, pressing it into the corners and patching any tears. Roll the rolling pin over the tart pan to cut off any excess pastry. Refrigerate the tart shell for 10 minutes.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and weights and bake the shell for about 15 minutes longer, until golden brown. Let cool completely.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream just to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes; whisk until smooth. Pour the chocolate cream into the tart shell and scatter the hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove the tart ring, cut the tart into wedges and serve.

Note: To toast and skin hazelnuts, preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 12 minutes, until golden and the skins blister. Let cool slightly, then transfer the hazelnuts to a kitchen towel and rub off the skins. Let cool.DSC01706

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Apple-Black Lentil Salad

February 18th, 2014 — 11:40am

DSC01768I recently had the pleasure of working with Milwaukee-based cookbook author Lucy Saunders to plan a beer tasting event in Madison. Lucy’s latest cookbook, Dinner in the Beer Garden, pairs garden-centric dishes with craft beers. The event included six pairings like Vintage Brewing Company Weiss-Blau with Beet-Ricotta Gnocchi, and Sprecher Black Bavarian Schwarzbier with Cocoa Mascarpone.

After the event I was eager to dive into Lucy’s cookbook that features more than 100 recipes with beer pairings and beautiful, color photos. The recipes are a new take on traditional biergarten fare, incorporating plenty of seasonal and local ingredients. Dinner in the Beer Garden includes 12 chapters on appetizers, beans & legumes, cheese, eggs, fish & seafood, greens, noodles & pasta, roots, squash & vegetables, grains, sauces and soups, and fruits & desserts. Profiles of beer gardens and breweries are inserted in between chapters. Some recipes that especially stand out to me include beet sliders, pumpkin empanadas, brown ale bananas, hop-aged cheddar and tomato grilled cheese, and grilled peaches with honey-thyme glaze.

Last night I tried the Apple-Black Lentil Salad. While I’ve cooked with both green and brown lentils, this was my first experience using black lentils. Although the recipe indicated that you could easily substitute with green or brown lentils (with additional cooking time), I eventually found black lentils at Whole Foods. I liked the contrast of brightly colored fruit and vegetables on a bed of black lentils. I used a tangelo (a hybrid of a tangerine and grapefruit) in place of the orange since I had a box on hand, and substituted spinach for the lettuce. I also doubled the recipe so I’d have enough leftovers for a few lunches.

The salad was excellent. I also very much enjoyed pairing it with a hard cider as the recipe recommended. With the help of Lucy’s tasting notes, I was able to discern how the beer melded with the apple flavor and heightened the earthy taste of the lentils and mustard.

Lucy made a version of the Apple-Black Lentil Salad for the tasting event, but substituted the tomatoes for crumbled Sarvecchio cheese (paired with New Glarus Raspberry Tart). It was equally delicious and goes to show that you can really take this recipe in any number of directions.

Dinner in the Beer Garden is available for purchase at the Vintage Brewery, New Glarus Brewing Company giftshop, and will also be available beginning in March at Orange Tree Imports.

Apple-Black Lentil Salad (From Dinner in the Beer Garden; serves 4)

1 cup dried black lentils (2 cups cooked)
2/3 cup diced green apple, tossed with 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup diced celery
1 orange, peeled and segmented
1 cup tomato wedges
Oak leaf or butter lettuce (4 to 6 ounces)
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To prepare lentils, rinse in a colander and pick over to remove any grit. Place in 2-quart saucepan. Cover with water to 1-inch above the lentils, and bring to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes, or until lentils are just tender. Black lentils are smaller and cook faster than brown lentils. Let cool to lukewarm, then drain and add to mixing bowl.

While lentils cook, prepare apples, celery, orange and tomato wedges. Wash and trim the lettuce. Mix vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and cayenne in a small bowl, and whisk together to make an emulsion.

Toss the cool lentils with apples, celery, orange and tomato wedges, and dressing. Arrange four salad plates with lettuce leaves on edges. Divide lentil salad mixture evenly between the plates.

Pairing: Pair with hard cider or pale ale, to meld with the apple flavor and heighten the earthy taste of the lentils and mustard.DSC01759

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