Today I’m going to ask you to use your imagination. Have a glass of wine, close your eyes, turn on some Simon and Garfunkel, and imagine you’re entertaining your nearest and dearest. Imagine you’re tasked with cooking a fabulous dinner for your terribly handsome beau on his 50th birthday. And imagine that last minute rush before dinner is served—the rush to get dinner on the table and make sure that hot food stays hot and salad stays fresh.
Can you imagine that? Good. Now imagine that the beautiful ingredients below came together in a perfectly composed salad that I didn’t have a chance to photograph on that lovely night before serving it!
Sorry, folks. By the time dinner was served, the sun had gone down and I couldn’t justify whipping out my lighting set-up to photograph the finished salad. So just imagine a bed of velvety greens tossed in sweet and sour pear vinaigrette, topped with creamy, pungent Cambozola, toasted walnuts, crispy apples, and my mad scientist experiment, hibiscus pearls. Imagine that!
A word about those hibiscus pearls: this was my first foray into molecular gastronomy. It was a success, and much simpler than I imagined. I steeped a cup of hibiscus tea and spiked it with hibiscus extract from l.c. finn. I boiled that with agar agar, and used a regular eyedropper to squeeze the mixture into a tall glass of cold oil to form the pearls. That’s the extent of the special ingredients and equipment. The flavor of the pearls was distinct but not overwhelming; a little tart, like pomegranate juice. The texture was smooth and gelatinous—sort of like biting into a creamy drop of tea. For instructions on making agar agar pearls, visit http://molecule-r.com/en/content/67-pearls-training. You can purchase the extract here.
I’ve reached a turning point. After weeks (months) of chocolate and bread and gravy and kickasseroles, I’ve started craving salad again.
Yes, I know, summer in Minnesota is a lifetime away. Last week we had temperatures around 20 below zero. Last winter we still had snow in May. May. (#disMay)
But despite my bleak weatherscope, now that the holidays are over, I’m craving bright, fresh, warm-weather foods. So here’s a tasty compromise—fresh greens with a summery, acidic vinaigrette topped with the luxurious tastes of winter: salty prosciutto, sticky figs, and creamy burrata.
This salad was my first experience with burrata and, well, if you ever see the headline “Midwestern Soprano Arrested after Defeating Great Siberian Tiger with Bare Hands,” that’s me, and the tiger and I were fighting over the last piece of burrata. It’s creamy and delicious and that tiger had it coming, stealing my cheese.
Have you met my mom?
If you’re an actor in the Twin Cities, she’s probably dressed you, beautifully and carefully in costumes that helped you fully realize the physicality of your character. If you’re a St. Kate’s graduate, she might have mentored you and helped you find your way into adulthood. If you’re a ballroom dancer, you might have once shared a waltz with her at the Dancer’s Studio weekly dance party. In the unlikely event that you’ve been incarcerated, she might have taught you to quilt on one of the many Sunday afternoons she’s volunteered at the women’s correctional facility in Shakopee. And if you’ve been to her place for dinner, you’ve had an incredible meal shared with good friends, along with music, wine, fascinating conversation, echoing laughter, and a lapful of love from her cat, Pablo.
When she came to my house for her birthday dinner last month, I wanted to prepare an extra special meal, to return the kindness of many such dinners and thank her for setting such a powerful, compassionate, creative example for me to follow. Also, cooking for people is how I love them.
So I topped a creamy lemon risotto with Mom’s favorite—seared scallops. The luxurious risotto is somehow light, with a pop of freshness from lemon and Italian parsley. I served it alongside a fig, burrata, and prosciutto salad with balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to come!), and followed it with mini flourless chocolate cakes topped with a blackberry and red wine reduction.
Happy Birthday, Mama!
My blog is having a mid-life crisis. I’m a little concerned that my blog may get a flashy, new template, buy a convertible, and start dating a much younger blog.
See, when I first began sharing recipes from my tiny galley kitchen, I imagined my recipes would feature ingredients like fiddlehead ferns, duck confit, persimmon, and dry vermouth (Vermouth?! You can’t HANdle vermouth!).
And here I am, two and a half years later, blogging about refried beans on toast and wondering, what happened? Well, the truth is, a tasty, satisfying lunch that never fails to remind me of my most memorable summer happened.
The summer before my junior year of high school I went on a service trip to a tiny village outside of Mexico City. Each morning we traveled in the back of a pick-up truck along the side of a mountain to our work site. After a few hours of labor, that same pick-up returned with our lunch – a tray full of crusty rolls smeared with refried beans, topped with a slice of American cheese. And it might’ve been the heat, or the hard-earned hunger, or perhaps it’s my fuzzy memory, but I’m pretty sure those simple sandwiches were better than all the fiddlehead ferns and duck confit in the world.
And so, in a fit of gooey nostalgia, I recreated my favorite culinary memory. I toasted split club rolls and topped them with a generous dollop of refried beans dressed up with prepared salsa and cumin. A thin slice of pepper jack cheese melted over top sealed the deal.
Continue reading for the Bean-y Crostini recipe
It’s official! My dear imaginary friends, this summer I’ll be singing again. My little theater group won a spot in the 2013 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and we will present a brand, new show this August. Details will be forthcoming; keep your eye out for Blue Umbrella Productions’ premiere of Are You There, God? It’s a New Musical Revue!
To kick off our first production meeting of the season, I prepared for my collaborators, Tall Paul and Hurricane Windy, a wreath of fresh vegetables and crackers surrounding a bowl of creamy, flavor-packed sun-dried tomato dip. The silky, tangy spread was equally charming atop celery sticks, pita chips, and the next day’s turkey bagel sandwich for lunch.
Continue reading for Sun-Dried Tomato Dip recipe
Forgive me, foodies, for I have slacked off. It has been 26 days since I last posted a new recipe. I’m not Catholic, so that’s as far as I’m willing to take the confession metaphor.
All kidding aside, I’ve just been really overwhelmed by life outside the kitchen lately. Between my job, writing a new show, and keeping Handsome Greg and Professor Meowington happy, I’m swamped. The thought of creating a unique recipe accompanied by a clever tale makes me want to cry into my apron.
And so, in the interest of keeping my blog alive (while exerting the VERY least amount of effort) I’m sharing an entirely unoriginal and frankly lazy-ass recipe. It’s easy, tasty, and a little bit embarrassing.
I am sorry for these and all the sins of my kitchen.
Continue reading for the Buffalo Chicken Calzone recipe.
Happy Holidays, imaginary internet friends! And congratulations on surviving the end of the world. Now I’m off to Barnes and Noble to demand a refund for my Mayan wall calendar. Wish me luck!
In the meantime, I hope you’ll take another look at the 10 most popular recipes I shared this year.
S’mores Fried Ice Cream with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce
Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon
Baked Churros with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche
Loaded Baked Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Cinnamon Roll Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies
Toffee Cashew Cookies
Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Pie Crust Crackers
Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich
And the most popular recipe of 2012:
Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Here’s to a delicious (and gooey) new year!
It’s embarrassing how much time I spend thinking about recipes I want to try. I’ll start with the germ of an idea (say, a pear dessert for Mom’s birthday dinner). Then I’ll spend weeks – maybe months – considering the options: pear tart, pear cobbler, pear cake, pear sorbet… And when I finally decide on the perfect recipe, I abandon the idea entirely because I’m terrified of making a mistake. (Yeah, I never said my process was a healthy one.)
In this case, the paralyzing fear was invoked by the menace of homemade caramel sauce—it’s the easiest thing in the world to ruin. I think if I ever get around to recording another CD, it’ll be called Ways to Ruin Caramel, with forlorn country ballads like “Too Runny,” “Too Hard,” “Bitter and Scorched,” and “Grains of Sand.”
It took no less than three glasses of cheap wine for me to face my caramelized fear, and I’m so drunk—I mean, I’m so happy that I did! This caramel sauce is the perfect texture (creamy but not too thick), with the subtlest bite of sea salt and just enough booze. *hiccup*
The other components of the recipe – poached pears, sweetened mascarpone, flaky puff pastry, and toasted pistachios—are a cinch to prepare, yet every bit as delicious as the bourbon caramel.
Continue reading for the Poached Pear Napoleons with Bourbon Caramel Sauce recipe
Green pepper is my sworn enemy.
The conniving nightshade sneaks into salsa, it prowls in pasta, and it lurks in jambalaya, waiting to make its deadly move. Just one bite of a bell pepper and I’m a pathetic wheezing heap, my lips swollen like a Hollywood collagen job gone terribly wrong.
For years I avoided green salsa in every Mexican restaurant, for fear that the lovely olive color might be enhanced by the scoundrel bell pepper. And as a sad consequence, I never tasted the delightful tang of tomatillos.
Until now. I made this recipe for Mom and Handsome Greg, and instantly fell madly in love with the tart tomatillo sauce warmed through with a healthy teaspoon of smoky cumin. I filled corn tortillas with a luxurious and creamy chicken mixture, then doused them with the silky tomatillo sauce and topped them with a generous handful of gooey cheese.
Next time I make this dish I’ll use white cheddar – the orange cheese with the green salsa was a little off-putting. Otherwise it was perfect.
Continue reading for the Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas recipe
When I left my apartment this morning, a chilly wind mussed the yellow-green-red-orange leaves in the trees while it whipped my almost-dry hair into snarled submission. As I squinted into the crisp, blue sky, I thought—
Crap. I can’t do this. I’m still not ready to write about autumn. Sorry, folks.
Today’s recipe features the juicy, tart strawberries I loved all summer. There’s really nothing fall-like about it. The chewy toasts topped with goat cheese, basil, and summer berries macerated in sweet balsamic vinegar are a perfect appetizer for your next dinner party. In July.
Continue reading for the Balsamic Strawberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and Basil recipe