Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garlic Scape Pesto

I snagged some garlic scapes at the Mill City Farmer's Market yesterday. A bundle of 7 was only a dollar! I see these things every year and never know what I would do with them. That is, until I saw this post on how to make a pesto out of the garlic scapes! How clever. I love having a batch of pesto in the fridge or freezer to add to sandwiches, pizza, pasta, or egg-filled tomatoes.

The smell that hits you when you slice the scapes is so light and fresh. I got very excited about my pesto at that point. Then I mixed all the ingredients in my food processor and let it rip. It looked so beautiful! Then I took a taste...and was pretty shocked at the intense garlic extravaganza. No worries, I just added a bit more parmesan, salt, pepper, and olive oil and the pesto turned out beautifully. So this recipe is for all the garlic lovers out there. Enjoy!

I had this pesto for lunch today spread on crusty bread with goat cheese and a sliced tomato. Yum, summer is so delicious.

Garlic Scape Pesto
garlic scapes
sliced almonds
parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all together in a food processor until you get the flavor and consistency you like.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is This What I Think It Is?

If you thought, "wow, this looks like vodka infused with locally-grown rhubarb!" Then, YES this is what you think it is!

And, this takes 1 week to fully integrate the lovely pink color and tart rhubarby-ness flavor into the vodka. Guess who will be here in 1 week? YEP, right again! It's Cass and Ben!!! Woot!

I predict some rhubarb vodka drinks in our future.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Peanut Citrus Noodles

This is another recipe from A Homemade Life that sounded so freaking fantastic that I've been dying to make it. And when the heat index is 105 and you don't have air conditioning, this is a good recipe to try since it requires no oven.

I followed Molly's (or should I say Brandon's) sauce recipe nearly exactly (I didn't have 2 kinds of hot sauce so I doubled the amount of sriracha). I used carrots, celery, spinach, cilantro, and scallions for the veggies and whole wheat linguine for the noodles.

I loved these noodles, they were super delicious! Wish I had some fresh sugar snap peas to go in it - maybe next time!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chicken Salad with Homemade Mayonnaise

I've been really been trying hard to think about my food before I eat it - what am I eating, what are these ingredients, can I make it healthier and more natural? I want to eat real food. What do I mean by real food? Sometimes I don't even know. But I think I mean eating each meal with as many basic ingredients as I can (i.e. cut back drastically on prepared ingredients).

Obviously, you've seen the homemade yogurt (which is really so simple and cheap I can't imagine buying it anymore), and the homemade granola with maple syrup or honey as a sweetener, and the larabars. I can eat these things without guilt, even if they're high in fat, because I know they are real food.

Enter Julia Child. I'm nearly finished with her autobiography My Life in France. Julia was the queen of real food. And she was a scientist just as much as a master of the art of French cooking. She spent months perfecting a recipe for homemade mayonnaise. And she ate it with great abandon - lived to be 91 - and was never overweight.

In another book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, I read about the author's encounter with Julia in which she arrived in France for work, went to the nearest cafe for lunch, and ordered hard boiled eggs, a baguette, and homemade mayonnaise. She alternated between spreading that mayo on the eggs and bread and greatly enjoyed her deconstructed egg salad sandwich.

Needless to say, I had the hugest craving for homemade mayonnaise after reading these stories. I do have a jar of Hellmann's in my fridge, which I don't mind using. It even says "Hellmann's REAL mayonnaise" on the jar. But the ingredients included "natural flavors and calcium disodium EDTA" so I wanted to try making my own.

I loosely followed the recipe in Cooking for Mr. Latte, but I didn't have all the ingredients so I improvised a little. It contained egg yolk, dijon mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. I'm not going to reprint the recipe quantities here because in all honesty, it wasn't super fantastic mayo. But it was good! And it made my chicken salad even better because I knew every single ingredient that went into it. PS - If Hellmann's is REAL, why is it white, when mine turned out a very deep golden/yellow/green? Egg yolks and good olive oil have color in them!

Chicken Salad
Cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (this tastes great with canned tuna as well!)
2 ribs celery, diced
Handful of toasted walnuts or other nut or seed
Handful of dried cranberries, or chopped apple or other fruit
2 chopped scallions
Mayonnaise to coat, either homemade or store bought
Salt and pepper to taste.

I put it on top of a bed of spinach and brought it to work for lunch.

It would be killer with green apples and cheddar cheese on rye bread, or craisins and brie on a baguette. Toasted pumpkin seeds are also a great substitute for the walnuts.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Is there anything more beautiful than a gigantic bowl of freshly picked strawberries?

Actually, yes! It's those strawberries with homemade yogurt, blueberries, and almonds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sugar Snap Pea and Radish Salad

Ok, you may be thinking to yourself right now, "Enough with the radishes!" But dear readers, I simply can't help myself. Local radishes are so tasty when they are at the peak of their season that I've been eating them constantly.

I also happen to have some sugar snap peas from the Farmer's Market in the fridge and when I saw this article in the NY Times I discovered a marriage made in spring vegetable heaven.

The article talks about Locanda Verde, a new restaurant in NYC's TriBeCa neighborhood. This restaurant is owned by Robert DeNiro and has been getting rave reviews. The chef there made a radish and snap pea salad with 2 pestos: sundried tomato/almond and traditional basil. I just so happened to have all these ingredients on hand and whipped up a similar version.

First thing I noticed is, this salad is pretty and colorful. Next thing I noticed: this salad is CRUNCHY. I love crunchy food! Last thing - it's yummy. The sundried tomatoes are an unexpected flavor but it works.

Sugar Snap Pea and Radish Salad
Radishes, cleaned and sliced
Sugar Snap Peas, trimmed and cut in half
Sundried tomatoes, chopped
Almonds, chopped
Basil, chopped
Red wine vinegar
Olive Oil
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated finely
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

Great way to keep my radish obsession going.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Homemade Yogurt

Yep, it's official...I'm a hippie. You may have thought it was official when I posted about my homemade granola back in January, but that was nothing, NOTHING compared to the hippie-ness of making my own yogurt.

Really, I'm just cheap. The yogurt I usually buy (either Fage or Oikos greek style) is around $6 or more for about 16 ounces. I was able to make about 4 times that much yogurt for about $3. And it was EASY!

Let me first just say that there are about a hundred different recipes on the internet for homemade yogurt. All call for milk, some call for store-bought yogurt, and others call for some type of powder active cultures. I combined 2 simple recipes I found online (this one and this one) and made up my own measurements.

Yogurt-making sounds intimidating, but it's honestly one of the easiest things I've ever done. All you do is take warm milk, add a little store-bought yogurt, and let those little bacteria in the yogurt reproduce until they've turned all that milk into more yogurt. It's like cloning!

Let's talk about the ingredients. Fore my starter, I used plain, organic, fat-free, greek-style yogurt (Oikos brand which is a division of Stonyfield Farms) which has 5 live active cultures. I have heard that other brands have fewer different live active cultures and it helps to use Stonyfield Farms brands because your yogurt will work better with all those different little bacteria running around.

For my milk, I went with whole milk. It was weird to go full-fat, but I wanted a good tasting final result for my first batch of yogurt. Maybe next time I'll try to lighten it up. But in Europe they don't worry about full-fat yogurt so I won't either. Along with all that fat comes great flavor and lots of vitamins and minerals so it's a tradeoff I can deal with. Plus I felt better because I bought the milk from a local dairy that doesn't use RBH treated cows.

So here is how I made homemade yogurt!

Homemade Yogurt
1/2 gallon whole milk
4 Tbsp plain yogurt w/ active cultures

Heat the milk to almost boiling, stirring to avoid scalding. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm temp (or approx 110 degrees). Pour into non-metal bowl and stir in yogurt.

Keep at approx 100 degrees (I put my yogurt bowl in an insulated cooler lined with wet dishrags microwaved for 1 minute) and do not disturb.

Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait (this is the difficult for us impatient people).

Finally, after you've waited at least 8 hours (but no more than 12 hours), stir again to incorporate any whey that has collected in yogurt. Pour into jars or plastic containers and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

My yogurt ended up runnier than my usual preference (remember I usually buy greek-style) so I went a step further and strained some homemade yogurt overnight through a coffee filter in a colander suspended over a bowl. In the morning I had delicious thick creamy yogurt in the coffee filter that I scooped into a bowl with fresh blueberries for breakfast. Will go so nicely with my homemade granola in the winter.

I'm well aware that I will be mocked for being such a hippie, but I'm willing to take it in return for getting to enjoy this delicious yogurt for only pennies per serving. This is something I'm definitely willing to do again in order to be green and lean!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Salsa Soup with Poached Egg

I love being able to make a healthy meal - something entirely new and different - out of leftovers in my fridge and pantry. It makes me very proud of myself because it's recycling in the greatest way and I don't waste anything.

I had some leftover homemade fresh salsa (chopped tomato, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, cilantro) in the fridge that I'd made to go with quesadillas last week. When the tortillas ran out, I decided I couldn't buy any more of them because I eat them way too often with lots of cheese. So I needed a way to use up this salsa.

I threw it in a pan with a can of drained black beans, spices, and some bloody mary mix. Meanwhile, I poached an egg (now that I think of it, I probably could have poached the egg right in the soup) and grilled a piece of bread.

I topped the whole thing with salt, pepper, a squeeze from a wedge of lime, and chopped cilantro. If I hadn't made it myself, I would never have known it was originally leftovers!

Salsa Soup
Fresh salsa (tomatoes, jalapenos, red onion, lime juice, cilantro)
Black beans
Bloody mary mix
Chili powder

Mix all together in a saucepan over medium heat. When heated through, scoop into a bowl, top with a poached egg, salt and pepper, lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Serve with grilled bread.

Sunday Afternoon Snack

I've been trying to pretend I live in Europe for several months now (in my eating habits). I've never actually felt like this pretending has worked (except for the times I've been in NY with Cass).

Until today.

I had a lovely early lunch of leftover FlatOut pizza topped with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and goat cheese, then spent the better part of the day sitting in the sunshine reading a book. This was very necessary since Sunday is a day of rest and I had spent nearly all of Saturday doing hard manual labor in my yard. Around 3:00 pm my stomach started growling at me.

Here is the beautiful snack I ended up enjoying on the deck with a big glass of white wine.

  • 1 slice German sour rye bread (from Mill City Farmer's Market), grilled and topped with shredded Gruyere cheese until it's melty.
  • Local fresh radishes (from Mill City Farmer's Market), sliced in half and sprinkled with coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper and served with a pat of fresh butter
  • A handful of fresh and local sugar snap peas (yep, you guessed it...Mill City Farmer's Market)
I've never actually been to Europe, but I certainly felt transported there as I enjoyed this snack in my beautiful backyard. Summer is definitely here!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chickpea Salad - new and improved

I know I already posted this back in March, when I was giddy about 50 degree weather! Ha! When I made this salad on Sunday (June 7), I whined because it was in the 60's and I wanted my 75 degree weather back. Everything is relative!

Anyways, in March I posted a made up recipe for Chickpea Salad that was pretty good. After reading some old archived posts on Orangette, I found a similar, but infinitely tastier, recipe for Chickpea Salad. I much prefer this version.

Chickpea Salad (adapted from Orangette)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
red onion, diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
a good drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper
chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (please splurge and buy this, it's amazing)

I dare you to not eat this entire batch within 24 hours of making it. It's addictive.
And it would be great on a picnic - no mayo!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Green Bean and Tuna Salad

I recently bought some gorgeous green beans at my local grocery store. I wanted to pair them with some type of protein for a summer salad, and in the end I picked canned tuna. Two very plain ingredients have been completely elevated into a zippy, tangy, bright, healthy salad.

I threw the blanched beans and drained tuna together with some diced red onion, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. After a taste, I couldn't believe how bland it was. Something was missing.....inspiration struck and I threw in a handful of chopped kalamata olives. That one ingredient transformed the salad from something boring to something worthy of entree status!

It didn't hit me until I was almost ready to eat it that it's almost a Nicoise salad, minus the hard boiled egg and potato. Well, I thought, why not? So I added a hard-boiled egg on the side. Very satisfying dinner with a piece of grilled bread and glass of white wine.

Green Bean and Tuna Salad
1/4 red onion, diced
1 can tuna, drained
1 cup green beans, blanched and cut
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
splash of Tbsp red wine vinegar
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

Spring Pea Soup

Ever since I discovered the deliciousness of split pea soup in January, it has been a part of my regular dinner rotation. I'm sure I've made it at least 5 times since then and it continues to make me very happy on workdays when I heat it up for lunch.

The problem is that split pea soup, in all its earthy-hearty goodness, is very much a cold weather soup. Spring pea soup, however, is a great spring and summer alternative and is perfect eaten warm, at room temperature, or even chilled. And it allows me to use English peas, which I have been daydreaming about for weeks.

About two months ago, I was thinking about spring veggies I can cook with to make dishes worthy of posting on this blog. Suddenly I was struck with a memory from at least 20 years ago, and it was as clear as a bell in my mind. Here it is: I remember sitting in the screened-in porch at our lake cabin with my Grandma Edith. One bowl full of fat green pods was on the table, another nearly empty bowl in my lap into which I'm shelling English peas for dinner. I'm sure I ate just as many of those tiny pearls as made it to dinner. This memory makes me very happy and it makes me miss my Grandma, who died when I was 11.

So, ever since that memory first popped into my brain, I've been obsessed with finding English peas this summer. And of course, they've been nearly impossible to find. Farmer's Markets? Nope. Grocery stores? Nope. at Whole Foods, success!

I spent a good chunk of time shelling the pods (not quite as fun as I remember!) and I ended up with barely a cup of peas. Oh well, it was enough to make one serving of delicious soup. Warning: spring pea soup tastes NOTHING like split pea soup. Other than a smooth texture and a green color, the flavors are completely different as winter and summer.

Spring Pea Soup
1 small yellow onion, diced
Freshly shelled English peas (or frozen green peas)
Vegetable stock

Saute the onion in olive oil, add the peas and cook for 3 more minutes.
Add some stock and bring to a boil. Cool and puree.

The best part of this soup was the addition of some creme fraiche that was leftover from making Bouchon au Thon. The tart creaminess of the creme fraiche added a complexity to the flavors that made the soup very savory.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rhubarb Crumble

Since the oven was already warmed up (see previous post) and I had recently been gifted with a bunch of fresh rhubarb from a co-worker, I scoured the internet for some baked rhubarb recipes.

I went with a recipe from Nigella Lawson, via RecipeZaar.

It was a very simple recipe, with a good mix of tart and sweet.  Paired with some whipping cream, beaten for a few minutes with superfine sugar, it was delicious!  

The remainder of this batch of crumble will have to go to work with me tomorrow for sharing, or I would be in trouble!

Roasted Mushroom and Tomato Sandwich with Goat Cheese

Minnesota weather is so strange.  I just enjoyed a fabulous work week of nearly 80 degree weather, deep blue skies, and bright happy sunshine.  Textbook perfect.  The food that went with that week was also summery...(remember all those radishes?).

Then Saturday and Sunday brought rain, gloomy clouds, and cool weather in the 50's.  I was at a loss for what to cook, since summertime salads didn't seem to "go" with the temps.  To add insult to injury, today I received via email some gorgeous photos of a gorgeous couple in a gorgeous park in the coolest city I've ever visited - they were in their shorts and tanks enjoying a summer picnic.  I was momentarily so green with envy that I wallowed in some self-pity.  Then I decided I needed to be like Pollyanna and find something to be glad about in my situation.

When the weather turns chilly, the upside for me is that I can use my oven!  I decided to capitalize on this bad weather and roast some tomatoes and mushrooms.  This is halved cherry tomatoes (I think they're always good no matter what the season) and sliced crimini (or baby portobello) mushrooms, dried thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Roast in a 375 degree oven until they look like this:

I feel so sorry for my readers who don't like tomatoes or mushrooms (you know who you are!!!).  No lie...I could have eaten this whole pan.  I should have.  The only thing that stopped me was a selfish desire to eat them again tomorrow for lunch on a salad to see if they were as good the second day.  

I just spread some goat cheese on grilled bread and topped with the roasted mixture and made an open-faced sandwich.  This is the kind of sandwich that requires a knife and fork and goes great with a glass of white wine.

It was so good it made me temporarily forget about how jealous I am of those beautiful New Yorkers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pear and Blue Cheese Pizza

When I was at the Seward Co-op last weekend, they had samples of pears with blue cheese. This blue cheese is called "summertime blues" and is a seasonal blue cheese from a Faribault, MN dairy, soaked with Summit Scandia Ale for additional flavor. I am such a sucker, I totally fell for it.

I was planning on using the pear and blue cheese in a salad (as per my usual!) but today I started thinking about pizza, adding fig and caramelized onion flavors.

I started by caramelizing some thinly sliced yellow onion (over low heat with a pinch of sugar until browned - about 45 minutes). Then toasting a FlatOut sprinkled with olive oil in the oven until crispy. Top with a layer of fig jam, the onions, sliced pears, and blue cheese. Bake again until cheese is melted.

I liked all the flavors, but I think this was too sweet for me to enjoy as an entree. I would prefer using actual pizza dough if doing this again. Otherwise, using the FlatOuts this would make a great appetizer for an elegant cocktail party. The flavors went nicely with a glass of red wine.