Watching the ping pong ball sized hail and having humidity and sweat bead off you does not exactly bring this meal to mind, but I made blintzes and cauliflower cream.

Mushroom Blintzes with Cauliflower Cream and Sorrel garnish

Cauliflower cream was a recent discovery at a restaurant called Victory 44.  Megan and I took a field trip to Robbinsdale to sit at a high top and slowly soak up their fare.  Their menu changes frequently but M and I had cauliflower cream with agnolotti, charcuterie, beet terrine, crab spring rolls, and coffee panna cotta.  The detail I could go into about each of these dishes would be sickening, so focus on what I cooked I shall.

The cauliflower cream is simple.  Simmer cauliflower flowerets in milk (a fatty milk – I added some heavy whip) and salt until the flowerets are tender, nearly falling apart.  Strain it, saving the liquid which can be reduced.  Put the flowerets in a food processor with some salt, pepper, butter, and cream cheese or provolone.  Process until a cream, adding some of the reduced hot milk if needed.

The blintzes I made with a mushroom puree (crimini and porcini).  The mushrooms were sautéed with olive oil, white wine, parsley, and garlic.  Pureed and rolled into the blintzes, these were then browned, cut in half and placed on a bed of the cauliflower cream.

The reason this cauliflower cream is so good is its delicate cauliflower taste, unctuousness and smooth texture.  It went well with the earthiness of the mushrooms.  The sorrel garnish was to add color, but it did a nice job of adding a lemony sourness to the aftertaste too.

The cauliflower cream I made still did not do the one from Victory 44 justice.  If you want a great meal in an unexpected place, try V44.  It was fantastic.

Megan and I tilled our soil in our garden and seeds are growing in the sunroom of our apartment.  The frost subsided and the soil black, we are ready to grow some savory herbs, sweet vegetables, and spicy bulbs.  The fantastic part of this: already I have made a meal with spoils from our garden and our kale survived the winter and is nearly ready to pick and sauté.

Planned for the garden we have sugar baby watermelon, butternut squash, beans, carrots, beets, onions, Cherokee Purple tomatoes, tomatillos, blondkopfchen “little blonde girl” tomatoes, and poblano peppers.  Planted already and staying put are mint, chives, sorrel, oregano, rhubarb, some pain in the ass bush I can’t remove, parsley and lavender.  We’ll probably throw a lettuce in where it fits.  The layout is something Megan will plan, with some guidance on sun directionality from the brains of the project.

The next project I am determined to tackle this summer is a Petite Saison.  A saison in the traditional style, fermented hot, estery and malty, and balanced with some grassy hops.  My first attempt was a fail and produced by first blown bottle.  Somehow it became far too carbonated and resulted in one bottle looking like the entrails of a bar fight.

Finally, after reading a post from my brother-in-law’s blog, the craving hit and I had to make some cinnamon rolls.  Haven’t had the chance to grub down on these sweet morsels, but if they are anything resembling my mother’s, they will pass my test.  The meal tonight was some herb polenta with smoked mozarella.  The herbs were fresh from the garden and the accompanying Cherokee purple tomatoes was a nice premonition of the fall.  Polenta is a staple in this kitchen.  Cheap, main course or side dish, extremely versatile in flavor profile, and creamy.  It replaces boxed macaroni and cheese for us ( . . . sort of).  They better be good.  Don’t have much time for breakfast tomorrow.

Eating in Olympia

November 13, 2009

There’s . . . this girl.  She coerced me into visiting her in her college town on the sound.  I guess it was a good time.  Here’s a little rehash of the food that slid past my tongue.

“Slid” is actually an appropriate word as the first full meal I had in Washington State was at McCormick and Schmick’s and we ate four pan fried oysters as well as four raw oysters.  Without saying that these tasted great, they tasted better than the rest of the meal which my girlfriend and I walked out of the restaurant unimpressed with.  I ordered the Dover Sole while the girl tried the rockfish with hazelnuts and apples.  The plates came with golden crusted fish and some leafy greens.  They both looked the same and the food tasted the same, greasy.  We were disappointed, we looked forward to this meal.  My sister used to work at this location and I remember going there at 15 years old and my parents, sister, and brother-in-law loving the food.  I think it has gone downhill.

The meal we ate at a mexican restaurant was unexpectedly tremendous. The locals call it “QB,” which made me think this was going to be an adventure at another Q’doba or Chipotle, but I was soon corrected.  I left the “Quality Burrito” very satisfied, and the below pictures show why.  We ate Sweet Potato Chili and Lime soup, Sweet Potato fries with Mango Ketchup, and then I had a Carnitas Burrito with roasted apple.  My food and the appetizers absorbed me so I do not remembebr exactly what the girl ate.  But I tasted it, and I remember liking it.

Sweet Potato soup and fries

I decided I would finnd a recipe for that soup after I ate it at QB and I think I discovered the exact recipe here.  James Peterson published it in his book Splendid Soups.  I love his books.  I am currently waiting to receive Splendid Soups in the mail after ordering it from Amazon.

Our Entres

We made a couple meals too.  One we made for her roommates as well.  I had a hankering for my mother’s asparagus cream casserole (I know, a hot dish!?), my partner made a roasted cauliflower dish with kalamata olives, garlic, and oil as a sauce, and I fried up some make-shift chicken nuggets with breaded chicken thigh chunks.  The vegetarian were clearly better tasting.

cauliflower, asparagus, and chicken nugget dinner

Then when our last night together was on its way we went down to the farmers market and decided we would make a dinner nearly exclusively from ingredients purchased there.  We decided on mussels in a chanterelle, shallot, and garlic sauce, Steelhead with tomato, garlic, and capers, and a dish that has become a staple in my repertoire apparently: celeriac salad.  I think the only things we did not purchase from the market were the mayo and dijon for the salad.  There were also some hot toddies involved.  While the brandy and tea were not local, the honey was.  This meal was fun because I got to bring it up to her bed while she was doing homework and we ate on her bed while she was in awe of how awesome I was.  Maybe I should pop that ego-bubble my head is growing.

Dinner in bed

You know what, for simply the reason of food (not to mention everything else we did, you know, the long walks on the beach, the intellectual conversations, etc. etc.) I have to upgrade this trip to fantastic.

Raw Fish and Fat

August 7, 2009

Another one of those meals my friends might be freaked out about.  I made ceviche!  I stopped over at Coastal Seafoods for my fish and picked up two large scallops, four monster shrimp, and a third of a pound of sea bass.  I asked the totally suave and hip dude behind the counter, “how often d’you guys get your fish order?”  After a piss-pore attempt to stiffle his scoff he said “Everyday.”  Apparently, I should have assumed as much.

Ceviche

I came home and peeled my shrimp of their shells, butterflied them, and removed that thread of a vein down their spines.  Then I sliced the scallops thinner because I was not sure that the lime would penetrate the whole crustacean and “cook” it all.  The sea bass I tried to slice on the diagonal like a sushi chef, but dull knives are quite the hindrence.  All of this went in a bowl with some red onion ribbons and diced jalapeno.  I poured lime over the top and let it cook in the fridge for a couple hours.

The plating was not as pretty as I imagined, but the fish and crustaceans had turned that creamy white color that told me they were done.  We dug in a little before I remembered the picture taking.  My guests always get a kick out of this and poke fun.  Sadly, the texture disconcerted me a bit and I was a bit scared of the food, but I ate anyway trusting my chefery and . . . I am still well!  No sickness.  Thanks be to citric acid!

The Minneapolis Farmer’s Market proudly displays its banner of “The Largest Open Air Market in the Upper Midwest.”  I frequently spend mornings there just browsing.  Sometimes I talk with a vendor about a product after eating one of the “child’s” hot dogs only to find out 5 minutes later I have a glob of mustard sitting on my whiskers above my upper lip.  There is just something so awesome about going to an open market and scarfing street food down your gullet.  But I digress.

Leeks in Cream and salt and pepper

Leeks in Cream and salt and pepper

I got 6 leeks with some the most intense flavor I have had from leeks a short while ago for only $2.  A steal, I say!  I chopped their tops, sliced their bottoms, and flayed their insides (cut them in half, lengthwise).  After cramming them into a baking dish I sprinkled some kosher salt and cracked some pepper over them.  Now for the disgustingly delicious part: I poured 1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream over them.  Shutting them in the oven for 40 minutes at 375°F makes them come out tender and lovable.  So simple and so fricken delicious.

. . . into the kitchen.

Sadly, I have a hard time affording the foodie life, I wish I had a foodie friend around here that liked to cook as much as I do so we could trade off. But that is all the more reason to explore food at my home with and for my friends, right?  I frequently describe cooking as a meditative experience anyway. Too bad the dishes afterward tend to ruin my calm.

While my jealously of people who can stare into their fridge and know what dishes are for dinner grows, so does my brain’s recipe database with the eventuality of being able to do the same. As I stated previously, two of my goals are to increase my vegetarian recipe repertoire and to gain some more accurate knowledge of Mexican cuisine (you know, beyond Taco Hell). So I worked up some recipes from James Peterson’s Cooking: tomatillo sauce and chiles rellenos.

Chiles Relenos on Tomatillo Salsa from Peterson's Cooking

Chiles Relenos on Tomatillo Salsa from Peterson's Cooking

I have a thing for tomatillos. Me and the tomatillo . . . we know how to get along. I love their combination of tomato and lime flavors. Their citrus is so blatant, but when you cook them, they calm down and just add and take on flavors. Mmm. The sauce also had poblanos and jalapenos which made it pair well with the chiles rellenos.

Man were these a production. Peterson has the cook put some cream of tartar in with the egg whites while you whip them to a fluff (without a beater I do all this by hand), then slowly fold the yolk back in. After you have roasted, peeled and stuffed the poblanos with chevre you toss them in flour and roll them in the eggs. I’m guessing this is to keep the egg lighter on the outside of the poblano, but for how much work it is without a mixer I think it might be worth it to just roll the floured peppers in beat eggs and then fry them. Placing a bed of the sauce on a plate you then set the fried peppers on top with some sour cream and serve.

While I forgot the sour cream my guests both thought the dish was good if a bit spicy (though they both admitted to being Spice Sallys). The chevre inside the peppers was perfect with the tomatillo sauce, but I think if their had been a bit more cheese (definitely if I had not forgotten the sour cream) I would not have had any spice complaints.

For desert I made a passover napoleon. My other region of interest in Mediterranean, especially Israel/Lebanon. Some have expressed that my obsession with Israel in food and religion is a little odd, I shrug my shoulders. But the reason this is a passover napoleon is that it is made with matzos because during passover, observant Jews are disallowed leaven, or yeast.

I cannot say that I know tradition napoleons well, and perhaps I should know the real thing before I adventure outward, but you should have seen the picture in the book, haha. I set out to make it. After soaking the Matzos I fried them (making some of them curl up and hard to work with) and candied them. The candy coating was simply caramelized sugar with coconut milk added. Letting them sit for some time in the fridge, I made something like a custard of coconut milk, sugar, egg yolk, and rosewater. With all that finished I sliced some strawberries in half and got to work on the delicate assembling procedure, topping it all off with some powdered sugar. It was very good, though the rosewater did not really come through and I think I needed to wait for the filling to thicken a bit more.

Passover Napoleon from New Israeli Food book

As always, if I make anything a reader would like a recipe for, just ask.  I wouldust rather talk about the process of making, eating, and the flavor than type all the technicalities in my posts.

Saffron Restaurant

I had visitor for the past two days that obsesses about food as much as I do. One of the restaurants mentioned below rates among the fancier restaurants of Minneapolis. I fell in love with what I ate there and when I told my roommate and his girlfriend about it I had to explain the money spent on such small portions: “it’s about taste, not stuffing your face.” They did not understand. The girl eats bland foods because anything more rich than ramen makes her stomach upset and the boy eats whatever happens to be on his plate.

But on to the food (if you read nothing else in this article, read about the last restaurant, Saffron):

The first place we stopped for food was Fasika. A short review: my mother teaches English as a Second Language to many Ethiopian students and all have said this is the place to go for authentic Ethiopian food. I trust that. You walk in to the restaurant and hit a waft of clove and cinnamon black tea. You tell the waitress, whose English is just good enough to understand your butchering of the words on the menu, what you want and 10-20 minutes later you find a plate half the size of the table in front of you with injera and your dish on it. No silverware here. I got the Ybeg Tibs and my company ordered the Ybeg Alicha Wot, both lamb dishes and on the menu on the website. My dish was good, but the lamb was tough and over cooked. My dish also came with some berbere which was hotter than I planned on. The Ybeg Alicha Wot was amazing. It was citrusy and tender.

Later that night we ate at a place called The Vegetarian on Central and 40th. Another place where on entering you are not sure whether you just walked into the slum, but then the Palak Paneer, Mutter Paneer, Nan, and Mango Lassi is set in front of you and you wonder why you have not been here before.

The next morning Kopplin’s Coffee was the destination. Andrew Kopplin, the owner, is a chocolatier as well as a Barista with amazing taste. If you order a cup of jo you’re going to be able to choose from about 10 different coffees, but you won’t have to drink from the pot that was brewed an hour and a half ago because this guy makes every cup of coffee fresh. When you order your cup of coffee the barista grinds the beans and brews it on the spot for a thick and really flavorful cup. Nearly a french press whenever you order, you can taste the difference between the regions. The espresso drinks are brewed in traditional Italian portions. This means when you get your espresso macchiatto it comes in a demitasse cup with a tiny spoon. The kicker: you also get what looks like a painting of a pine tree on the top. The latte art at this place marks their expertise and care, not their covering up of poor quality. It’s more expensive than going to Starbucks, but it’s worth it.

A Minneapolis staple was hit for lunch: Holy Land. A buffet that only cost $8.49. The buffet is huge. Mouska, tzatziki, gyros, greek salad, hummus, pita, honey cake, roast chicken and lamb, doro wat, and that’s just the beginning. The fresh peach juice was something amazing. We also stopped in the attached market and got some prickly plums, labna (a yogurt cheese that is sour and delicious), semolina for some polenta, and a huge one galloner of Sultan first cold press olive oil.

The capstone on the trip was a stop at Saffron on 1st ave and 3rd st in Minneapolis. This is where the audible groans of amazing flavor blew out from my gustatory enjoyment. Good God!

First and most disgustingly (if you think about it too long), the Lamb Brain. It came out as a left hemisphere of the brain sitting on some micro greens. It had been seered and was served with garlic confit and some roasted cherry tomatoes with a parsley oil. The texture was definitely brain-ey, and I loved that I could identify some of the structures – even on such a small scale (I was explaining white and gray matter to my dining partner when she told me to shut up and eat it, haha).

Next item on the list was white anchovies. They were marinated in harissa and served with a preserved lemon sauce. I have made preserved lemons in the past and I either messed it up or like preserved lemons about as much as I like being paddled on the ass. I’m guessing it is the former because this dish did not offend me at all. After the marinade the anchovies were briefly sauteed (I think) then the preserved lemon came in as a sauce. I cannot say I would throw myself at this dish again, but for not liking anchovies or preserved lemons it was not bad.

I have a penchant for eating things that freak out my more normal dining friends, though it is not difficult since even medium rare steak does that sometimes.  When I reported that I ate carpaccio they were thinking they should pack me up for the hospital. Silly inexperienced eaters. The carpaccio had white truffle browned butter vinaigrette , but it was thick, more like a paste than a sauce. A single hazelnut and some microgreens topped the half millimeter thick slices of tenderloin. It was a beautiful presentation and the truffle flavor came through brilliantly.

We finished off our eating with a duck confit. But it was different from any confit I have had. The dish was served with the duck shredded sitting in a crust of phyllo dough. A good combination of the tenderness of the meat with the flakey crunch of the phyllo dough. It also came with a Moroccan carrot salad, the carrots were jullienned with a preserved lemon sauce. The flavor confused me because it distinctly went from sweet to bitter and back to sweet. My taste buds might have been fooling me.

The bartender served us a complimentary beverage of roasted lemonade with mint and arac. The lemons were cut in half and roasted with sugar coating them for about 30 minutes. Then the whole lemon was blended and put through a sieve. Add sugar and water and it came out as a syrupy smooth lemonade. The minced mint was added and turned the beverage a kind of green you do not want to drink. Finally, the arac was added. The arac is a Lebanese liquor that shared a flavor profile with Sambuca.

Saffron hit the spot. I recommend it. For all that we ate (the brain, anchovies, carpaccio, and duck confit) and one premium we paid $36.00. And like I said, it was not about getting full, but about getting full flavors. The price was worth it.

This Week in Food

July 16, 2009

This week was amazing.  I went to Eau Claire and was able to make a lot of different dishes.  Many of them I made in the past, but I was able to try making some new things that my brother-in-law showed me last week.  I have pictures to record my kitchen endeavors.

French Toast with real maple syrup and Alchemy Farm's Organic (Black) Raspberries

French Toast with real maple syrup and Alchemy Farm's Organic (Black) Raspberries

I was treated to this by a friendly soul. I have to say, I was skeptical when she made it with white bread, but I can’t have asked for a french toast that was much better. I do not know, but maybe Wolfgang Puck could do a better job. But if that is her competition, I’d rather not pay the $100 for his french toast and dig into some of this.

Polenta, Salmon with Rasperry Beurre Rouge, Grilled Asparagus and Zucchini, and Sweet Potato Fries

Polenta, Salmon with Rasperry Beurre Rouge, Grilled Asparagus and Zucchini, and Sweet Potato Fries

Alchemy Farm‘s Dean Parent is constantly teaching me about food. He’s one of those chefs that can look into his fridge and tool around his kitchen for a few minutes then have a menu for dinner ready. We had previously spoken about Brasa and Alma and the polenta I had at Alma, so Dean decided he would let me try some of his polenta, which was delicious. The sweet potato fries were served with a chipotle and garlic aioli. The beurre rouge on the salmon was brilliant. I am typically not a fruit with my meal kind of person (I think of fruit as a desert item), but the red wine and butter in the beurre rouge settled the sweetness in the raspberries down.

Italian Sausage burgers on Ciabatta with Edam cheese, Roma Tomatoes, Garlic, and cracked pepper

Italian Sausage burgers on Ciabatta with Edam cheese, Roma Tomatoes, Garlic, and cracked pepper

I do not expect and “wow!”s from this, but I love setting Italian sausage outside of the dishes I have always had it in (typically with spaghetti sauces). I also just enjoy making immensely simple recipes from which each ingredient can be tasted strongly.

Rajas con Hongos, Avocado, Tomato, Radishes, Shredded Cheddar and Mozarella, Chevre with Walnut crust, and Ciabatta

Rajas con Hongos, Avocado, Tomato, Radishes, Shredded Cheddar and Mozarella, Chevre with Walnut crust, and Ciabatta

Dean showed me the meal to the left as well. Rajas con Hongos is a dish made from roasted Poblano peppers and sauteed mushrooms. Dean also used lemon, cream cheese, black pepper, and a little salt. I, of course, used too much cream cheese, but when I made it the taste was still quite good. The other ingredients are self explanatory, except that I committed a sin by used store bought shredded cheese. Forgive me.

Fun with Tomatos and Chevre

Fun with Tomatos and Chevre

Anytime I mention a food, please feel free to request the recipe from me in the comments. I can either give you the recipe, the resource from which it came, or both.

Sadly, the slow start for this is because I have too much to mention and am not sure where I should start.  I have wanted to discuss some of the mental illness stuff I deal with everyday at work, but that is complicated and has very different beginning points depending on whether I want to discuss where the illness began (diathesis/stress), what the diagnoses mean, where treatments begin and what treatments there are, etc.  So I guess I will start with where it is I am working.

Andrew Residence is a psychiatric care facility that has 212 beds for people with mental health diagnoses.  Most of the residents have some form of schizophrenia which can be broken down into subtypes: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual.  Others have something called schizoaffective disorder which is kind of a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder (affect is used as a somewhat linear word for mood in psychology – either positive, neutral, or negative affect).  Bipolar Disorders are quite common as well.  I plan on elucidating many of these disorders in later posts, but for now these will have to suffice.

My job there: my title is Mental Health Worker.  If I were full time I would have a case load and would work with them to develop care plans in which independence goals would be set.  The eventual goal is to move people back into the community, but we cannot do that if they are unable to handle the stress of working, cooking, doing their own hygiene, and paying their bills sends them into a relapse; which is also why we build relapse prevention plans with the residents.  Finally, I am a certified nursing assistant and a trained medications aid meaning I can help residents with hygiene issues and can give them their medications under the license of an RN.

Now on to food.

I have been living a few blocks from some interesting restaurants for 10 months and still have not tried them out, so I went to Brasa yesterday evening.  It is a rotisserie that is owned by the same chef as Alma, another restaurant in my neighborhood.  Both of these are all organic and locally grown restaurants.  Alma is quite a bit more expensive, and though I have eaten there it was a very small meal to keep my bill low.  At Brasa I was well fed and drank my obligatory Premium Grain Belt and tipped the guy for a moderate rate of $20.74.

I ordered a 12 hour roasted and pulled pork, a guacamole with homemade chips, and a spinach in cream sauce with jalapeno.  That meal with $12.00 and I would eat it a million times.  The pulled pork was some of the most tender meat I have eaten.  I don’t think I had a proper appreciation of tenderness in the past as I always ate the high quality meats my dad bought and made.  Living on my own has educated me since.  The guacamole had a piquant-ness that I can never get at home and it was so green.  The spinach was excellent; it had a bit of lingering fire to it, but nothing that stopped you from pacing your bites and grabbing a glass of whole milk.

How to rate Brasa?  I would say for $20.47 it was not cheap, but I am unable to think of many other places I can be so filled with such great food for that price.  For its price category, I would have to give Brasa three and a half of four stars.  I would have liked a bit better service and tap.