What I’m Eating: Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Brussels Sprouts

November 18th, 2013

 

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Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Roasted vegetables, especially cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, on a restaurant menu get me every time. They’re never mushy, often seasoned with care and creative flair, and they taste like an indulgence. True, edges may be charred and I’ve had cauliflower so drenched in olive oil that I’ve been tempted to blot the floweret with my cloth napkin. But most of the time the dish becomes one of the meal’s highlights.

I roast veggies at home, too. Kale and cabbage would work, I suppose, but the leaves and shreds don’t appeal to me as much as the bite-sized chunks of cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

Simply Roasted Vegetables:  Wash, dry and cut veggies and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle to taste with olive oil and season with your choice of herbs, seasonings, and salt and pepper. Stir to evenly distribute the oil. Place the veggies on a baking sheet and roast at 350o for 30 to 40 minutes. I opt for moderate heat and longer cooking time as there’s less chance of burned edges.Serve with a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Veggies take to seasonings like meat does to rubs and sauces. In Bacon Brussels Sprouts above, I broiled a few strips of bacon, then added the chopped bacon and bacon fat as needed to the halved, washed Brussels sprouts. I tossed this mixture with half slices of white onion, turmeric, Worcestershire sauce and finished it just before serving with fresh lemon juice and cracked rock salt.

I’m experimenting often with turmeric these days. It teams very well with my stand-by favorite, smoked Spanish paprika, as in the Cauliflower-Asparagus Roast pictured below. I sprinkled the vegetables with the spices and then drizzled olive oil and tossed before placing in a single layer on a baking sheet.

An idea for your Thanksgiving table?

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Cauliflower-Asparagus Roast

 

 

 

Fair’s Fair! Don’t Miss the Crop Art*!

August 30th, 2013
Crop Art Rocks!

Crop Art Rocks!

I was raised to speak “state fair.” I learned the basics in South Dakota when my parents set my brother and I loose to go on the rides, make spin-art pictures, and eat caramel apples, yes, on a stick. Later, my high school band marched at the fair and the day always ended with the grandstand show. The South Dakota Fair in Huron is just six days. In the 70s, they booked an entertainment act in the grandstand just  two or three nights and featured the rodeo the other evenings. My bandmates and I preferred to see a musical act, that being more special than a rodeo. One year we hit the jackpot. The pop group, The New Vaudeville Band performed, including their hit  single”Winchester Cathedral.” The best part? Somehow, several of us were invited on stage during one of the songs. What can I say about this sole groupie experience? It was thrilling, though I think I recall that we giggled through most of it.

Speaking of giggles, it's not true that gophers ride the ferris wheel in Minnesota.

Speaking of giggles, it’s not true that gophers ride the ferris wheel in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, during a networking event, I met a delightful student studying at the University of Minnesota. He’s kept in touch with me and we had lunch a few weeks ago. Before he returns to France, his Minnesota pals wanted him to experience our state fair. They wanted him to have the experience of all manner of deep-fried food on a stick.

“I’m nervous about it,” he confided.

Bad-seed Santa: Scary!

Bad-seed Santa: Scary!

“There’s more to the State Fair than all that crazy, odd food,” I protested. “There’s even food that isn’t extreme, say the pork chop-on-a-stick, watermelon slices, fruit sorbet, Middle Eastern mint lemonade.”

A tropical touch at the Minnesota State Fair

A tropical touch at the Minnesota State Fair

He returned a doubtful half smile. I couldn’t stop. “Then there’s Creative Activities, the 4-H building, the Art Show, and the ikebana and dahlias in the Horticulture Building where Crop Art is housed.

A proud agricultural heritage

A proud agricultural heritage

I walked the fair today with my friend Malinda, our annual outing. I thought of that young Frenchman discovering our State Fair, as we hit our own highlights. We tasted one of the new-this-year foods: hot dish on a stick. Not a winner. However, the slow-roasted split pork shanks were delicious. They go by the name of “Porketta Pork Wings.” Malinda loved the very minty lemonade from the Holy Land deli. I enjoyed the vanilla, non-dairy frozen dessert at the Dole booth.

Hey!  It's not on a stick!

Hey! It’s not on a stick!

We strolled by the usual places. It was a lovely day, first with a cool breeze in many days. 

Vincent would approve.

Vincent would approve.

 

DId I mention the honey ice cream in the Horticulture Building?

DId I mention the honey ice cream in the Horticulture Building?

 

Another fair food:  Sweet Corn for All!

Another fair food: Sweet Corn for All!

I have re-affirmed for myself.

1. The fair always evokes fond memories of fairs past.

2. I love the Minnesota State Fair.

3. Crop Art never disappoints.

*All images in this post are Minnesota State Fair Crop Art, 2013

 

Salsa or Gazpacho? It Depends

August 26th, 2013

One day it dawned upon me that I have the same intention when making salsa or making the chunky summer soup, gazpacho. Either way, I’m going for a tomato base with veggies and a complex mix of sweet, salty and sour flavors, plus heat from chiles. That same day, I realized that most of the ingredients are identical, save a little more cilantro in the salsa and chopped cucumber added to the gazpacho. But, really, the combinations change every time. Jalapeno or habanero? Lemon or lime juice? Red or yellow or white or green onions or all four? Garlic cloves, garlic chives, or shallots? Red, green, yellow or orange sweet peppers? Salt or Vulcan Salt? Ground Black Pepper–always a resounding “Yes!” to that.

Today’s version started with the beautiful, meaty tomatoes from the Nicollet Mall Farmer’s Market, Thursdays, in Downtown Minneapolis. My own garden finally offered the first and then a second ripened San Marzano tomato to add to the mix. Lemon-colored peppers, green onions, chopped garlic cloves. I can’t help but stop and admire the burst of colors at this point.

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The vegetables always outdo themselves. The seasonings take a bit more thought. I use fresh lemon or lime juice and a splash of olive oil. Vinaigrette calls for about 1/3 lemon juice to 2/3 oil. I flip those proportions and lean into the lemon or lime juice for an assertive, bracing quality to the dish. Sometimes, I augment the chiles’ heat with Crystal Hot Pepper Sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. If gazpacho has the upper hand, I splash in some Worcestershire sauce. Instead of giving you exact amount, I advise calibrating these ingredients by your taste preferences as I do for mine.

Before the mix

Before the mix

The chunkier the tomato, the more the dish tends toward gazpacho. Yet, it’s easier to scoop a salsa’s single, large tomato chunk onto a tortilla chip (in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I recommend those from El Burrito Mercado, sold across the metro area and in their St. Paul HQ). OK, it may be even easier to scoop the more uniformly, chopped vegetables. It just depends.

For certain, I know that from now until frost, salsa/gazpacho will be on the menu almost daily.

Sweet, indeed!

March 1st, 2013
Tah Dah! Roasted Sweet Potato Burrito

Tah Dah! Roasted Sweet Potato Burrito


I’m craving spring, but the crocus and tulips are tucked under the snow.

Spring with its crocus, tulips, and daffodils has to wait out the snow. And, so must I.

Spring with its crocus, tulips, and daffodils has to wait out the snow. And, so must I.

To cheer myself, I made this a fruit- and veggie-focused day. My sweet supper idea satisfied my appetite and my spring-starved spirit. Step One: Peel one sweet potato, saving the peelings for a Trigger Kong Snack tomorrow. Cut into fries, about 1/2″ wide. Roast with a little olive oil in 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Turn them and roast another 10 minutes.

Sweet potatoes, nicely browned

Sweet potatoes, nicely browned

See result above:  I lined a whole-wheat tortilla with fresh green salad tossed with cherry tomatoes, green onions, and vinaigrette. I laid the fries over the salad and added a heaping spoonful of corn and black bean salsa. A dab of guacamole would have been nice, too.

Everyday eating is too important to leave to celebrity chefs and media personalities

April 20th, 2012

I once was a food writer for a metro newspaper food section. My beat was writing about food at home. Food for family meals and snacks. Food for parties. Food for holidays. I tested quinoa recipes in 1981. I interviewed a grandmother who baked gluten-free treats for her grandkids. I wrote about the “latest” research linking a high-fiber diet to lower cholesterol levels. One story featured a Minneapolis woman whose particular Greek cookies were considered the best in the local Greek community. Every recipe in every story was tested in my kitchen: brioche, pickles, roll-your-own-rice paper bundles, chicken salad with edible flowers. My editor and my fellow writer did the same with their stories.

The editor-in-chief of said metro daily, decreed that restaurants were entertainment. Our food section supplied ideas for people who went to the grocery store and came home to cook. Any chef recipes we printed were adapted to the home audience.

I say all this to make a distinction between food as entertainment and food as nourishment in every sense, which may include entertainment, but only as an additional factor to health, well being, satisfaction, sharing and making time for and with others.

Every day eating is too important to leave to the celebrity chefs and media food personalities, whose success, creativity, and business savvy, I laud. It just seems wrong to me that culinary education has become a high and holy calling that at best leads to inspiration for the viewer and media and financial success for the star, and at worst glorifies absolutely horrid eating habits.

Celebrity Chef Paula Deen

Everyday eating is really, quite ordinary. It doesn’t have to be ready for prime time.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the core of your state of health, the basis of your children’s life-long well being, the building blocks of every day of your life.

What if your daily food intake isn’t entertainment, something to keep you distracted from life’s challenges and problems? What if what you eat every day is survival, itself? What if the most commonplace thing you do every day is the most important? Cooking healthy, delicious food has extraordinary implications for the rest of your life.

Physics Coming to a Kitchen Near You?

February 13th, 2012

It’s no secret: cooking is science. I studied physics, organic chemistry, and biochem to learn food science at Iowa State University in the bright ages before the internet, cell phone apps, and a latte in every hand. The degree was Home Economics Journalism.

Flash forward to 2012: The august Harvard University and its College of Engineering and Applied Science showcases  the wonders of this same science in the  wildly popular course, simply named, “Science and Cooking.”  Little more than half of the 700 students wanting to take the first course were given a place in the class and lab.

On February 9, Harvard physicist David Weitz brought his wonders of applied physics to the University of Minnesota (UM). The audience crowded into first a very large lecture hall and then, into another, slightly smaller. Weitz (who repeatedly reminded us, “I am not a cook. I know nothing about cooking.”) proceeded to write equations on the board and talk about phase transition while he cooked an egg; described gels while he encased a dollop of yogurt in a alginate (gel) casing, and explain emulsification while churning oil and milk into a solid and later, blending the more familiar emulsion of eggs, oil, and a bit of Dijon mustard into mayonnaise.

Granted, unlike the Harvard students, we didn’t get to hear from the El Bulli’s Ferran Adria or Blue Hill’s Dan Barber, or even Harold McGee who wrote On Food and Cooking in 1984 and rewrote and expanded it for a 2004 printing. No matter. This crowd, skewed to the marketing-desirable demographic of 20 to 40, watched with admiring attention for an hour and 45 minutes.

Could the science of cooking be the next home-cooking trend?

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21st, 2011

To add to your own Thanksgiving traditions, have a look at Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Plimoth Plantation (2005). And, more about Thanksgiving and early life in New England at Plimoth Plantation.

Smarter than a…

October 19th, 2011

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As I planted a patch of tulips in my backyard in the late afternoon, I imagined the chipmunks and squirrels (and I learned today that chipmunks are in the squirrel family) watching with glee. ‘Dinner is served! Just dig down six inches and we’ve got MREs (meals-ready-to-eat). Yippee!’

Who cares whether I’m smarter than a third grader. I just want to be smarter than the squirrel families who frequent my yard. I laid some obstacles to their dinner. The mighty fortress is pictured: Small but mighty.

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Literary Hero: Jane Yolen

October 17th, 2011

When I discovered Dream Weaver, by Jane Yolen in 1979, I was dazzled that a contemporary writer created such fairy tales.

     I’ve read many more Yolen books: Here There Be Dragons, Owl Moon,
               
and Sleeping Ugly, to name a few. She’s written more than 300.  Yes, THREE-HUNDRED books, including fairy tales, fantasy stories, and poems seemingly for children and young people only, but not really.
     Yolen isn’t a stranger to the Twin Cities. Her son, musician, etc. Adam Stemple, lives here and Yolen is often at guest at the Kerlan Collection, an outstanding children’s literature research center at the University of Minnesota.
     Tonight, I heard her for the second time when she spoke in St. Paul at Hamline University. I was sure the room would be standing-room-only. After all, many do consider her America’s Hans Christian Anderson. The audience for her reading was modest in size, but great love for this artist and her work.
     Her new book isn’t for children. It’s a very adult book, of poems that tell of her husband’s illness and death in 2006 and her life then and after: Things to Say to a Dead Man: Poems at the End of a Marriage and After (Holy Cow! Press, 2011). The poems are plain spoken and raw with shards of hurt at what leads to death and what happens after.  Read more about Yolens’s first book specifically for adults and learn about this most prolific and spot-on author, one of my top literary heroes: “Ten questions for author Jane Yolen.”
     If you’re in Minneapolis-St. Paul, you have another chance to meet her.  Jane will be reading at The Loft in Downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, October 19, 2011.
     Travel well, Jane Yolen.  And, keep bringing the spirit to life in your writing!
 Jane Yolen

Pine Ridge: Seeds of Hope and a Buffalo Snack

October 14th, 2011

Tonight, the ABC program, 20/20, devoted its entire program to Pine Ridge, the town and the reservation, Land of the Lakota,  in southwestern South Dakota. On Hidden America: Children of the Plains, Diane Sawyer rode a horse, wore a dancing shawl, and met Lakota in schools, business, law, and recovery. Those she interviewed painted a story with seeds of hope in a community awash in alcoholism, diabetes, and teen pregnancy. If there can be a Lakota Spring and a better future for Lakota children, these are the people who will help make it happen.

There’s a food angle in Sawyer’s portrayal of Pine Ridge. She covered it in two ways.  First, a Subway restaurant opened on Pine Ridge and a customer exclaimed that she hadn’t eaten a cucumber since she couldn’t remember. The report portrayed the restaurant as offering veggies in a food desert.

Second, the report featured the Tanka company, a home-grown Lakota business that makes and sells buffalo and cranberry-based snack sticks, sausages, and hot dogs, no doubt inspired by the traditional tribal mainstay, pemmican made of pounded buffalo meat and dried wild berries. The products with such names as Tanka Wild, Tanka Bars, Tanka Bites, and Tanka Dogs are gluten-, nitrates-, msg-, and hormone-free. Sawyer reported the Tanka Bars are available at 4000 outlets around the U.S., including Whole Foods. I’m making a trip there tomorrow to find a Tanka bar and have a taste.

To be continued….