Friday, June 24, 2011

Jumping on the Bandwagon: An Identity Crisis!

I like a lot of food blogs. They're all listed to the right there for your reference. I check them out. You check me out. Maybe you'll check them out too. Maybe you want to know which are my ABSOLUTE favorites. Or at least the ones that I consult most often? Let's pretend you do.

Here are my top four.

101 Cookbooks: By far my most-oft-used resource. I probably make (or mess with anyway) a Ms. Swanson recipe twice a week, maybe even more often during CSA season.

Joy the Baker: Okay so I can't say I make tons of her stuff. I just drool over it. She's a real baker, you see, so some of her most enticing treats intimidate me. (Plus there was the gestational diabetes thing for a while and now I'm working on shedding the pregnancy weight that I put on before I had my daughter. (Nearly two years ago.)) But I check Joy's site daily. She is absolutely hilarious. And fascinating. And she likes pretty dresses and plates, which I like. And she loves Jesus and is a generally inspirational, positive, just-enough-self-deprecating, quirky gal. She also uses TEXT in her pictures - lately quite often - and I really really really like that.

Lottie + Doof: This dude's just plain nice. He always responds to comments promptly and thoroughly. His photographs are great and his recipes are all super accessible and he's into the local, seasonal, less meat thing. He is also big on the TEXT-in-pictures thing. He might have even started it. (My only complaint is that Tim doesn't love chocolate. But one of my best friends doesn't either and so far it hasn't been a deal-breaker.)

Smitten Kitchen: Right? What can I say? We all started reading her blog eons ago and she is the most ambitious woman-with-a-tiny-kitchen in the world it seems and she never runs out of funny. And we both have toddlers. I like that.

Okay. So these are the four food blogs that most inspire me. The first inspires me most in the kitchen. The last one inspires me to be prolific and ambitious in the kitchen. The middle two inspire me the most aesthetically and conversationally. They both, as I mentioned above, do that text-in-the-pictures thing. I love it. Really love it. More and more, I just love it. (Evidently, so does Saveur magazine.)

I love it so much I am going to try my hand at it. It will look something like this...

Mmm... shallots

... and I am v. excited about it.

But here's the deal: I'm totally having a font identity crisis. What font suits me the most? Or, more specifically, suits this blog?

Here are the fonts I like the most. In a tart pan. Because I'm clever like that.

Cake and Edith 1


My tart pan wasn't big enough.

There's more.

Cake and Edith 2

Which one(s) do you think looks the best? I'm having a hard time knowing myself. You probably know me better. So help me please.

P.S. I made a lassi this morning with peaches and a couple strawberries, no cardamom, and it was delicious. Not so much lassi-esque as kefir-esque. But super yummy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

If Only I Had Daiquiri Glasses: Mango Lassi

Seriously. This beverage - a yogurt-based smoothie of Indian origin - is beautiful in real life. I've made it three times in the last few weeks and it has consistently been a treat to both taste buds and eyes. But these pictures are terrible. I think what's missing is a daiquiri glass. And some natural light. Preferably north-facing. The opposite of what I have.


Oh well.

Shifting away from my Debbie Downer tone, let's get enthusiastic, folks! Woo-hoo! Mango Lassis! I love them!


(Debbie Downer returns?)


It's just that I also love plain yogurt and I absolutely cannot get enough mango ever. The pleasure I derive from mangoes supersedes all my local, seasonal-eating aspirations. But I justify it. Like, surely I deserve a mango for the amount of local, seasonal kale I eat, right? (Speaking of which: why is kale always in season? We got our first baby bunch of it today and I died a little inside.)


I mention my love of mango lassis and plain yogurt and mangoes here as a sort of disclaimer: if you don't like mango lassis or if you have never had one but don't really care for the intense flavor of either plain yogurt or mangoes, you probably won't like this recipe. (My husband, for instance, did not.) But if you seek out Indian restaurants not only for the lunch buffet but also for the accompanying, refreshing, appropriately sweet yet slightly salty-tart lassi, and if you've always wanted to make your own version at home, this is for you. You! (And maybe your toddler too. Who is super over kale.)

Mango Lassi
Adapted from the VitaMix cookbook
Yield: 2 servings

1 cup water
1 cup plain Greek yogurt*
1 heaping cup of peeled, pitted, sliced mango (from 1-2 mangoes)**
1/2 cup ice
2 teaspoons sugar or honey (optional)***
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom (or just a dash or omit)

Put everything in a blender and mix until smooth. Add a little more water or juice to thin it out if you'd like. Serve in daiquiri glasses if you happen to have them. Send me a picture so that I can put it on this blog post.

* The Greek yogurt makes it a lot creamier and richer, but regular yogurt would be fine too. If you'd like a sweeter lassi, use vanilla or honey yogurt.

** You could really use any fruit in place of mangoes. I decided one second ago that I'm going to make a peach one tomorrow.

*** I don't sweeten mine, but I like my lassis on the tart side. If I used sugar and/or vanilla or honey yogurt, I bet my husband would like them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Local Schmocal: Salmon and Spring Greens Salad with Fried Capers and Honey-Chive Vinaigrette

Ew. I just realized that in both of my last two posts I totally went on and on about what healthy eaters we've been lately. I am annoyed with myself because (a) I don't like a sloppy work product and should have re-read the miso soup post before posting about the sweet potatoes and basically paraphrasing myself; (b) it reads like I'm boasting (yuck!); and (c) it's kind of, quite frankly, a mischaracterization of the truth. Since Sunday, for instance, along with our five thousand salads, we've eaten a couple pints of Malted Malt Ball Ice Cream as well as an insanely rich, ancho-chili-spiked chocolate cake. So anyway, I'm calling myself out because I'm kind of embarrassed. (But not embarrassed enough to delete the posts, because I do think the recipes are share-worthy.)

Here's me making things right: Psst. Guess what? We only eat vegetables because we paid to get a s*&# load of them every Thursday and can't bear the thought of wasting them.

So we use a lot of spices and oils and meats and cheeses to make all our greens palatable. We have no other choice. We're in too deep.

Por ejemplo!

beginning to devoured

This here: mostly greens. Featured above as they evolve from overwhelming to completely edible (completely devoured in fact). With a little help from salmon, my mom's throw-together rub that was absolutely delicious, a bit of quinoa, and some fried capers and dressing suggested by Epicurious. (They are full of suggestions there!)

The salmon is from Minnesota.


Just kidding.

And yet we get it from the farmer's market because the dude who fishes it in Alaska lives and sells his catch in Minneapolis. And that's good enough for me, I guess.

salmon salad close up

Salmon and Spring Greens Salad with Fried Capers and Honey-Chive Vinaigrette
Adapted (sort of) from Epicurious
Yield: 4-5 main course servings

About 6-8 cups mixed greens, depending on how much you love greens and/or how many you have to use up before your next CSA share arrives
3 cups pea sprouts or sunflower sprouts (optional)
1 cup cooked quinoa (follow package instructions), chilled or room temp
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
6 radishes, quartered
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2-3 tablespoons capers, drained and patted dry a bit

Honey-Chive Vinaigrette
1 bunch fresh chives (big handful, about 1" in diameter)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water (or more to get a consistency you like)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 scallions, white and pale green parts only
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt

1 lb piece of sock-eye salmon fillet, ideally center-cut (go big or go home)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter for skillet

Mix together all the seasonings for the salmon rub. Use a paper towel to dry the salmon. You can either remove the skin before or after cooking, whichever is easier for you. (You can find good instructions for how to do this on youtube, by the way. That's how we learned.) Rub the side of the salmon that doesn't (or didn't) have skin with the spice mixture. Set aside.

Next make your dressing. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a blender until as smooth as possible. Add a little more water to thin it out if necessary. Taste and add more salt and some pepper as desired.

Bring a quart of water to boil and add the asparagus. Cook for 1 minute, then drain and immediately run cold water over the asparagus (or use an ice bath) until they're no longer warm. In a large bowl, layer the salad ingredients as follows: mixed greens, sprouts, quinoa, radishes, asparagus, eggs. Set bowl in refrigerator while you finish preparing salmon and capers.

Heat oil or butter in a large skillet over high heat (until shimmery or melted, respectively). Add the salmon, seasoned side down, and cook for 4-6 minutes. Flip and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Remove the skin if you haven't already (and, if you are way more awesome than I am and happen to be interested in meeting the deepest desires of my father's heart, reserve the skin and crumble it over the salad). Add the capers to the still-oiled pan and fry them for 45-60 seconds, until they crisp up a bit.

Remove the salad from the refrigerator. Once cool enough to handle, break the salmon fillet into large chunks on top of the salad. Top with the capers. Drizzle the dressing on top of the salad or serve it on the side.

This salad turns out really beautiful. I'm just sayin.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jacket Sweet Potatoes with Radish Greens and Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

Summer is (finally) upon us in Minneapolis. My family tends to eat fresher, healthier food during the summer, primarily because we are devoted non-wasters of our weekly CSA share and occasional farmer's market purchases, but also because it's hot and humid here once summer settles in, and that makes us want to eat more cold food. (Cold food (excepting ice cream, I suppose) is generally healthier than hot, don't you think?) So, while this means lots of salads and smoothies, it also means that even the warm foods we eat take on a different spin from June through September: they tend to be accompanied by chilled toppings, garnishes, dressings, whatever, once it's hot here. (And it is v. v. v. hot here.)

Case in point: these here jacket-style sweet potatoes. First they're baked (but in our microwave, which can be used as an oven for baking smaller items and doesn't end up heating our whole house in the process – I think a lot of ovens do this, check it out, it's super useful not only to keep your home cooler but also when you need to use two ovens at the same time). Then they are cut in half and left alone to cool a bit (not quite to room temperature but almost). Then they are topped with some peppery greens (either raw or slightly cooked because maybe when they're raw they're too peppery for you light weights – or me anyway). Then they are drowned in – er, drizzled with – a green buttermilk dressing (a super fresh, super herby, super creamy green buttermilk dressing that is). And they're finished with some freshly ground pepper and sea salt (a heavy dose of the latter if you are like us because, you know, salt brings out the flavor in things so bottoms up!).

I was inspired by a recipe from 101 Cookbooks when I concocted these summery bad boys, but I wouldn't call it an adaptation. As I read in the comment section of the King Arthur's Flour blog recently, when you pretty much change every aspect of a recipe, it's a new recipe. (And KAF, fyi, is at that point no longer liable for the results.) I figure I should give credit where due, however, and inspiration is credit-worthy for sure, especially when it results in something as tasty as these beautifully-dressed sweet potatoes.

dressing before and after
radish greens
sweet jacket potato

Jacket Sweet Potatoes with Radish Greens and Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing
Yield: 4 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5-2 lbs total weight)

Greens from 1 large bunch of radishes (or other spicy green of choice, or, heck, spinach or chard, if that's what you have on hand), coarsely chopped

1/2 an avocado*
1 cup buttermilk*
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 scallion
1 stalk green garlic (or one garlic clove)
1 tablespoon flax oil or olive oil (optional)

Coarse sea salt & freshly ground pepper for serving

Scrub sweet potatoes and poke holes all over with a fork. Place in oven-proof dish and bake in 400-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender. Once cooked, halve them lengthwise and allow them to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, make the dressing. Place the avocado and all remaining ingredients in blender and mix on high until smooth.

If you'd like to cook your greens a bit, do so while the sweet potatoes are cooling. Rinse the greens but don't dry them. Using a skillet over medium heat, cook the greens for 1-2 minutes until just wilted (the water will steam them, but if you wanted to use a little oil, it wouldn't hurt).

Once potatoes are cooled, top each half with a quarter of the radish greens, drizzle each with about 2 tablespoons of dressing, and finish with salt and pepper.

* This makes a great sandwich spread too. Use a whole avocado and 1/2 cup buttermilk to make it thicker and more spreadable. Much better on a BLT than mayo. (But I hate mayo.)