Recipes

Sage fritters

sage fritters

Several years ago, my mom loaned me her little cookbook called The Herb Cookery for ideas on different ways to use fresh herbs. Needless to say, that cookbook is still on loan, and as my herb garden grows bigger every year, I need more ideas than ever.

 

When my sage was growing like crazy and threatening to take over the neighboring herbs, I sought some advice from the cookbook and this recipe for sage fritters caught my eye. While I was leery of eating sage leaves pretty much on their own, I was amazed at how the cooking process really neutralized the otherwise overpowering flavor of the leaves.

 

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Seasonal Pick: Garlic scape chimichurri

garlic scape chimichurrie

Ah, summer. Farmers markets are hopping, CSAs start up again, and access to über fresh and local produce is finally easy once more. Except that in the first days of summer, the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash we love to gobble up aren’t ready yet. Instead, vegetables and herbs that may be less familiar — pak choi, fiddleheads, ramps, and garlic scapes — still grace the stands. 

 

I’ve learned two tricks over the years when it comes to approaching cooking with new foods and both have served me well. First, ask the vendor. What is this? To what is it similar? How do you like to cook with it? They almost always steer you in the right direction.

 

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Kitchen DIY: Pickled eggs

pickled eggs

A few years ago, I made the long drive across the entire state of North Dakota to my hometown with my four-year-old and my two-year-old. Two small kids, in a car, for over 8 hours. I was so proud of myself for having arrived with my little kids and sanity intact that you’d have thought I split the atom. 

 

While heading back to my roots, I had plenty of time to think about the treasured moments from my own childhood, and one memory that kept coming up was pickled eggs. I grew up with jars of these treats sitting on our counter. While pouring over childhood pictures recently, I noticed that there was an egg jar in the background in so many photos, and that's because my mom made the best pickled eggs — we absolutely loved ‘em.

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Hunting for Dinner: Netting the elusive smelt, with beer batter as a reward

smelt

As a hunter and fisherman, I understand that not every day is going to be a success in terms of putting meat on the table. I spend way more time in the field pursuing game and fish than I do catching or killing something. That said, I do have successful days and almost always bag my intended quarry, eventually. This is not the case with smelt; nothing has eluded me more than these tiny little fish. On my most successful smelt fishing excursion, I only managed to catch fourteen smelt. Fourteen, which is barely enough for an appetizer, and there were four of us out netting that night. 

 

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Kitchen DIY: Homemade harissa

homemade harissa

If you’ve spent much time reading food blogs or magazines, you probably know what harissa is, but for those of you that don’t (hi Dad!), let me fill you in.  

 

Harissa is a North African condiment made mostly from peppers and spices. And it is amazing. Like, a punch-of-flavor-to-your-tongue amazing. It’s often found on Moroccan tagines, but I’ve found so many more day-to-day uses for it. I love to slather it on sandwiches. Try it on meatloaf with a bit of mayonnaise and some hot peppers. Heavenly. It’s also fantastic on an egg sandwich where the yolk is still a bit oozy. Crunchy salads, or paired with carrots — harissa transforms an ordinary meal into something divine.

 

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Arctic Char Challenge: Being in a landlocked state doesn't mean skipping new seafood choices

arctic char

When it comes to beef, chicken, and pork, it's fairly easy in the Twin Cities to find local vendors. Whether it's buying a quarter of a cow, fresh pork sausage, or a carton of eggs at the farmers market, or even at some local grocery stores, it's within reach with a little bit of effort. It's also pretty simple to decipher the labels and figure out if you're buying quality meat or not. Seafood, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. 

 

Since it's difficult (um, impossible?) to find a local tuna or salmon farmer in Minnesota, instead we have to look at labels and talk directly with the source who buys the fish to ensure we are buying sustainable fish.  

 

Seafood can be considered sustainable if the species is abundant naturally or through responsible practice (farm-raised), and the harvesting methods aren't harming natural habitats with pollutants or destroying the habitats in which the species lives. 

 

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Craft Cocktails: Sampling new Minnesota micro distilleries

micro distillery cocktails

Minnesota is in the early stages of a craft liquor boom. As part of the Surly Bill of 2011 (the bill largely responsible for Minnesota's robust and ever-expanding craft beer culture), it is now easier and less expensive to obtain a micro distillery license. Over the past year or so, we've seen the first products of these new companies become available.

 

One of the newest distilleries, Du Nord Craft Spirits, began selling its flagship product, L'Etoile Vodka, this past week. Vodka, gin, and other clear spirits form the majority of items currently hitting the market, as they don't require aging; we should see more whiskeys, rums, etc. arrive over the next few years. Now is a good juncture to sample several of the high-profile liquors currently on offer, in order to highlight the impressive and exciting work being done around the state.

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Fish Tonight: Partner up with your local sustainability-minded fishmonger and make ceviche

ceviche

In terms of simple-to-prepare foods, ceviché is on the top of the list for making a great impression with little effort. The delicate balance of fish, acid, and vegetables give the illusion of complexity, when in reality, the dish takes just minutes to prepare. There are a few key components in making the dish successful. It all starts with choosing the right fish.

 

Here’s how to select the best fish:

 

Start with your fishmonger. Because they live in water, fish are more sensitive to heat, travel, and bacteria than other proteins. Your best bet is going to a source that is knowledgeable about storage, quality, and cut. Locally, we have the wonderful folks at Coastal Seafoods, located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, who are passionate about quality fish and can help you make the best choices.

 

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Hunting for Dinner: Foraging for ramps, and the best onion dip recipe ever

ramp onion dip

After a long winter like the one we just suffered through, most of us here in Minnesota are anxious to get outside and enjoy some nice weather. Last week, I had the opportunity to get out trout fishing with my 2-year-old son. We walked along a river bank south of Rochester and didn’t catch a thing but we were outside and it was wonderful. As we went along, I couldn’t help but notice all the broad green leaves sticking up out of the ground. They were instantly recognizable as ramps and my trout-fishing day turned into a ramp-picking day.

 

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Darn Good Dough: Minneapolis-based flour company makes ditching gluten easier

GF cookies

Culinary whiz Christina Vanoverbeke kicks off one of Simple, Good & Tasty's new sections, in which our writers take locally produced products on a test run. 

 

Baking is always science, but it isn’t necessarily experiment. 

 

Most baking consists of following a series of carefully tested steps to the gram. But throw a variable into the plan – say, trying to make grandma’s pound cake, but making it gluten free – and the results can quickly turn inedible. Getting the right balance of flour alternatives is tricky, can be expensive, and often doesn’t result in anything even close to what you wanted.

 

When a line of flours promises to be an easy, cup-for-cup replacement to the standard flours that so many recipes call for, I hear angels playing trumpets in the heavens. And then I assume it’s too good to be true. 

 

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